Most businesses today recognize social media as a powerful tool to engage customers, build brand awareness, drive website traffic, and influence sales. A properly implemented social media marketing strategy brings increases in website visitors, improves customer loyalty, reduces the cost of sales, improves the quality of customer service, boosts brand awareness, and increases the lifetime value of customer relationships. However, pitfalls of social media abound. An improperly planned, executed, and managed social media strategy could easily outweigh the potential benefits. Many companies have already learned about the pitfalls of social media the hard way, enduring embarrassing and sometimes costly mistakes. Here are our top ten pitfalls of social media to avoid at all costs:
1. Failure to properly plan. The 5 Ps of Success, “Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance”, perfectly apply to any social media strategy. Consider the primary goal you’d like your social media strategy to achieve. Then consider how the success of your social media strategy will be measured. What type of tools will be required? Who will be primarily responsible for executing and managing the strategy? Select your social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Who will be in charge of crafting the content? How will your content approval process work? Which members of your team will play a supporting role? How will your social media strategy be integrated into your other initiatives? What type of technology will be required? What outside resources will you need? Failure to make these plans is one of the most avoidable pitfalls of social media.
2. Avoid spreading yourself too thin. For best results, concentrate many messages on just a few social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter (at least in the beginning) than spreading yourself out too wide across too many channels. Although setting up a Facebook profile may be free, managing it requires somebody’s dedicated time, which is not free. Producing compelling content such as copy, videos, presentations, and offers is also not free. Consider which existing materials, i.e. print collateral, photos, events, contests, special offers, etc. could be re-purposed for your social media channel for maximum impact and value.
3. Don’t think of social media as a quick-fix. Considering Twitter, Facebook or some other popular network a “quick fix” is one of the most common pitfalls of social media. Sure, a successfully planned and deployed social media strategy can deliver immediate measurable results – often making a dramatic positive impact on your business. However, it’s important to think of social media as an initiative, not a campaign. Despite the early gains it can produce, the value social media can deliver will typically increase over time and the level of success your social media strategy will yield will be in direct proportion to your level of commitment. Routinely producing fresh, highly relevant content aimed at your target audience will be the lifeblood of your social media strategy. Over time, after you’ve hit a critical mass of friends, fans, and followers, your social media network will become more self-sustaining through participation from users.
4. Don’t think that just because you’ve built it, they will come. Attracting fans, friends and followers during the early stage of your social media program will require outreach. You’ll need to give people incentives to compel them to connect with you. Appropriate incentives will be dependent on your target audience and need to be properly promoted through both your traditional and interactive marketing channels.
5. Don’t just follow the followers. While there’s nothing wrong with following the leader, in today’s complex business landscape it can be difficult to distinguish the true leaders from the followers. Recognize that every business is unique. A social media strategy that works wonderfully for one company may be completely inappropriate for your business. The key to launching a successful social media strategy is to gain a deep understanding of your customers and their needs. Then, learn to genuinely speak to them and be committed to delivering real value. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to enlist a professional social media consultant or agency to get you on the right track. An outsider’s objective point of view could help put you on the right track faster and yield better results than going it alone.
6. Don’t make blatant sales pitches. While many customers do “befriend” or “follow” companies to get discounts or special offers, be sure to use social media as a way to establish and maintain relationships with customers and establish yourself as a knowledgeable expert in your field. People prefer to do business with people they like and trust. Earn their trust and their business will follow. Avoid the social media pitfalls of making your social accounts too pushy or sales-oriented.
7. Don’t treat social media as a one way street. Social media is most effective when it’s a dialogue, not a monologue. Engage your customers, encourage discussions, listen and learn from their feedback. People prefer being “spoken with” over “talked at”.
8. Don’t assign the responsibility of managing your social media strategy to an intern. Improperly communicating with your audience can have long-term negative consequences. Social media is public relations, marketing and customer service all in one — on a grand scale. Entrust only your most knowledgeable and capable people with the responsibility. Consider who within your organization you’d trust to attend a high value business networking event, a customer summit or press conference.
9. Don’t treat social media as an island. Social media is most effective when properly integrated into your other marketing, sales, public relations and customer service strategies. Social media should be the thread that weaves together all your marketing initiatives. Reference your social media channels in all your email communications, your website, your blog and your traditional advertising – YES, your traditional advertising! Advertise your Facebook page anywhere you’d advertise your website.
10. Don’t delay the launch of your social media strategy. A Nielsen study pointed out, “Social networks or blog sites are visited by three quarters of global consumers who go online, which is a 24% increase from last year.” If your company has an established customer base, there’s a high probability that people are already conversing about your brand, products and/or services every day, including customers, prospective customers, critics and competitors. The only question is whether or not you want to be part of those conversations. Getting actively involved now will help build your brand, enhance customer loyalty and retention, enhance the quality of your customer service, and increase your potential for both short-term and long-term revenue growth.