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.
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:
Marriott International is another company that actively engages their Twitter followers, both in direct relation to their business and in other ways.
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:
Carnival Cruise Lines also responds to negative feedback from tweeters in a constructive way.
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.
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:
- Twitter Marketing Guide
- Facebook Marketing: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners
- Who Likes What: Social Media By Demographic
- 7 Tips and Marketing Strategies for the New Facebook Fan Pages
- Facebook for Websites: Social Plugins for Your Blog and Business
About the Author: Cameron Chapman is a freelance designer, blogger, and the author of Internet Famous: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Online Celebrity.