Top social media mistakes by SMBs

A young girl in a red dress and an elephant walk together towards mountains in the distance.

Avoid these common social media blunders to protect your brand.

Some mistakes are harmless and easily fixed. Don’t worry, nobody saw you stumble over the sidewalk just now (we won’t tell). But on social media, everyone is watching, all of the time. And if you trip, not only will the entire world notice, but there’s a good chance they’ll screenshot your gaffe to live on indefinitely. 

From finstagrams to fake friends, social media isn’t what it used to be. With over 80% of Americans now active on at least one social network, you really can’t afford to ignore your online audience. Thanks to the 24 hour news cycle and the screenshot, embarrassing mistakes live on even if you delete the offending post. 

Avoid ending up on a list of social media fails: don’t make these classic mistakes. 

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Not knowing the context

Proofreading your content is, of course, absolutely necessary. But it’s no longer enough to ensure you used the right ‘your/you’re’. You also need to understand the context surrounding the conversation. You wouldn’t walk up to a group of people at a cocktail party and just start shouting at them, would you? If you wanted to be invited to other parties, you would probably listen to the nuances of what’s being discussed before jumping in with your two cents. Online is no different. Without a full understanding of the context, you risk looking foolish (at best). 

Consider the famous example of DiGiorno Pizza. After video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee Janay Palmer surfaced, the Twitterverse shared their experience of abusive relationships under the hashtag #WhyIStayed. Whoever is behind the pizza brand’s Twitter clearly didn’t search the hashtag before deciding to jump in, posting “#whyistayed you had pizza”. Oof. Making fun of domestic violence isn’t a good look.

Another common error is jumping onto location based tags without understanding why they might be trending. After the historic wildfires in California, pictures and tags related to the disaster began to trend. Clueless influencers quickly hopped aboard, geotagging their posts in the trending location. One particularly tasteless post even included a row of fire emojis. The 295,000 people who were forced to evacuate probably didn’t appreciate the #californialove sentiment. 

The moral of the story? Always, always, always google a hashtag before deciding to use it. 

Relying on chatbots

Chatbots are great. They can automate responses to common problems, allowing you to help more customers through your social channels. 

The trouble arises when the chatbots are left to their own devices, without an actual human in charge. When users sense they are being treated like numbers, any goodwill you created by responding goes out the window. You’ve opened yourself up to the most dangerous internet species of all: the trolls.

When Snapchat let users know an issue with Snapstreaks was being fixed, Twitter quickly figured out that the responses were coming from a keyword bot. Any tweet containing the words “lost” and “streak” generated an auto response sending users to their help desk. Of course, the trolls quickly decided to have a little fun. One user posted “I’m lost but there are people running around naked, should I streak?”, to which Snapchat Support quickly answered with its stock response. 

Not only was Snap the laughingstock of the Twitterverse that day, it brought even more attention to the bug. 

Moral of the story? Use bots sparingly, and ensure that a non-robot is double checking your content. Don’t feed the trolls.

No social, all media

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, yet felt like you were being lectured at? Communication is a two-way street, yet many brands don’t let their audience get a word in edgewise. 

Not responding to @mentions, brand specific tags, or direct messages is akin to ignoring everyone else at the cocktail party to deliver your own monologue. 

Not only is it rude and a surefire way to let your audience know you don’t understand social media, it could be costing you money. 48% of consumers said that they are likely to purchase from brands who are “being responsive” on social media. 36% of people have used social media to call out poor customer service, and one third will go to a competitor if a brand doesn’t respond. Brands reply to just 11% of people, yet over 90% of users have interacted with a company’s social media in some way. Social has surpassed phone and email as the first place people turn when they have an issue with a product or service. 

Luckily, setting up a social care strategy isn’t rocket science. Tools like TweetDeck or HubSpot allow you set up monitoring streams to follow the conversation surrounding your brand. Think like a user, and set up alerts for key phrases that indicate satisfaction or frustration. For example, we might set up streams like “Veem + awesome”, “Veem + sucks”, or “veem + thank you”. Don’t forget to monitor common misspellings of your brand name, as well as the names of your best selling products or services. 

Remember that every interaction on social media is with potential customers. Always be courteous, personable, and above all, helpful! Emojis and gifs are great tools to introduce human personality. But if you haven’t solved their issue, your users likely won’t care about an adorable cat gif. 

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Can your spam

Spam is no longer restricted to the domain of email. It’s estimated that up to 40% of accounts are spam, depending on the network. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and other large networks all have stringent anti-spam filters in place. 

For example, Facebook has a system named EdgeRank that acts as a natural spam filter. Content that receives little to no engagement (likes, comments, or shares) causes your EdgeRank to decrease. Your content will appear in users’ feeds less and less. Essentially you will have ‘spammed’ your way to invisibility. 

So what types of content will get your profile seen? Essentially, any content that your followers engage with heavily. Monitor your engagement rates carefully, and prioritize content that your audience appears to enjoy. Videos, Live Transmissions, gifs, images, and events are all prioritized by the algorithm. 

Once you find a piece of content that resonates with your audience (and generates plenty of engagement), don’t rest. Recycle it! Make gifs from videos, make podcasts from articles, and make articles out of videos. Tailor your content towards the type of social network: text-based articles do well on micro blogging sites like Tumblr or Medium, while visual content does well on platforms like Instagram or Pinterest. A good rule of thumb is the 80/20 ratio. 20% of your posts can be business marketing or self promotional content, while the rest should be focused on providing value to your audience. 

Don’t be that account

When your Grandma makes a social media gaffe, it’s adorable. When a brand does it, they lose credibility, respect, and followers. 

Don’t be that brand: you know, the one posting inappropriate, unhelpful, or spammy content. A little self promotion is fine (everybody’s gotta eat), but remember that social media is about your audience as much as it is about you. Make your channels about your followers, not about you. Create and share engaging and useful content, participate in community discussions, and interact with other users, companies, and customers. 

In our hyper connected era, every little misstep is permanent. The internet is like an elephant- it never forgets, and it rarely forgives. 

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