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7 Biggest Mistakes Companies Make in Social Media

Submitted by on Tuesday, 30 June 20095 Comments

I gave this presentation at Search Engine Strategies Toronto a few weeks ago.  There is definitely a place for companies to engage in Social Media – people talk about their problems all the time, and (ideally if you have a good product) your product offers them a solution.  Social Media is Social – unlike traditional advertising it requires “social skills”.

Mistake #1 – Focus on Numbers

calculatorSure, numbers matter – I’m even a bit of a quant-junkie.  The problem is that companies get too caught up in collecting people – the # of fans on their facebook fan page, the # of twitter followers, getting traffic from the elusive first page of Digg.  The problem with focusing on these numbers is that it focuses only on a part of the equation – reach.  The equation for success is reach x influence with influence being the quality metric.  I’d take one passionate brand enthusiast over 1000 followers who are unengaged any day.

Mistake #2 – Hijaking Conversations

Join the conversation. Seems simple.  People nod.  Act like they get it.  Then, they invariably try to turn the conversation to being about them.  Join means participate actively.  The Conversation means the conversation that is actually happening, NOT what you want the conversation to be about (which is probably your brand).  Don’t be the annoying guy at a cocktail party who always tries to turn the conversation to be about himself.  Nobody likes that guy.  Join in and participate in what people are talking about – even if it isn’t all about you.

Mistake #3 – Spamming

See my previous post on social spam.  Don’t be a spammer.  Use social media channels correctly.  If it is a message individually directed towards me send a DM.  If it is a public message post it publicly.  Always ask permission to market at people.

Mistake #4 – Irrelevance

tide-stain-solutionDon’t pitch bloggers or reach out to people on twitter who are obviously NOT interested in you.  The key to social media is to find the people who are already interested in you and find ways to engage them.  Getting an irrelevant pitch is annoying, and can result in blogger backlash.  Find the right audience that your product is actually relevant to and start by engaging with them.  You may have less reach than if you hit up “the big guys” but you’ll have passionate people talking about you.

Mistake #5 – Boring

Remember, people don’t really inherently care about your product and what you do.  They care about a problem and solution to the problem.  A blog about the silly things you do at the office or the history of your organization is probably not really that interesting for very many people (except for the people who work with you and maybe a few others).  Instead, focus your social media efforts on providing legitimately valuable content.  What are people actually interested in that pertains to your product?

Mistake #6 – Not Being Committed

Social media is a relationship – not a one night stand.  Social media doesn’t begin and end with your advertising campaigns – it is a relationship that you build with your audience that continues over time.  People will expect you to be present.  Set clear expectations – it is ok if you are a small organization and are only going to be online during certain times.  Communicate it clearly.  If you’re account isn’t active let people know.  It’s like posting the opening hours on your business – people won’t be upset if you are closed if you communicate clearly and are consistent.

Mistake #7 – Not Playing Nice

Play nice.  Always be gracious – even if people make you mad.  It can be tough figuring out how to respond – especially if you feel attacked.  Be nice, be transparent, be kind, be courteous.  Don’t be like Ryan Air.

What do you think?  Any other mistakes I missed?  Do you see companies doing this stuff?