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If your company isn’t connecting with customers and potential customers over social media, you’re missing out on an important marketing tool � one that can bring you new business and increase loyalty among your existing client base. But it’s not as simple as learning how to tweet and creating a Facebook page. Social media can be a two-edged sword: using it effectively can be a real business booster, but misapplying it can waste time and money and may actually hurt your bottom line. Avoid these all-too-common mistakes to make the most of social media:
1. Failing to set realistic expectations beforehand. If you don’t know your destination, how can you create your roadmap? Determine what you want your social media efforts to accomplish: how many new customers? How much more traffic driven to your website? Instead of guessing at numbers, do some research to see what’s reasonable to expect for your industry. Putting a dollar figure on the desired results will help you budget the time and money needed to achieve your goals.
2. Reaching the wrong audience. Research is key. Who are you trying to reach: other businesses, parents of school-age children, homeowners? Target the content of your posts to appeal to your ideal demographic instead of shot-gunning posts just to increase the number of followers. Social media platforms allow you to collect data on the people engaging with you. Take a look at their profiles, make sure they are real people (not bots), and that they are the type of followers you want. If not, adjust your strategy.
3. Not budgeting enough time and money. Make sure you have the time to send out social media posts on a regular basis, monitor your platforms and reply to feedback. If you decide to outsource your social media, make sure your budget allows you to pay for all the services you need. By scrimping on the time and money needed for social media, you’ll be doing more harm than good, because you’re likely to develop a negative online reputation.
4. Putting the wrong person in charge. If you have a small staff, it may be tempting to assign social media to a young employee who’s connected to their smartphone 24/7 anyway. Problem solved? Probably not. The person in charge of your social media will be an official voice for your company, presenting your image over the Internet for the entire world to see, and interacting with customers and the general public like a company spokesperson. In addition, they should have enough marketing knowledge to know what content will appeal to your desired audience. If you’re not sure you have someone on staff who can handle these responsibilities, consider outsourcing the job to a professional.
5. Failing to set controls. Creating policies and procedures for social media can help you avoid problems. Decide in advance who’s allowed to post, what platforms will be used, how often to post, and what kinds of content are acceptable. Limit access by passwords to official company platforms, and change passwords whenever there’s a change of personnel. The last thing you want is a disgruntled employee posting negative content in your name.
6. Not using social media tools. Online tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck can save you time and effort. Tools like these can allow you to schedule posts in advance, send messages simultaneously across multiple channels, alert you to mentions and responses, provide data to help you analyze your results, and much more. Investigate which tools will work best for you, and take advantage of them to increase efficiencies.
7. Using social media as advertising. It may be tempting to use social media as a low-cost way to blast out daily ads for your company, but this will quickly backfire as people block your content or “un-friend” you. It’s okay to promote yourself occasionally, especially if you have something newsworthy to report, like a product upgrade or grand opening of a new location, but don’t treat social media as an advertising tool. Your object should be to keep people reading your posts by providing information they can use and content they want to share with others. This will keep your company top of mind when they are ready to purchase what you’re selling.
8. Being unresponsive. Social media was created to enable people to connect with each other online, and its ability to provide two-way communication is one of its most valuable benefits. If you use it only to send messages, but not to receive, you’re missing a great opportunity. Increase engagement by asking questions, running contests, and asking followers to rate you or give their opinions on the features of your products. Then make sure to monitor responses regularly, in as near-real-time as possible, and provide prompt, thoughtful feedback.
9. Not tracking results. In order to determine whether your efforts are effective and producing a positive return on your investment, analyze the metrics provided by your social media platforms. This data can show you which posts are most read and most shared, which led to visits to your website, etc. Using metrics can help you plan new content and track your progress.
Avoiding these common mistakes will put you well on your way to a successful social media campaign � one that will produce positive results for your bottom line by connecting you to a community of faithful followers.