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5 Biggest Mistakes Businesses Make in Social Media Marketing

  |  January 25, 2012   |  Comments

And how to avoid them.

By now, most companies have experimented with social media marketing, yet many struggle to get real results or ROI. The truth is that back in the early days of social media, showing up was enough. There were very few companies on Facebook and even fewer on Twitter, so it was easy to get attention.


With the mainstream adoption of social media it is even more difficult for businesses to stand out.

In addition, social media is different than traditional marketing. It involves speaking with people instead of at people.

These difficulties, plus the fact that social media marketing is relatively new mean that mistakes will happed. Here are the top five mistakes businesses make in social media, and how to avoid them.

5. Talking at People and Broadcasting Versus Engaging

Many companies view social media as another broadcasting channel, like their website or PR feed. Then they wonder why nobody wants to talk to them.

I spoke with a business a few months ago and they asked "We keep following people, but they aren't following us back! How do we get them to talk to us?" The answer in social media is the same as in the real world. Start a conversation based on a shared interest. It is the same as a cocktail party. Simply hovering around a group of people talking doesn't get you noticed. Join the conversation and add value.

While there's a place to broadcast your marketing messages (sales, PR, new product announcements, etc.), the companies that get the best results engage with the community and actively participate.

4. The "If You Build It They Will Come" Mentality

Most businesses are excited that they are now active in Twitter and Facebook. Then they look around and ask, "Where is everybody?"

Everybody is busy on the Internet connecting with his or her friends, family, and items of interest. People don't have the time, interest, or capacity to connect with every business or brand that they come into contact with.

Consider that an average person on Facebook is connected to 130 people, and an additional 80 pages, groups, and events. If each of these updates five times a day there are over 1,000 updates that an average person can be exposed to on Facebook each day. (Source: Facebook.com)

To break through the clutter, business must have a plan to promote their social media accounts and provide clear value to those who connect.

Don't just build it and assume they'll come - create a plan to attract and retain them.

3. Obsessing Over How Many Fans/Friends/Followers You Have

When asked how successful a social media campaign is, many people reply with a count of their friends, fans, or followers.

A PageLever study showed that only 3 percent to 7.5 percent of Facebook fans actually see your posts. Rather than focusing on how many likes your page has, focus on quality relevant content and moving the engagement up. High quality content will lead to a higher percentage of your fans seeing your posts over time.

Focus on organically gaining traction with your target audience and producing great content.

2. Not Being Prepared for Questions or Issues

When getting started in social media, businesses should be prepared to respond to basic questions in a timely manner. Consumers expect that businesses that are active on social networks will respond to customer service or other questions. If your business has any common issues or risk factors, these may also come up on social networks.

This shouldn't come as a surprise, yet many businesses are unprepared.

Make a list of the top 10 questions you're asked on the phone. Also make a list of the top 10 PR crises that you have had in the past five years. Be prepared to handle these on social networks.

1. Not Having a Clear Plan

Probably the biggest reason that most businesses don't get results from their social media marketing is that they don't have a clear plan. Since social media accounts are free to create, most businesses create them and start posting "stuff."

The problem is that without a plan, the "stuff" that is posted may not be of interest to your target audience. Even if your audience is interested in the "stuff" that you post, it may be difficult to link the interactions back to business value. Without clearly defined goals and objectives, it's difficult to measure success.

A few weeks ago Ron Jones wrote a great post outlining the steps to creating a strong social media plan.

Do you fall victim to any of these mistakes? What other mistakes have you seen?

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Krista Neher

Krista Neher is the author of the bestselling Social Media Field Guide, an international speaker, and currently CEO of Boot Camp Digital, which is a leading provider of social media marketing training and consulting solutions. Krista is a social media pioneer, creating one of the first successful corporate Twitter strategies and corporate blogs - long before "social media" was even a recognized term. After spending nearly six years at Procter and Gamble working on some of the biggest and most successful product launches, Krista went on to become the vice president of marketing at an Internet start-up.

Krista started Boot Camp Digital in 2008 and has created training programs for hundreds of advertising agencies, marketing departments and small and medium business owners in social media marketing. Krista also works with a variety of educational institutions on their social media programs and is currently working on a textbook on social media marketing.

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