Much has been said about the marketing power of social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Each of these platforms represents a great opportunity for small business promotion – placing your marketing messages in your customers’ feeds right next to content from their friends and family.
However, while these channels can undoubtedly be effective, good results aren’t always as easy to achieve as we might hope. Many businesses and marketers jump into the world of social media without much of a plan for success, and unfortunately mistakes are common.
Today, we’re going to outline a few everyday social media missteps and offer some advice for getting those underperforming channels working for you…
1. Forgetting to be human
Many businesses (especially on Instagram) simply post endless product photographs and adverts for their services. While one of these posts might be effective on an individual basis, it’s no way to build a brand – customers will likely be slow to follow a page that offers nothing but an endless stream of self-promotional material.
Instead, take the time every so often to break things up with a personal touch and some human interest – a photo of your team out for lunch together or of the office cat sleeping on somebody’s keyboard will go a long way to help your company seem as though it’s full of real, lovable people.
Social media is at its best when marketers and customers are able to build a relationship. Bombarding users with nothing but self-serving spam is unlikely to get them to care about you, so let them put some faces to the business name.
2. Inconsistent posting
We get it – for many small businesses, social media isn’t a top priority and it gets done when somebody remembers. However, much like exercising, it’s rarely effective when you only do it once in a blue moon.
In order to get the best results from social media, you’ll need to get serious about your posting schedule and maintain a constant stream of good content. It’s an unavoidable fact that a ludicrous amount of material is posted every day on social media and unfortunately it’s necessary to bang a drum loudly and often in order to get noticed.
The good news is that consistent posting can be a great way to accumulate followers; as users notice they are seeing more and more content from you that they enjoy, they will be much more likely to sign up for further material.
We know it can be hard to find time every day for social media, but with tools such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Buffer and Post Planner you can queue material up ahead of time and leave the software in charge of publishing it when the time comes – meaning you can prepare a whole week or month’s worth of content in one go and then turn your mind to other matters.
3. Not being ‘social’
It’s a sad fact that brands and businesses often seem to forget the ‘social’ part of ‘social media’. All too often, content is queued up, published, and then later checked hopefully for ‘engagement’ – all without actually engaging any users themselves.
As a strategy on social media, this is tantamount to sitting alone in the corner at a party and hoping somebody will come over to talk to you: it happens occasionally, but it’s a poor approach for making friends.
Many businesses don’t do nearly enough to start conversations, reply to commenters and interact with other people’s posts – and so it’s hardly surprising that users rarely look their way. It’s always worth remembering that social media is at its best for marketing when time is taken to interact personally with users and to build real relationships and trust.
Speaking of interacting personally, another common issue is…
4. Mis-handling complaints
It’s bound to happen eventually.
Maybe you’ll screw something up, or maybe the commenter will just be a troll trying to make you look bad – but from time to time you’ll get the dreaded Negative Comment (cue thunder clap/dramatic organ sounds). It’s an unavoidable consequence of being active on the Internet, the same way that getting snowed on every now and then is a natural side-effect of living in Alaska.
The question is what to do about it – many businesses are in the habit of simply avoiding, ignoring or (in some cases) actually deleting negative comments, thinking that having customer complaints sitting out in the open is a bad look.
These actions may seem sensible, but really they erode consumer confidence and trust – if people realise that their complaints are being ignored and removed they will start to lose faith in whether you truly care about your customers, whether you’re listening to what they’re saying and even whether you might secretly be keeping other transgressions on the downlow.
As with many things in life, it’s often best to come clean and own the situation. By responding to the complaint with apologetic respect and explaining how the situation is being rectified you may actually earn admiration – most consumers know that businesses aren’t perfect 100% of the time, and they’d rather see the inevitable complaints and slip-ups get handled with grace and professionalism than swept under the proverbial rug.
5. Not tracking results
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” is a well-known pontification of the business management thinker Peter Drucker. These days nobody can seem to agree if it strictly constitutes good or bad advice, but there is some logic to it – especially in the world of digital marketing.
Simply put, too many businesses on social media don’t really have much idea of whether or not their efforts are actually getting anywhere. They may be watching the follower count, but what about their engagement metrics? Are they tracking user clicks and keeping tabs on which posts are generating the most conversions? Are their posts attracting more likes and comments than those of their nearest competitors, or fewer? Have they done hashtag analysis to identify the most promising tags for each post?
Data is the friend of digital marketers everywhere. The more information you have about what works, what doesn’t and what users best respond to, the better your marketing output can become – otherwise you’re just blindly trying things and not keeping any record of what’s working, or why.
At the end of the day, social media in its various forms can be a seriously powerful marketing tool, but there are many ways to do it wrong. It’s not something you can get into ‘a little bit’ and expect it to work for you, and social media channels each require careful planning and dedicated effort to get real results.
By maintaining a scrupulously consistent update schedule, keeping tabs on your data and taking the time to come across as a real human you can lift your brand’s social media marketing to the next level – and make a great connection with your followers and customers along the way.