5 Social Media Mistakes That Make You Look Like an Amateur and Cost You Sales

Social media has become a necessary part of virtually any company’s online marketing efforts. And yet the world of corporate social media is still relatively young. It’s important for official company social media accounts to come across as professional, but there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there as to how to create a social media personality that will get your company the right kind of attention.

Below are five beginner mistakes that can cost you serious credibility online. Some are very easily avoided, while others take a bit more effort. By adhering to all of them, you’ll have a much better experience with social media, as will your fans and followers.

1. Sharing Too Much Personal Information

Many of the articles you read about corporate social media stress that it’s important to make your social media accounts personable and accessible to your followers. And that’s good advice for the most part. Accounts with a personal touch are more fun to follow and often more interesting than a generic corporate account.

But a lot of people new to social media get too personal with their updates. It’s important to maintain a professional image when interacting with customers and followers on social media. If you wouldn’t say it to your boss (or your shareholders, or your co-workers), then you probably shouldn’t be sharing it online as part of your company’s official social media presence.

For an example, a tweet that says “Feeling a bit under the weather today, sorry for not responding promptly” is generally fine. Tweeting “Ate some bad shellfish last night and spent the last hour praying to the porcelain gods” is not okay (I cringe even writing that kind of thing in this blog post). Tweeting “Going through a rough time personally, but keeping my head up” probably isn’t going to alienate any of your followers (though it does border on too much information). Sending out fifteen tweets about how much of a scumbag your soon-to-be ex is will probably lose you some followers and damage your company’s reputation in the process.

Think before you post, and make sure that whatever you’re putting out there is something you and your company can be proud of. If you’re not sure where to draw the line, then keep things strictly work-related and professional.

2. Too Much Self-Promotion

You probably use social media to get new business and interact with current customers. So most corporate social media accounts have a fair dose of self-promotion. That’s fine, and people expect it. After all, they’re likely already fans of your products or services if they’re following you online. And people are used to corporate and professional accounts posting promotional items.

The problem comes in when all you ever do is post self-promotional updates. It’s the equivalent of email spam, and adds little or no value for your followers and fans. In a lot of cases, you’ll alienate your current customers and they’ll unfollow you.

Think about the kinds of content your customers are likely interested in. Then post about those topics, with useful links to things not directly related to you or your company. This kind of content adds value to your followers, and may result in getting followers that aren’t necessarily customers or fans of your company. Then, when you do sometimes post your own promotional items, they’re better received and more likely to get a response.

Converse is a great example of a company that doesn’t just plug its products on Facebook. It’s paid off: they have over 15 million fans.

Converse Shoes Facebbok Fan Page

3. Not Engaging Your Followers

Do you have conversations with your followers? Do you reply when they comment on your Facebook page or @reply to you on Twitter? If you don’t, then you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to build goodwill.

The best professional and corporate social media users engage with their followers. They answer questions from their followers. They ask questions of their fans. They create a community built around their account, and engage with that community on a daily basis.

Yes, it takes more time to have a two-way exchange online, but it also creates much bigger rewards. Take the time to reply to your followers and let them know you’re listening.

Southwest Air has a very active Twitter account where they engage with their customers, treating it as another form of customer service:

southwest twitter management

Marriott International is another company that actively engages their Twitter followers, both in direct relation to their business and in other ways.

marriott twitter management

4. Ignoring Negative Comments

Directly related to the above, it’s important that you don’t ignore negative comments directed at you or your company on social media sites. In many cases, people comment or tweet negative things hoping to get a response, because they’re fed up with dealing with regular customer service. By ignoring them, you’re validating what they’re already feeling: that your company doesn’t care about their business.

Look at every negative comment as a chance to win over a customer. If someone tweets about a negative experience, ask them if there’s some way you can help them or fix their problem. Sometimes just reaching out can be enough to turn a negative experience into a positive one.

JetBlue is a great example of a brand that engages actively with customers who have complaints on Twitter:

jetblue bagel tweet

Carnival Cruise Lines also responds to negative feedback from tweeters in a constructive way.

carnival cruiselines twitter example

5. Not Having a Plan

Too many companies jump into social media with no plan or even any idea what they’re doing. They grab an employee who seems to understand “the Twitter” and tell them to get cracking on social media marketing. This rarely works.

Social media is like any other marketing or publicity attempt, except that what happens on the Internet is permanent. If you make mistakes in your social media marketing, they can come back to haunt you. While that doesn’t necessarily mean they will, the bigger the gaffe, the more likely you’ll have to spend a lot of resources to overcome it.

