A lot has changed the five or so years that Out-Smarts has been focused on social media marketing. For a start, most people now know what Facebook is, many are even using it for more than “being social”. Studies show that 60% of all Canadians are using social media and 44% of small to medium-sized business decision makers use social media but are businesses using it the right way to build their online presence strategically? In many cases, they’re not. Here are the top 10 mistakes that companies make when using social media.
1. Not taking social media seriously
There are over 800 million people using Facebook, and over 200 million Twitter users – not to mention, a similar number of folks on LinkedIn, and yet many businesses still dismiss social media as a flash in the pan. Your business has the potential to take advantage of this massive online hub; ignoring it is a huge folly. You don’t have to start with a presence of your own if you’re not comfortable. Using social media to listen to, and learn from, others in your industry can be a valuable research method, and it is also a great way to get a feel for how social media is used in your sector.
2. Ignore it and hope it will go away
Back in the early nineties when I sold Internet technologies, lots of companies weren’t convinced that the Internet would take off, so they ignored it and hoped it would go away. Many were left scrambling at the last minute to catch up online and some didn’t survive. A hundred or so years ago many naysayers dismissed the phone. The same story is now replaying with regard to social media. Don’t stick your corporate head in the sand – social media isn’t going away and the sooner you accept that, the less risk to your business.
3. It’s only for small business
I’ve read a few articles recently that write off social media off as a tool that’s only useful for small to medium sized businesses. Many large, established businesses use this as an excuse because they have done things the traditional way for so long that they know no other way. However, pioneers like Whole Foods, Southwest Airlines and Ford are proving that social media can be a driving force for larger organisations too if it’s done right.
4. The Intern can do it
Many organisations get a young intern to maintain their social networks because this person has hundreds of Twitter followers, or is on Facebook all the time. However, just because you are familiar with using these tools socially doesn’t mean you know how to use them for business. I am not saying an intern can’t do it, but you should make sure that they understand your goals, mission, audience, brand and such first so that they can represent you appropriately online.
5. Failing to consider company strategy
Point 4 leads me nicely to point 5 – not approaching social media from a strategic perspective. Only 8% of companies surveyed in a recent Forrester report are using social media in ways that tie in with their corporate objectives. Again, companies often embark on using social media for the sake of using it rather than using it from a strategic perspective. Before your company sets out on the social media path you should ask – who is your target audience, what is your message, which tools are right for your business given your brand and mission, and how can you use social media to augment your everyday activities. If you do that, your social media efforts are more likely to amount to something.
6. It’s all about you
In the old business world, marketing was all about corporations; all activities centred around the product and service, and not the consumer. Every message had to be vetted – which took time and meant the company was in control. Many organisations take this approach to social media, and then wonder why they are spending lots of resources but have few results and little return to show for it. They aren’t succeeding because they need to re-engineer their approach. These days, it is not about you, but rather, it’s about your audience and every social touchpoint should reflect that. To be effective in social media you need to focus on your target audience, be able to move faster and to communicate in the moment before content gets outdated.
7. Blatant selling
This is the biggest faux pas you can make with social media. Never use social media to blatantly sell. It is okay to promote your offering, but in your face selling is off-putting. Here at Out-Smarts, we use the 80-20 rule – 80% of our posts are aimed at adding value, and only 20% are promotional.
8. Failing to set goals and objectives
As with any other business function, you should set goals and objectives before you start rather than haphazardly setting up your social shop (as it were). What is it that you hope to achieve? You may want to build community with your target audience, extend your reach to new communities, use social media as a conduit to extend the reach of your content, drive traffic to your website, etc. Whatever your goals are, you should document them, quantify them and make sure that they are achievable.
9. Failure to measure success
Many companies have no idea whether their social media presence is benefiting them or not, nor are they able to respond to what is being said about them online. Once you’ve determined your goals, you should put in place tools that allow you to measure your success and to listen effectively. These might include free tools – for example; for web traffic analysis you can use Google Analytics, to measure your Facebook following use Insights, for Twitter use counters or paid tools like Radian6 that allow you to monitor and measure engagement.
10. Failing to take a holistic business approach.
Up until recently, many businesses have looked on social media as a stand alone approach rather than considering it as a way to complement and augment their entire marketing strategy. 2012 is going to be the year when the penny drops and companies realise that the best social media projects are those that complement their real world activities.