This post is by Heidi Cohen, principal of Riverside Marketing Strategies.

Marketers are afraid of making social media mistakes. Even worse, they’re concerned their social media faux pas will balloon into a public relations nightmare. Get over it! In today’s always-on, connected world, issues can arise whether you’re participating in social media or not. So be a part of the conversation and engage, because when you have a problem, it’s too late to build your base. (And of course make sure that you have PR crisis plan ready!)

Here are seven common social media mistakes marketers make and how to fix them.

1. Fail to show respect for others on social media. Take a lesson from the Godfather because social media runs on old-fashioned good manners. Just because you work for a large company doesn’t mean that social media participants will automatically listen to you. Remember they’re thinking WII-FM (What’s in it for me?). Further, just enticing them with a special offer may not cause them to stay longer than necessary to make the purchase.

Actionable social media marketing fix: Listen to what your customers and the public are saying on social media platforms and respond where appropriate. To this end, it’s helpful to use social media monitoring products and to have customer service representatives prepared to respond via these channels.

2. Use sanitized corporate-speak on social media platforms. Social media requires a human presence. The absence of anything sounding remotely human, such as in one-way, one-to-many message broadcasting, hurts your organization. It means you’re only talking about your company and products. This me, me, me syndrome is how marketers miss the boat on social media.

Actionable social media marketing fix: Before pushing out your business-focused messages, listen to the conversation and realize it’s multidirectional, including many-to-many at the same time. Inwardly focused messages about your organization tend not to be where the interest and power are on social media platforms. Instead actively participate. The bottom line is you need to be and sound human! Consider what you can do for others.

3. Shout buy, buy, buy on social media platforms. This is akin to being a fast-talking sleazy salesman. While causing prospects to run in the opposite direction, it shows you don’t understand how social media platforms work. Instead, it’s important to pay-it-forward on social media platforms.

Actionable social media marketing fix: Change your tenor on social media networks. You can have one deal-of-the-day special where you push out a one-day-only offer the way Woot and Target do. (Check on Target’s site and on Twitter.) But the rest of your social media participation should contain at least 10 messages about others including your customers to every one message about your organization. To this end, it’s useful to create an editorial calendar of content you plan to share on various social media platforms.

4. Build a social media following for one campaign. Without understanding the ongoing nature of social media, marketers may build a social media base for one campaign without thinking about how to keep these participants engaged. I call this the LeBron James approach to social media. Basketball player LeBron James built lots of interest around which team he was going to join in July 2010. Instead of providing fans and followers with reasons to support his decision, he seriously pissed them off.

Actionable social media marketing fix: Start by understanding the relationship nature of social media. Getting engagement for a one-time promotion translates to customers taking your deal and leaving. Use your promotion to build long-term relationships with your prospects. Create a plan for ongoing engagement and marketing to maximize your investment in the acquisition campaign.

5. Forget to incorporate your brand into your social media engagement. Organizations work hard to create and grow their brand. Branding should be integrated into every aspect of your social media interactions including your pages, interactions and content. It’s deeper than the colors you use or slapping your logo onto your avatar.

Actionable social media marketing fix: Examine your brand’s DNA and determine how you’ll translate the salient elements to social media interactions. Remember social media runs on content. Think in terms of your organization’s stories.

6. Employ a college student who knows Facebook. While it’s enticing to hire an inexpensive intern to handle your social media communications, it overlooks the importance, experience and maturity required of understanding your brand, organization and the public. Understand social media participants take exchanges seriously. Therefore, shouldn’t your organization put its best foot forward?

Actionable social media marketing fix: To this end, show that your firm is serious about social media by having permanent employees who know your organization, brand(s) and product(s) run your social media efforts. Create a set of social media guidelines and provide social media training for your employees so they understand how to represent your organization and what to do as private citizens.

7. Are you opaque in your social media dealings? Social media requires a level of transparency. This doesn’t mean you need to divulge your competitive advantage or financial statement. Your target market and social media participants want to know where you stand and what you’re up to.

Actionable social media marketing fix: Don’t just lurk on social media platforms. Create a profile that represents your organization and discloses your point of view. Ensure that your representatives are trained in social media and understand your business so that they can be transparent in their dealings without telling corporate secrets.

Face it: You’re going to make mistakes on social media. It’s an evolving platform and, while there are pathways to help you develop an effective marketing plan, none of them is guaranteed to have no problems. What’s more important is that you’re prepared to respond in today’s 24/7 world and how you handle your engagement.

Have you made any of these errors? If so, how did you handle it, and what was the result? Are there any other social media mistakes you’d add to this list, and why? Please respond in the comments.

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13 Responses to “7 common social media mistakes (and how to fix them)”

  1. [...] 7 common social media mistakes (and how to fix them) [...]

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  5. Fred Campos says:

    Heidi,

    first and foremost good stuff! You hit on it, as one who manages over 100 social media campaigns, I see clients really over selling too much on social media. (Your number three.) The other thing I would add, is lots of businesses and individual get started on social media and then give up, usually at the "tipping point" to make a difference in their campaign or branding.
    My recent post YouTube Tricks to Group Your Videos

    • heidicohen says:

      Fred–Thank you. I agree most firms don't understand that selling on social media is understated not in your face promotions. This translates to linking to appropriate product in your content marketing not yelling buy, buy, buy. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  6. [...] 7 business social media mistakes and how to correct them. From failing to show respect to others online and hiding behind a [...]

  7. [...] a look at this post by Heidi Cohen of Riverside Marketing [...]

  8. [...] 7 common social media mistakes (and how to fix them) [...]

  9. mike says:

    Very good… A tried and true list for sure.. The sanitized speak is what we struggle with early on till we get more of a feel for the 'likes' on the page and the personality.. It's hard to overcome,but we see time and time again once we engagement becomes a lot easier.
    My recent post Your Brand is About Emotion

  10. Dan Hinmon says:

    Great post and great comments! Too many people/firms approach social media just like traditional media, sending out one-way, interruptive marketing. Successful social media requires a paradigm shift, a whole new way of thinking about building communities, not selling products. Your 7 points go a long to help overcome that mindset.

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  12. @CoffeeNate says:

    Excellent points! Traditional marketing strategies are so ingrained into most business people, that it is really difficult to get them to realize these truths. The bottom line is that social media puts everyone on a level field. Brands cannot simply bully the 'little guy' out of the way, as they did on other platforms. Social media is the new customer service, which is more like the old fashioned customer service. Great piece!
    My recent post Arby’s Automated Annoyance…UPDATED with a response from @Arbys!