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Top 10 Most Common Mistakes People Make in Social Media

I'm new to social media. And unless you are one of the original thought leaders like Chris Brogan, Pete Cashmore or Brian Solis, chances are you're new to social media too.

Social media is far too new for a comprehensive how-to guide. And beyond the terms of service of each site, all we have are some loose rules and guidelines to establish general etiquette. As things are always changing, there is no set right way to approach social media, but there are definitely some wrong ways.

Here's my Top 10 list on mistakes people and companies make in social media:

1) Not listening

Ever try having a conversation with someone who is not listening to you? Chances are, those conversations don't last long, right? The same goes for social media. Not taking the time to listen to what your friends, followers or target audience is saying is not only selfish, it's rude. Social media is about talking with, not at people. There is no monologue anymore, only dialog.

2) Too much self-promotion

Don't be the cheesy sales person who can't stop talking about your great product. Would you do that at a party while mingling with friends? People are especially critical of overly commercial messages in social communities. In order to build trust in this forum, you must offer something of value to the community (and I'm not talking about a special discount on your amazing product – that only works for mega retailers like Dell). The general rule of thumb is that only 5-10% of your tweets or status updates should be related to self-promoting sales activities (including calls to action, promotions, discounts or links to your sales funnel pages). The majority of your posts should offer insight, information, tips and resources that can help make your friends 'and followers' lives easier. Humor is always welcome.

3) Automation with no sign of engagement

With the rising popularity of social networking sites, an influx of automated software applications has flooded the market. And while yes, it does free up a lot of time to automate your posts and have bots out there finding new followers or friends, automation defies the purpose of social media. Be sure to check in every once in a while, participate in conversations, post original thoughts and ideas, and humanize your profiles. If you are not engaging, you don't get it. See # 1 on this list.

4) Speaking from the perspective of a brand rather than an individual

Social media is about individuals. You can't build a relationship with a brand – it isn't possible. Customers want to engage with the individuals behind the brand and make real connections. Be human and show that you care. The reason why the ComcastCares Twitter initiative was so successful was directly related to the fact that Frank Eliason put his name and face on the profile.

5) Ignoring negative comments

Perhaps the biggest concern of company involvement in social media is the inevitable negative comments and complaints. The bottom line is that the conversation is already happening, whether you are there to respond or not. Consumers are now armed with powerful platforms to express their discontent and influence vast communities of like-minded peers. Mainstream consumer influence is here to stay and ignoring your critics will only hurt your public image. Be transparent, accept criticism, and RESPOND. You will be surprised to know how far a little TLC can go on the social Web. And to top it off – you'll gain respect. Again, Comcast comes to mind.

6) Preventing or making it difficult to leave comments on blogs

If you did not want to engage with your audience, why did you start a blog anyway? Disabling the comments feature is essentially disabling the conversation. People notice and it doesn't look good. While less extreme but still bad practice, making it difficult to post comments by forcing readers to register first is time-consuming and annoying. You are impeding the conversation. Comments empower your customers and boost your search rankings so any effort to prevent them is a lose-lose approach.

7) Making social media your be-all replacement to the marketing plan

Social media is not the be-all replacement to all traditional marketing practices … yet. Until the entire world is online and using social media, traditional marketing is not going anywhere. According to InternetWorldStats.com, approximately 1.6 billion of the world's 7 billion people are online. That's about 23%. We still have a long way to go.

8) Featuring only corporate marketing messages and press releases on your blog

Blogs are a company best opportunity to be direct with customers and build real relationships. Your blog voice needs to be genuine and transparent – not regurgitated corporate rhetoric that was approved by the legal department. The more human your voice, the better it will be received.

9) Sending email SPAM to friends or followers

Someday I hope there will be a similar law for social media as there is for email in the CAN-SPAM act. Sending unsolicited emails to your friends, contacts and followers is SPAM (this includes the auto-DM on Twitter and promotional emails to friends on Facebook). The only exception to this is with Facebook pages and LinkedIn Groups where fans and members have opted in to receive email. Do not SPAM your friends.

10) Believing you have mastered social media

I think Brian Solis sums this up best by saying "we should never strive to master something that evolves much faster than our ability to fully grasp its lessons, benefits, insights and pitfalls." (Engage, 2010)

I am a Commerce, Computer and Law graduate. I am running my own IT Company since 1993. I like to Read, explore Hindu Sanskruti, Travelling and Riding/Driving.

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