5 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid in Social Media

We recently came across a blog post on 5 Rookie Mistakes in Press Releases, and turns out, the author was not exaggerating about the “rookie” part. Use a headline that makes sense. Include an “about” section and contact info. Still, it’s always helpful even for seasoned PR pros to get a reminder that sometimes the most basic things are the things we screw up, because we take for granted that we won’t screw them up. The post also inspired us to write our list of tips to help businesses avoid making rookie mistakes in social media. Without further ado…

1) Don’t dive in without a game plan. You know what makes me cringe? When companies get excited by the sparkly social media trend and tell their staff to go gangbusters on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, a company blog, etc. – all without having a strategy in place. What is your goal? Who are you trying to engage with? Do you need to engage with different audiences on different platforms, and perhaps share one type of information with your Twitter followers and a different type with your Facebook followers? What’s your policy on employees blogging or guest blogging for your company? Your plan for dealing with negative Yelp or App Store reviews? I know it’s tempting to want to just dive in – but trust me, you’ll be glad later that you had a strategy in place first.

2) That said, be wary of social media ninjas/experts/superstars. It can be incredibly valuable having people on your side with specific experience developing and executing social media initiatives. However, be careful about who you trust with your social media strategy; 90% of the self-professed social media ninjas/gurus/superstars/experts out there are full of it. Just because someone has 1,000+ Twitter followers and calls himself a guru doesn’t make it true – and typically, the people who are the gurus don’t need to use such audacious self-promotion to prove it. Since the beginning of time (or at least the beginning of capitalism?) people have looked for the next get-rich-quick scheme to make a buck off the latest hot new thing, and right now in marketing, that thing is social media. Don’t get suckered. Still, there are people out there who genuinely have great experience and a track record of success in working with businesses to help them do social media right. And if you’re already working with a PR or marketing agency, they may very well have the know-how to work with you on those initiatives, and it helps that the relationships and knowledge about your company are already established.

3) Don’t be afraid to start a blog, but don’t start a blog you can’t commit to. So many businesses are terrified of starting a blog because of the level of commitment and effort it requires. Although a blog does require a consistent commitment, it’s also wrong to assume that you need to blog every day or that every post has to be at least 1,000 words. If starting a blog seems like too large a goal, break it into more bite-sized steps by using a blog post calendar to plan ahead, inviting guest bloggers to write, and taking advantage of it as a place to showcase what makes you and your business tick (your unique culture) instead of fretting over how you’ll create new thought leadership content every week. Once you make the move to start a blog, however, keep in mind that if you let it sit stale for more than a few weeks without a fresh post, it could raise a red flag for readers and potential prospects. It’s something almost all of us have been guilty of at one point or another, but if you make it a habit, you need to reevaluate your blog initiative and execution strategy.

4) Twitter is NOT just another channel to cross-promote information about your company. If you sell a product or service directly to consumers and you use Twitter primarily as a bullhorn promotion device, do I really need to tell you YER DOIN IT RONG? I get pretty jazzed up about certain brands, and I love when I follow them/mention them on Twitter and get a real-person response. When I follow a brand I’m excited about and then all they do is use Twitter as a broadcast to sell their stuff, not only do I unfollow them, but it also leaves a bad taste in my mouth about the brand. For small-to-midsize B2B companies, it’s a little different, because you may not have many consumers talking about your brand on Twitter. Still, if you find the right people to follow in your industry, whether or not you actually engage with them (rather than just tweeting news and about yourself) could make or break whether they actually pay attention to your tweets. And of course, never leave a legitimate negative tweet unanswered. Especially for consumer brands, there’s no faster way to lose a customer.

5) Social media should not be siloed. So many companies operate their social media activities in a vacuum of the marketing department, or worse, in a vacuum within one team of the marketing department. Marketing is a huge part of why businesses participate in social media, but it’s not the full story. What about customer support and engagement, or conversations about technology innovation from the IT department? Even in medium-sized companies, marketing often isn’t clued into everything going on throughout the company – so how are they supposed to single-handedly manage the Twitter feed without any input from other departments? Create a workflow that encourages openness between departments so the social media presence isn’t just dominated by marketing, but is really a representation of your entire business and all the great minds that comprise it. As Amber Naslund of Brass Tack Thinking says, “If your employees aren’t ‘good’ at social media, you don’t have a social media problem, you have a hiring problem.”