So take some time to figure out where you should be directing your social media efforts, who is best equipped to manage your accounts (a team of 2-3 or more people is often best), and what kinds of content your social media accounts will offer. When you have a solid plan in hand, then you can start experimenting to see what actually works best, while keeping your end goals in mind.

Conclusion

A proper social media campaign can make a big difference in your company’s success online. By following the rules outlined above, you can create social media accounts that reflect positively on your company and your employees.

For more information on social media marketing please refer to these articles:

About the Author: Cameron Chapman is a freelance designer, blogger, and the author of Internet Famous: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Online Celebrity.

  1. Adding on to 1), there are certain companies where one of the founders grabs the company Twitter handle and tweets about everything he has an interest in. Say you are a travel site and start tweeting about best web dev practices, hiring, startup culture and the like, I find it very amateurish. I mean, shouldn’t you be talking about exotic locations to travel to, sharing people’s travel experiences or the best deals you have for the day?

  2. This was great thank you, I hope every company reads it about the, “too much self promotion”. Twitter and Facebook (and other social networks) work effectively when customers and fans are engaged. One way self promoting marketing rarely works and then the companies blame social media! Great examples. I had no idea Converse had over 15,000,000 fans…

  3. Well considered post Cameron. Enjoyed it a lot.

    All I’d say about number one is that there is a balance with how much personal information you should reveal. Twitter gives you a great opportunity to reveal personal passion and enthusiasm in a way that traditional communications channels cannot. If your output is a self-regulated corporate dirge, it’s unlikely to engage with anyone. Consider different info and styles for different channels too.

    I think plans are important. But these too should empower and evolve and not restrict and shackle. It’s just as important to dive in and get involved. Listen a lot instead of broadcasting irrelevant info. And trust instinct and common sense – in the same way you would in any other conversation.

    All the best,

    Richard

    • When you’re broadcasting information to thousands of people and your brand is on the line, it’s important to strategize.

  4. Thanks for the detailed post Cameron. It helps to read other folks information so you know you are on track with what you are doing. There is just SO much information out there, it’s often tempting to take the short cut just to get stuff done. But with social media, I have found it worth the time and effort put in to communicate and engage with people, as you say. The examples of big name companies doing what you talk about helps put it all into proper perspective.
    Thanks again,
    Jackie

  5. Fairly new to social media and I agree with all you said. About personal info, that was one of the things I didn’t like about Facebook, I wanted to keep it only business and they wanted a personal site before signing up a business site. I read all the time now about tweeting and the blunders of people, also that people have started to become more selective in who they follow because of to much info. Good reading!

  6. Very interesting read. I’m glad to see the we are already in line with the points you made (@blmuk) :-)

    Too many companies just jump into social media without having a proper strategy or reason to do it. I have noticed more and more companies slowly becoming more savvy with social media which is great for the end user who is interacting/following their social media feeds.

  7. Good post. I like the part “without planning”. Most of the companies out there just jump onto twitter, fb just for the sake of showing a link on their home page. If you are a small company then being in fb or twitter not going to do any good for you. But I see most of the companies put all the SM sites on their web page. like delicious, stumbleupon, youtube, digg, bla bla bla….And one more thing, small companies, nowhere I seen, got that much of benefit even with a proper planning. Simple, why should someone follow you or join your fan page when no body knows you? To be frank, I never seen any of small companies succeeded on social media except big ones. And that too with so much of promotions like giving away ipads, ipods, mobile phones, music gadgets, meal coupons, vouchers. There is a group of people in FB for things like this. They create more than thousand accounts and join a page to win gifts.

  8. Great article and very useful for beginners but ‘estabished social media gurus’ should take note especially about the Spam comment

  9. I get a little concerned that people may over do the “being proper and professional” thing. It can come off as stiff and in-authentic. I enjoy keeping it real. If the office culture uses the language “spent the last hour praying to the porcelain gods” rather than “I’m feeling a bit under the weather”, then I’d consider using the former. And like one person mentioned, it probably depends on the context. If you’re brand is Volcom, for exampe, that group would probably welcome the more colorful language. Thanks for posting this article, lots of good reminders.

  10. I like when people share things about other interests and experiences. If your not a bot, let some human through. To much of twitter is ‘Look at this post I found’, ‘Look at this post I wrote’, ‘Look at my great service’.

  11. That’s a great blog Cameron. Thank you

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