6 Big Social Media Marketing Mistakes Businesses Make – and How to Avoid Them



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All too often, businesses approach social media marketing with this workflow: 1. Tweet, 2. Profit. But there’s a critical first step that goes before the tweet, and skipping this step not only hurts profit potential, but can also damage a business’s brand, too. With virtually every business on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook these days, it’s easy to be a marketer and think, “How hard can social media marketing actually be?”

First, the bad news: businesses that rush into social media marketing without developing smart, robust strategies are setting themselves up for failure. Here’s the good news: with a smart, thoughtful and proactive strategy, many of the most common social media marketing mistakes can be avoided. Here’s how to avoid common social media marketing mistakes:

1. Underestimating the work involved

Great social media takes a lot of work. After all, there’s a reason why marketing agencies offer social media marketing services, right? A tweet might be just 140 characters long, but each and every one of those characters need to count and work together to create a coherent message. And if you’re doing social media right for your business, you’ll start to get a lot of tweets back in response to your messages.

Responding to all those tweets (both the good and the negative) is time-consuming to say the very least. And managing social media is not a 9-5 kind of job: you need to be on your game 24/7. But if you don’t have a dedicated social media manager, this means someone else at your business will need to be busy with content creation and monitoring your social media feeds, which means other, valuable work is being de-prioritized. Long gone are the days when you could rely on an intern to manage your business’s social media accounts. Either hire an in-house expert, or outsource to a social media management firm.

2. Failing to know your target audience

Making assumptions about what your target audience needs is one of the most common social media marketing mistakes. Millennials, for example, know that experiences are worth paying for – whether that’s the backpacking trip of a lifetime or a cool in-game purchase. When it comes to selling your brand to Millennials, the experience that Millennials have with your brand is just as important as the brand itself.

For example, there’s a special affinity between today’s social media culture and nostalgic or vintage experiences where uncool hobbies are now cool. And while a remix of the Oregon Trail may seem like a loyalty-winning move, remember that Millennials are a fickle crowd with many disparate preferences and behaviors. Take the time to fully research your target audience and understand their unique needs before investing significant money in your media plan.

3. Misidentifying the competition

Social media is a major game changer that’s flattening the marketing world in favor of small businesses. Just about any brand can gain traction with a cleverly executed viral marketing campaign. To make things even more complicated, the world of social media marketing is crowded with many different players all competing for the same attention. For example, let’s say you run a small contracting business. You want to start publishing content on social media to get more attention for your business locally. Sharing a “home repair tip of the day” or spotlighting a local renovation project is great; just keep in mind, however, that when it comes to social media marketing, you’re not just competing with other local contractors.

You’ll also be competing against major brands like Lowes and Home Depot, in addition to popular design magazines and brands – like Dwell or Architectural Digest – that already have a well-established social media presence. From a service stand-point, your business may not be in direct competition with these brands. However, you’ll still be competing against these players when it comes to social media bandwidth.

4. Failing to start with a baseline measurement

How will you know if you accomplish your social media plan’s goals? If you answer “hitting 1,000 followers in a month”, that’s a good start. Developing meaningful benchmarks and goal-driven social media metrics is important. But how do you know if adding those followers is actually a big accomplishment? If you’re starting with just 100 followers and you add 1,000 in a month, that’s pretty great. But if you already have 15,000 and add 1,000, that’s less impressive. The same goes for measuring site traffic, page views, re-tweets, and other common analytics. If you don’t understand your baseline numbers, you won’t have any clear basis for assessing your social marketing campaign’s success or failure.

5. Too many brand mentions, not enough value

Yes, the whole point of social media marketing is for businesses to build their brand. Sure, you’re probably not tweeting messages about how great your business is every day, but you still need to be careful that you’re not letting your affinity for your brand influence your content quality and value. As a digital marketing consultant, this is one of the top problems I encounter with the brands I advise.

Let’s return to the previous example from earlier in this article: you own a small contracting business. When you’re sharing tips on social media for DIY home projects, for example, you don’t want every tip to then link back to your service page or be pushing your business. Today’s savvy consumers appreciate genuinely valuable, quality content; they don’t appreciate content that’s a thinly disguised sales pitch for a specific product or service. That’s a sure-fire way to damage your brand’s reputation and hurt trust.

6. Too many social networks, not enough content

When you’re first getting started with social media marketing, be careful not to stretch your social media presence too thin. Start with one or two networks where the majority of your core users are already located and build from there. Remember, consistency counts.

Posting once every few weeks will never build a consistent following or boost engagement and brand awareness. Aim to post 2-3 times per week and share meaningful content with each post. Want to advertise an upcoming sale or product launch? That’s okay too, but mix in self-promotion with content that’s genuinely valuable to your audience. Stuck for content? Ask yourself these questions: (1) what challenges are my customers currently facing? (2) Is there a seasonally appropriate post that would bring value to my clients or customers? And (3) Is there an industry report or news that I can comment on and add value to?

Bottom line: Social media marketing is as much an art as it is a science. That said, there are a few basics every business needs to master from the get-go in order to avoid problems down the line. Start with a clear plan and actionable, quantifiable goals based on baseline measurements. Understand your target audience and your competition (including non-industry content competitors). Start small with one or two networks and build from there. Post consistently, resist the urge to include brand mentions in every piece of content, and deliver real value. If you can master these basics, you’re well on your way to social media marketing success.

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