Social Media Missteps

Embracing Social Media

Embracing Social Media is about more than just using the tools.

As everyone and their grandmothers rush to embrace Social Media, it’s fun watching companies really begin to leverage the power of the platforms. But it’s also very painful to see the missteps and mistakes that people and companies make – most of which could be avoided with a little forethought and planning. Here are some of the most common social media mistakes: Spew, Relevance, Inattention and Boredom. Each is detailed below.

Spew – no not S.P.E.W. (the society for the protection of elvish welfare – ask a Harry Potter fan), but rather spewing as in letting loose the keyboard equivalent of a verbal deluge. If you are a business and you are slapping up 4 or 5 blog entries and 25 twitter updates a day, maybe that’s too much. Let things percolate – give them space to breathe. No matter how witty and intelligent you think you are, people probably don’t want to hear from you 5 times an hour, every single hour, every single day. If you say to me: ‘this is important, read this’ – every 2 hours, I’ll begin to think you don’t really understand what important is and I’ll begin to discount what you have to say before finally tuning you out altogether. Sometimes more is actually less.

Just as you put together well-thought-out campaigns for your other marketing efforts consider what your goals are with your social media. Are you looking for buzz? Are you looking to cross the 1,000,000 fan threshold?  Once you decide what you want from social media – plot out your strategy in order to achieve it. Think about who your followers and fans are and what they want from you. Try to understand why they are interested in your company – and find out what they would like to see. Don’t get locked into a rigid formula – experimentation is key. Keep trying new things and analyze what works and what doesn’t. Remember Spew isn’t a good thing.

Tron Guy isn't the only one who can leverage the power of social media


this is especially problematic for company feeds where there may not be anything significant happening on a given day, but the person responsible for the feed feels the need to post something, anything just to have a post.  So they post links to videos of the Sneezing Panda or Tron Guy or the equivalent. Occasionally this is fine, especially if it provides some leavening or is especially interesting or funny, but people usually follow you or set up RSS feeds because you are offering specific information on specific topics. Stray too far from your core and you risk being considered a waste of time. 

Instead of scrambling each day to come up with what you’ll post – plot out several days or weeks worth of content all at once. Look for a narrative and try to build ongoing themes into your posts. Proactively get everything ready and have some backups standing by for those days when other matters are more pressing.  In the journalism business this kind of preparation is referred to as evergreen stories – they never go stale (or at least they can last quite awhile). The benefits of proactively preparing content ahead of time go beyond time savings – it can help you see themes and address areas of weakness that your posts and tweets may be missing. And the same caveat holds true here as well – don’t get too locked into a rigid schedule – if some great news needs to be posted while still timely – post away. Your other content can just be queued up. This is especially useful during vacation and holiday season because you can delegate posting the content while enjoying your well deserved time off. Remember relevance always matters to your audience.

Remember this sign when tempted to abandon your social media efforts


– this happens more than would seem possible. Someone in marketing thinks “you know what, we need a blog, a Twitter feed and a Facebook fan page.”  “It’ll be great.” And it is for about six weeks. You can actually see the behind the scenes distractions beginning. Entries begin to be spaced out with little new content before tapering off completely. The last blog entry is from three months ago, the Facebook page has 150 fans – most of who are employees – and the Twitter feed hasn’t been updated for a month. Maybe it’s because the original employee was transferred or maybe it’s because that person said everything they had to say – but what the outsider sees is a company that can’t be bothered to pay attention to what the world sees. Maybe their products are still great but it plants a seed of doubt in that customer’s head and creates space for a competitor to step into. This is similar to all those web sites with a news link under About US tab – you know those ones that haven’t had a single entry since a 2007 press release.

The best way to prevent this from happening is formally assign social media responsibilities and tie compensation to verifiable metrics. It’s an axiom because it’s true – people do what they are compensated to do. And that compensation doesn’t always have to be monetary.  If you assign social media responsibilities to someone who isn’t compensated or formally recognized for their social media efforts, you’ve shown where social media fits into the hierarchy of work – at the bottom of things that need doing. And can you blame someone for choosing to focus on those tasks for which they’ll be compensated while letting those for which they won’t fall to the wayside?  Remember you’ve got to keep your eye on the ball and pay attention.

Boredom – if you all you put on your feeds are links to your weekly press releases then you really aren’t adding much value. How many people besides reporters find press releases that interesting? Alternatively if all you do is post highly technical entries delving into the minutiae of the hkey local software registry key – you risk boring the vast majority of readers who don’t really need to know that much about the registry. Or if you all you do is post links to old information that people are already aware of – what value are you adding? Reruns may work on TV or Hulu but that’s probably not why people are listening to you.

Consider talking to your customers and find out what drives them each day. Talk about what things your company or product enable. Highlight a cool employee or a great story from an actual customer. Talk about a cool feature that only 2% of your customers use, but that 20% would find useful. Maybe highlight a cool non-profit that uses your product – they’ll appreciate the  support. Ask your customers what they want to see in the next product release. The ideas are endless – if you lack things to talk about each week, then maybe your company has bigger issues than worrying about what goes into your social media feeds. Remember your readers should never have to fight boredom.

There are, of course, more than these four Social Media missteps. Which Social Media missteps do you find especially egregious? What’s your least, or most, favorite Social Media misstep? Let me know about that or anything else on your mind. -t

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