By Tamsin Fox-Davies UK Development Director for Constant Contact
Everyone wants to look cool. No one wants to look like an idiot -especially in front of thousands of people, and this fear can be a big barrier to small businesses when they first start using social media.
But hey, you’ve got to be in it to win it, and when you are first getting started it’s easy to slip on any number of metaphorical banana skins.
Let’s be clear. Everyone makes mistakes on social media – the trick is minimising the impact those mistakes will have. I’ve been blogging, posting, tweeting, linking, [insert social activity of choice here] for years and I am still making mistakes. It’s a necessary part of doing anything fun and creative in front of other people – it doesn’t always go right – and that’s fine.
In the spirit of learning, I thought I would share 15 tips that might help you avoid some of the ‘school-boy errors’ that often blight social media beginners, and more experienced.
1. Tweeting and posting without a strategy. Never write anything just for the sake of it. Not to get too heavy and complex on the first point… But why are you here and what do you want? Let that guide your content.
2. Talking at your customers, not with your customers. Pushing out a bunch of ‘blah, blah, blah’ press releases or links to stuff you do on your website is not engagement.
3. Using hashtags on Facebook. Umm, hashtags are for Twitter and even there, if you’re just auto-posting from Twitter onto Facebook, that also signals that you don’t care enough about your Facebook fans to create updates just for them. While we’re hashing this point out (sorry!) – don’t abuse hashtags on Twitter. Hashtags are without a doubt the most interesting part of Twitter. But in addition to sometimes being hilarious, they are an extremely useful way to keep things organised. Don’t abuse the hashtag, save it for when you need it.
4. Too much abbreviation. Sometimes you’re going to have to abbreviate to stay with the character limits on Twitter, for example, but try not to abandon grammar to the point of being unreadable. Also, take it easy on the jargon and acronyms – not everyone knows as much as you do. Keeping it simple is always advisable.
5. Sharing inappropriate images. It’s shocking how often you see shared images on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest that are just a little too much. Pictures should be fun, engaging, interesting – sometimes they might even be a little bit weird. But please think about your audience and what’s suitable. Trust me, you can be interesting without being offensive. It’s not that hard.
6. Not responding to comments or questions. It’s not a good first impression for a potential new fan to see that your business or organisation doesn’t address concerns and doesn’t interact with customers. Be sure to respond to as many questions or comments as you can, and in as timely a way as possible.
7. Bad-mouthing your competition. There’s never a time when it’s a good idea to insult your competitors, especially on social media channels where it’s there for the world to see. Keep it to yourself, unless you really want to look silly.
8. Not filling out necessary information, location, description, etc. Facebook gives you the opportunity to add detailed information about your business or organisation. Be sure to fill it out completely. On Twitter, complete your bio with the keywords your audience would search for you on.
9. Too much dialogue, not enough content. Social channels are all about sharing content. You want to engage with followers, but you also want to give them content that makes them engage with you.
10. Too much content, not enough dialogue. Confused yet? Well it’s all about finding a balance. Unless you’re a news outlet, then readers are looking for more than just news. Use your content to drive engagement from your community and start a discussion.
11. Posting the exact same thing to multiple LinkedIn groups. Most people are members of many different groups and nothing is more annoying than getting several alerts for the same piece of content. It’s ‘social spam,’ people – the fastest way to lose friends and influence no-one.
12. Only promoting yourself. It’s called social networking for a reason. If you’re not engaging and showing personality, why bother? Be sure to engage with your customers and partners, and discuss topical events.
13. Spelling errors. As small as they might be, spelling errors can really hurt your credibility. One typo is okay, but lots of typos are not. (Watch for some common misspellings, like there/their/they’re/your/you’re.) Don’t give the pedants ammunition.
14. USING TOO MANY CAPS OR EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Shhhh. Stop shouting. Use capital letters and exclamation marks sparingly, for maximum impact.
15. Not sharing the love. If people are promoting you or sharing your content, show them some love back. A retweet, a share or a mention on Facebook can go a long way.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and people are coming up with incredibly creative ways to embarrass themselves on social media every day. The basic rule is to be honest, engaging, responsive and friendly – do this and you’ll never go too far wrong.
Good luck avoiding slipping on the banana skin.