Whether social media is the primary lead generator for your business, or just one aspect of your brand communications it’s crucial you approach it with professionalism and with a strategy. In this article I’m going to outline some of the most common social media mistakes that businesses make, and give you some tips and advice on how you can avoid them and put your best social media foot forward.
So, let’s kick off!
1. Inconsistent Branding
Akin to all areas of business communication it is vital to maintain a clear and consistent brand identity on social media. This means setting brand rules and sticking to them. Your Instagram profile or ‘collage’ is a really good example of why brand consistency is so important. Customers don’t always see your social media post one at a time. They’ll click through to view your profile as a whole. Your Instagram posts therefore need to work together as part of an overall brand story.
Make sure your colour scheme reflects your brand and is harmonious across your posts. For example, a children’s entertainment company can work with vibrant primary colours like red, blue and yellow, whereas a company that manufactures outdoor clothing may want a more natural earthy palette. Imagine if the outdoor clothing company randomly added a bright yellow image to its Instagram or Facebook account. It would stand out like a sore thumb and confuse the brand altogether.
The same goes for typography. Pick a font family and stick to it, and be consistent with the size of the font you use when adding text to images. Other things to look out for are the placement and size of your logo if/when you add it to an image. Generally, you’ll also have rules about what you say in your social media posts which will relate back to your overall brand vision. If you’re business is B2B in the legal profession, for instance, you should be posting about news and subjects relevant to your industry. Don’t muddy the water with random off-topic throw-ins.
Likewise, never mix business and personal. There’s no room for family pics on LinkedIn – save them for your personal Facebook profile. The important thing to remember is that social media provides an outlet for you to build brand awareness. By being consistent with your messaging you’ll develop a pattern which in turn elicits brand recognition and familiarity with your customers. Ultimately you want a customer to see a stand-alone social media post of yours and for them to say- ‘that looks/sounds like it’s from (Your Business)’.
2. Under or Over-posting
One of the most common social media mistakes is being inconsistent with how much you post. The problem works both ways. Posting too little shows a lack of investment and interest. Posting too much, on the other hand, can appear spammy and annoying.
Let’s do the Goldielocks test.
Who annoys you on social media? Chances are it’s not the brand we’ve just discussed that only pops their head up on social sporadically. It’s the person or business who clogs up your feed with lots and lots of content. And what do we tend to do with it? Skim, skip, dismiss.
My old teacher Mr O’Connor used to warn us chatterboxes that “empty vessels make the most noise”. While it’s not necessarily true that chronic over-posters produce poor content, this is unfortunately the lasting impression that post saturation gives. Do you need 10 snapshots from your shop a day?
Long gaps between posts will not do you any favours when it comes to the Facebook algorithm. It punishes infrequency, and once you drop the ball on engagement it can be hard to get back. Aside from the bots you need to think about your customers. Put the shoe on the other foot. If you’re planning on using a business – let’s say a boutique hotel – and you visit their Facebook page to see what’s been happening there recently, only to find nothing has been posted in the last 5 months. What does that say to you? To me it says the hotel isn’t overly bothered about how it appears to its customers, and it would make me think twice about booking.
The best thing to do is to look at your engagement levels as a way to gauge your post frequency. If your engagement is consistently high then the demand for your social media content is there – so go for it. If engagement patterns fluctuate significantly then focus on high quality over high quantity at regular, but not rapid, intervals. For some ballpark guidance on posting it’s ok to post 3-5 times per week to Facebook and Instagram, whereas a Tweet a day is OK. In fact, Twitter is set up for more frequent posting, so if you’ve got more than one thing to say in a day feel free to Tweet away! (There’s a poem in there somewhere….).
3. Not Engaging
The whole point of social media is to engage with your target audience. That means being in conversation with them and not just sending messages their way. One way to engage with your social media followers is by responding to comments promptly. Be prepared to respond to messages outside of your traditional business hours. You should be responding to all comments, good or (it happens!) bad. Don’t miss an opportunity to demonstrate your quality customer service when facing negative comments or complaints. Respond in a timely and appropriate manner. If you manage to placate the situation you just might be on to PR gold. Lemons, lemonade and all that!
The other thing to remember is not to neglect good comments! They’re valuable endorsements for your business and you should show appreciation to those who post them. Thanking them and sharing these posts will likely encourage others to share their happy thoughts about your business too.
Another easy way to engage is by promoting user-generated content. But make sure to credit the source! You should also think about ways to engage with other businesses in your local area. This will allow you to garner the attention of their followers. It also allows for cross-promotion and other mutually beneficial opportunities. It’s not called social media networking for nothing.
4. Being Overly Promotional
If your social media plan is to sell, sell, sell, then you’re setting yourself up to fail, fail, fail!
Time to put yourself in your customer’s shoes again. Do you buy a magazine purely to browse the ads? No! You’re interested in the editorial content – and the same goes for social media. Your brand should therefore position itself as a publisher of content rather than an overt point of sale. It’s about delighting your customers and interacting with them rather than just advertising to them.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t throw a sale in every now and then, plug some products, introduce new services and so on. The idea is to get the balance right. My recommendation is to go with the 80/20 rule. Make 80% of your content valuable to your audience, be it informative or entertaining or useful – whatever works for your brand. You can then keep 20% for more promotional material and Calls To Action.
For example, if your company is in Fintech, you could share information about financial markets, tips for managing finance, relevant news stories and industry trends. With this balance your customers will appreciate your content and be far more open to your promotions.
5. Using Poor Visuals
A picture tells a thousand words. This has never been truer than when it comes to social media. In today’s fast paced digital world we’re lucky to have a customer scan our social media posts let alone read them. You have a split second to capture someone’s attention and text alone simply will not cut it.
You ALWAYS need to include a visual element in your social media posts. Furthermore, it needs to be eye-catching and of high-quality. Read more on this here where I discuss 7 DIY tips to enhance your social media images.
Now, we need to talk about video. If a picture tells a thousand words then a video tells a thousand pictures. Motion catches the eye like nothing else. As consumers we are getting more and more used to receiving content this way so your brand needs to keep up. Your videos don’t need to be Hollywood productions. Just make sure they are clear and that they fit with your brand!
Fail to Prepare – Prepare to Fail
This was another one of Mr. O’Connor’s favourite sayings, and he used it interchangeably with the tongue twister: “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”.
I want to end this post by talking about planning. I haven’t included Failing to Plan as one of my key points, because it’s implicit in all of the social media mistakes I’ve discussed. There’s plenty of occasion for reactive and spur of the moment social media posting. This is, after all, the original premise of Instagram. However, and this is a big however, approaching social media for business as a purely ad-hoc and sporadic exercise will do you no favours.
Best practice is to design and plan your social media calendar. This should feed off your businesses wider content strategy and the insights you yield from analysing your social media analytics.
There are tons of dates and events that we can be proactive about scheduling posts for rather than reactive. Take St. Patrick’s Day. If leveraging this event fits with your brand identity then why not plan for it in advance. Thinking ahead about your content will give you time to produce something of really high quality, rather than panicking on the day to put something out.
Setting time aside to strategise and populate your social media calendar will save you heaps of time in the long run and will help your business be more consistent and engaging on social media.
Let’s get social!
Now you know what to do and more importantly what not to do it’s time for your business to get social 🙂