We've all heard the statistics, and we don't need to hear them again, but one fact is certain – social networks are huge. But, this enormous increase in content in our streams makes it harder for you to stand out from the crowd.
While many businesses are on these social networks, each time I visit Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+, it's often surprising how many of these businesses haven't thought through the basics of social media. I've put together a list of five of the most frequent mistakes I see small and large businesses making with their social networking.
While it can be very easy to use tools such as HootSuite for automating your social network updates, it doesn't come off well with your followers or connections. When I see tweets sent via HootSuite, I automatically assume that it has been scheduled, and that nobody is actually there to interact with their customers. I'm usually correct.
Although it can be much easier to set up a social media timeline, and schedule regular updates across your networks, it often doesn't rub off well. Social networks were designed for interaction, and getting conversations flowing. If you're (essentially) using a robot to do your 'Social' updates, it's probably a sign that a) you're not being social, b) you're trying to do it the easy way by cutting corners and c) you're harder to interact with directly.
Thinking about this the other day, I asked Steve Goldner (a social media practitioner) what he thought of it – here's his response:
A good point.
While there are some clear benefits of using automation, you've got to think about the long term implications on your brand – do you want to be seen as a business which takes the easy way out? I don't fancy interacting with automated tweets and if I'm not alone in this, neither do a lot of your potential (and existing) customers.
If you have been automating your tweets, but you want to stop doing this, here's the simple method to use: set up an excel spread sheet; put in dates and the content for your updates (tailored for each network, of course) and set yourself a reminder to post this.
So I bought a great product or service from your business; I love it, and I'm keen to follow your updates on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. However, there's one thing you keep doing – flogging your products in every update (I assume that you're trying to generate more sales). I stop following you, or I remove your updates from my timeline or stream.
I'm not a happy bunny. I'm probably less likely to buy anything off you, as I kind of wanted to see a non-corporate side to your business, however I was disappointed. Plus, many of your followers and fans are already your customers, and they may already have your product or service. They're following you for something more than that.
The moral of this story? Start connecting more – by all means mention your products on the occasion, or inform me of a sale, but it's not all about selling. It's about sharing things your business finds interesting, keeping us up to date on interesting things your business has done, interacting with your fans. The list goes on, but doesn't revolve around selling.
I'm a big believer in the power of selling without selling. That is, I'll be likely to buy off a business which I can see doesn't revolve around pushing me to buy their products again. Let's not forget that people buy from people, and that's where the influence will stay.
When I'm not interning at Equi=Media, I'm at university, probably in a lecture. They're not fun. Why? Because it's all one-way, and there's no interaction – it's usually the same voice droning on for hours at a time.
Too many businesses are taking the strategy of the lecturer – to keep drilling on about what they have to say to their bored listeners. With social networking, the clue is in the name. Social. Multi-directional interaction – you talk, listen and respond. With the same university analogy, take the strategy of a seminar, where students actually learn and remember more (hint: it's a two-way discussion).
There's not too much else that needs to be said on this, but if you've posted 5 updates, and have no responses, comments or interactions, try thinking about what you might be doing wrong. Are you lecturing?
So many businesses are making big mistakes by forgetting the following:
- Who you're talking to
Think about who your average customer is –what they're interested in, what they do in their everyday lives, education, location etc.
If you're running a toy shop, you shouldn't be writing for the boring businessman type, nor should you be targeting posts towards the end user. You should probably be targeting the grandparents, mums and dads, who'll actually be interacting with you the most on social media.
- What your audience want
Easier said than done, but if you know what your fans and followers want from your business, you can provide it much more efficiently.
- What your brand represents
Think of social media as two people sculpting a block of marble. One person is your business, the other is your customers. You can only control what you do, and you can only influence what they do. Your brand is the final piece.
Every tweet, retweet, post, share and comment you make helps to define your brand. If you're posting on behalf of your company, it's a good idea to keep referring back to what your brand is about. Losing track of your brand will start creating confusion amongst your customers and potential customers.
- What social network you're on
This is a simple one, but one to remember: each social network was designed with a different purpose. Facebook, Google+ and Twitter have different uses, and, by goodness, Pinterest shouldn't be treated as the same. If you're confused about why you're on a certain social network, you should probably scrap your social strategy.
5. Lacking attention
If your business is on a social network, and you haven't checked on what's happening in at least a week, or you haven't posted with the same regularity as usual, call Houston. There's a problem.
Once you've committed to a social media strategy, stick to it. I've seen many small businesses which have ignored their stream for weeks at a time, even though they're still in business (I only knew this when I walked into their stores). If you're not telling your fans that you're alive, they'll forget about you or worse still, think you've gone out of business and unsubscribe from you.
If you're constantly busy, as I'm sure you may be, set yourself a recurring alarm or calendar reminder to check up on what's going on, write an update, or start conversations. However, if you're still lagging behind, try not to resort to the first mistake (automation).