Recently, a reporter asked for three tips small- and mid-sized businesses should avoid when using social media. Here are five suggestions of what to avoid:
- Don’t have a call-to-action in every post, Tweet, blog, or interaction. Social media is about helping customers and potential customers. Unlike in sales, the goal is not ABC (always be closing). It’s about always being helpful (ABH), a less-compelling or memorable acronym). Businesses can turn off those they’re always trying to close a deal via social media. Instead, make sure you’re addressing the needs of your customers and potential customers. Another good idea is to mix it up a bit, and occasionally post/discuss some topics that are not related to your business.
- Don’t expect social media to generate results faster than traditional media. Everyone hopes for a viral hit but they really are rare occurrences. Instead, social media takes time – time to establish a voice and a point of view, time to establish credibility and a following, and time to establish which metrics make the most sense to track for your business. Instead, small businesses need to be patient as they nurture and engage with their communities.
- Don’t think that all social media is the same. Facebook operates differently from Twitter, which operates differently from LinkedIn, which operates differently from Google+, Pinterest or Instagram. There are similarities, to be sure, and it’s possible to post the same content across most of each social media site (for Pinterest and Instagram, you need visual content). But each social media site is like a different country, with different cultures and expectations – and just as you would localize your content when marketing to customers in England or Germany, you need to localize what you do for Facebook or LinkedIn.
- Don’t forget that people other than close friends or customers are reading your tweets. Be careful of inside jokes or references that can be taken out of context. Keep in mind that your circle of friends may understand your jokes but they may not translate well on someone’s Facebook wall. Instead, make sure to write for people who don’t necessarily know you. And before you hit post or publish, ask yourself, would I want this same comment to appear in the New York Times or Wall St. Journal? If not, don’t publish it.
- Be careful in responding to perceived negative statements about your company or something related to your company. In some cases, the reaction to a customer’s tweet has become the story. There are some statements that are best left alone, otherwise you ignite the “Streisand effect,” defined by Wikipedia as “a phenomenon on the Internet where an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information backfires, causing the information to be widely publicized.
I know there are more — let me know what social media mistakes business owners should avoid.