By Brad Shorr
These days, it’s hard to find a company that doesn’t have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn—but small business owners beware! Just because everyone uses social media doesn’t make it a useful marketing tool. In fact, without a smart strategy, committing human and financial resources to a social media campaign could cost you big, draining resources and generating negative ROI. Here are 10 mistakes to avoid:
1. Spreading Yourself Too Thin
Building a social media presence takes a lot of time and effort. You have to engage with people continually, and communicate highly informative and/or provocative messages to stand out from the crowd. It’s hard enough to do this on one social platform, let alone two, three, or twenty. Smart small businesses, knowing their internal resources are limited, take on one platform at a time.
2. Having an Undifferentiated Strategy
When companies make mistake No. 1, they begin taking shortcuts, usually in the form of mechanically sharing the same content on each of their platforms. Big mistake. Social media users use multiple platforms; once they read your company’s same message everywhere, they will lose interest. Have a unique strategy for each platform. For instance, use Twitter to announce sales promotions and Facebook to share action shots of your products in use. This gives users a clear reason to follow you on the applicable platform(s).
3. Not Responding to Comments
It’s amazing how many companies forget social media is social. When someone reaches out to your company with a comment, you must respond—quickly and thoughtfully. Once the perception takes hold that your company is above engaging with the audience, you are dead. You will be labeled as a company that is interested only in self-promotion, a cardinal sin of social media marketing.
4. Controlling the Message
Similar to No. 3, companies err by viewing their social media accounts as advertising platforms. On social media, authenticity is valued highly. It’s OK to admit a mistake, ask for help, and respond frankly to criticism. Many small companies are unwilling to do this, and if you are one of them, either change your attitude or look for another method of Internet marketing.
5. Not Giving to Get
“Giving to get” is the path to success in social media. This strategy requires a generous spirit. Small companies succeed in social media when they go out of their way to help people by providing useful content, sharing other people’s content, jumping into conversations where they can lend a hand, and making it easy for people to try their products and services.
6. Selling Too Much
Social media users don’t like the hard sell. As a matter of fact, many use social media to escape commercialism. Don’t try too hard to sell your products and services; there will be a backlash. Again, social media is social. The best path to generating sales is to build relationships with your social media community, and then introduce the idea of doing business together.
7. Not Selling Enough
The flip side of No. 6 is also a big mistake—not attempting to sell through your social media campaign. This amounts to not having a strategy at all. If you view social media as a way to build credibility and brand awareness, that’s fine, but at some point you have to turn that credibility and brand awareness into sales. Smart small businesses gradually ramp up lead and revenue generation activities on their social media accounts; not doing it prematurely, but when the time is right to convert the “soft” asset of brand affinity into hard dollars.
8. Failing to Leverage Your Knowledge
Small companies know a lot about their products, services, markets and audiences. This knowledge, when communicated on social media, attracts the interest of potential customers. When a small business delegates its social media campaigning to a junior staffer with limited business knowledge, these potential customers will not be attracted, and may additionally conclude your entire firm is inexperienced and incompetent. By overdelegating, such companies turn their biggest potential advantage into a crippling disadvantage.
9. Failing to Establish Metrics
Many small businesses that have been on social media for a few years have absolutely no idea how well their campaign is working. Obviously, not having a way to evaluate a social media campaign leads to wasted investment and an inability to improve campaign effectiveness. Popular and useful metrics include tracking brand mentions; social shares of your company’s content; referred traffic from social media sites to your company website; and the number of engaged community members as measured by comments, direct messages. and other measurable actions. These metrics are not perfect, but provide a reliable sense of whether your campaign is stagnant, improving, or worsening.
10. Putting Too Many Eggs in the Social Basket
Social media marketing is really, really tempting for small companies because the financial barriers to entry are basically zero—signing up is free and the main investment is time. However, for revenue generation, brand awareness, and credibility building, other Internet marketing options may produce far better and quicker results—pay-per-click advertising and email marketing, to name two of the more obvious. Companies are smart to test various options. Social media could be the path of most resistance, but you won’t know unless you test. Budget accordingly and prosper!