There’s no doubt about it: social media is a vital component of online business. But ubiquity does not translate to ease; managing social media can definitely be a challenge, and many small-to-medium businesses struggle to incorporate it into their marketing strategies—if they do it at all. Many website templates come with pre-installed social media icons, and some business owners will simply display them on their sites without actually linking them up to anything!
It can be intimidating to start in on social media, but it’s an important and rewarding part of doing business online. We often find that business owners are worried about making a fatal mistake on social media and ending up with a bad reputation instead of a good one. If you’re unsure of what to do—or what not to do—here are some common social media missteps that businesses take; if you can avoid or rectify these, then you’ll have a far smoother and more successful campaign.
1. Not having a plan
It seems like every day brings with it a new social media network, and many business owners jump into the pool with both feet, so to speak. They set up accounts on every network they can find, and then flounder as they struggle to reach their audiences. Social media may be (mostly) free, but it definitely takes time to do correctly, and you should absolutely have a plan for how you’ll spend that time. So before you sign up for everything, sit down and consider your target audience. Which platform are they using? If you’re a desk rental company, you won’t find many new customers on Pinterest—but you could have lots of luck on the professional-geared LinkedIn, or the tech-savvy Twitter. Figure out where your customers are, and start there; it’s better to put your energy into one or two networks than to try winging it across four or five. Furthermore, try to plan out what you want from a social media campaign; you’ll be a lot better off if you’re working towards reaching a goal instead of just trying to figure things out as you go along.
2. Talking at, not with, your followers
Travel social media marketing is a delicate balance between making yourself heard and not screaming in everyone’s ear. People go to social media networks to connect with each other on a personal level, and they expect a more personal connection from their brands as well. If you are just tweeting nothing but ads for your products, people will quickly become bored; you need to have two-way conversations with your fans, and establish a relationship. Businesses also fall into the habit of asking for retweets or shares but never responding or engaging in any other way. Customers are savvy, and they can tell when they’re being used. So while you should certainly advertise your services or products, intersperse those posts with more casual ones asking for feedback and spend some time connecting with your followers as a human being running a business, rather than a faceless company account.
3. Joining #teamfollowback
When you first join a service like Twitter or Instagram, it can seem very lonely. It’s disheartening to realize that your updates are only being read by a few dozen followers—and frustrating when you see that your competitors have a network of thousands. It becomes tempting to buy followers to bolster the appearance of popularity.
These tactics will boost your numbers, but they’re meaningless and ultimately may do more harm than good. When you’ve got fake followers, it doesn’t matter how many of them there are; none of them are reading your updates or engaging with you, and that’s the ultimate goal of social media marketing. Furthermore, it looks bad to customers; buying followers makes it seem like you’re more concerned with the appearance of popularity than anything else. Building a network takes time, but if you have patience then you will make actual meaningful connections and have real fans who will help spread brand awareness. Don’t take the easy way out.
4. Letting accounts die
Far too many business profiles are set up and then abandoned. We understand; social media requires a time commitment, and it can feel impossible to fit it into an already hectic schedule. But if you let your social media accounts lapse, you lose out on new markets and potential leads every single day. Budget a little time into your day to schedule an update or two, and make it part of your daily routine; constant, unique engagement is the key to a successful social media presence. As mentioned above, it’s better to start with just one or two targeted accounts in a network where your customers live.
5. Making it too personal
We’ve all read the stories of employees or owners getting into hot water due to social media. They use the business’ account as a platform for their own issues, whether political or personal. Sometimes it’s a tirade against religion, other times it’s a deranged shouting match against negative reviews. Whatever the reason, these incidents will sink a business’ reputation and bring the wrong kind of attention. So make sure that your social media accounts are being managed by someone you trust, and have a strict policy about what can and can’t be discussed. Keep your personal beliefs and issues to your personal profile, and avoid this common but devastating mistake.
6. Using a Facebook Profile instead of a Business Page
Facebook is a very common social media site, and many business owners are on it already. It’s not uncommon to see them creating a new “person” with the name of their business, and making that their go-to Facebook point of contact. However, this is a major misstep for a few reasons. First of all, it’s actually against Facebook’s terms of service to use a personal account to represent anything other than yourself. Second of all, business pages are so much better suited for advertising and reaching out to your audience. Rather than having to approve and request friends, your customers can just Like the page and receive updates instantly. Furthermore, Facebook Pages have a suite of tools specifically designed to optimize a business, create ads, and reach all new markets. You can convert your business profile into a Page, or create one from scratch by going to http://facebook.com/pages/create.
7. Forgetting to use the tools at hand
Even if you’ve set up your profiles correctly and are updating on a regular basis, you may still be missing out on some really valuable tools! Checkfront, for instance, has a plugin for Facebook, which allows customers to book right from your business page without being redirected! That’s a unique and very powerful call to action, and many users fail to implement it. Sites like Twitter and Facebook also have analytics software which show you all sorts of useful information, including the reach of each post and the age range of your audience. If you want to know just how much these tools can help you, take a look at our post on how to target travelers on Facebook; you can see a glimpse of just how informative its analytics are. Google and Twitter also have tools that work in a similar way, and you can use that information to help dictate the direction of your campaign.
This is by no means a definitive guide to social media marketing; it’s a very complex subject and requires time, research, and patience. But with these missteps in mind, you can avoid tripping over yourself as you exit the gate. Social media is exciting and has huge potential to help you; with some savvy choices, it could transform the way you do business.