10 Things to Avoid in Social Media Marketing

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

10 Things to Avoid in Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing has been around long enough now to form some best practices. The challenge is always the constantly changing technology, not to mention that every social network has its own set of features and optimal ways to use them. One thing that is fairly consistent across all social networks is what not to do, the faux pas or outright social media “#fails,” as the more grievous errors are called.

Here is a list of ten things that you do not want to do when engaging with customers and prospects through social media.

1. Don’t put up a presence if you’re not equipped to respond.

Like any customer service tool, social media marketing takes time and resources. If you’re struggling to keep up with emails to your website, adding social networks to your online footprint will only compound the problem. If you can’t assign the resources to make sure your social networks are well managed, don’t bother. Your relationship with your customers and prospects will be hurt.

2. Don’t ignore the chatter.

People may be talking about your company, product or service right this minute, but are you listening? Setting up a strong monitoring protocol to make sure you are notified when your company is mentioned is important in order to address customer issues as they come up. We’re in the “Now” Generation where everyone wants an immediate response. Customers expect that you’re listening and by posting about your company on their favorite social network, you will respond. You can meet and exceed their expectations by setting up alerts such as Google Alerts, downloading Facebook Manager to your smartphone, and setting up other systems to make sure you – or your social media manager – is aware of who is talking about your company as soon as they do it.

3. Don’t forget to include your Community Guidelines or Terms of Service.

Every business should have some set of rules that defines the implicit agreement between your company and any user, fan, follower or social media “friend” connected with your company in social networks or on your website. Check with a lawyer about the minimal language you should have on your website to minimize your company’s liability, particularly as you and your staff interact with the public online. Part of managing your social networks means banning or reporting individuals who are engaging in improper behavior, but you need to first establish publicly what “improper” behavior means, from pornographic posts to personal attacks.

4. Don’t avoid responding to negative comments.

Think of negative comments in social media as your opening to providing stellar customer service and turning a complaint around into a compliment. Nobody likes to hear the bad stuff, but if you are genuinely listening and attempting to remedy a negative situation, you’ll most likely win over an unhappy customer or at least win brownie points in the eyes of the others online who witness your sincere attempts at customer service.

5. Don’t fail to optimize your images and video.

What you post online reflects on your company’s brand. Even if you are posting images or video generated from a smartphone, there are many ways you can edit what you’ve produced before you publish it. At a minimum, use the editing tools offered within social media apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Editing your visuals on the fly takes only a few minutes and can make a difference in terms of visibility and reactions while being more on-brand.

6. Don’t shy away from using video.

Major social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube all provide easy video tools to capture and post videos of varying lengths. All of those social networks also allow you to stream live video. With the majority of people accessing social networks on smartphones and the popularity of digital video continuing to rise, avoiding posting videos at this stage of social media marketing is a mistake.

7. Don’t cross post to all platforms at once.

While there are ways to link all of your social networks together to post the same message at the same time everywhere, don’t do it. Take a little more time to craft messaging and images for each social network, paying attention to the different optimal post lengths and image sizes. One size does not fit all.

8. Don’t try to jump on every trend.

Not every hot topic is relevant to your brand. Be aware of the topics that are trending in the social networks you’re using, but don’t feel you have to say something about everything. There are many current events where it will be more appropriate for you to keep silent than to add your two cents. Be discerning about where you align your brand.

9. Don’t fully automate your social media.

Yes, you can schedule posts for all major social networks with the exception of Instagram and Snapchat, but don’t automate too much or too often. Automation is helpful to convey strategic messages that should be repeated regularly or to schedule time-sensitive posts. Relying solely on schedule messages without interacting, however, is the antithesis of social media.

10. Don’t forget the human beings on the other end of the screens.

The more we automate and bulk post and look for new systems and tools to make our social media marketing more efficient, the less we pay attention to the people who are following us in social networks. People want to connect with people. Interact. Be present.