Five Social Media Mistakes That Suck

May 6 2011 by Jason Schubring | 24 Comments

Five Social Media Trends That Suck

Along with all the excitement over the potential power of social media, a handful of common bad strategies and decisions have begun to pop up.

These aren’t just small issues, either. Several of them are serious enough to critically damage your overall social media efforts, and could even stop your program dead in its tracks. I’ve seen several of these terrible mistakes appear repeatedly across companies of all sizes.

Shining a light on these common social media missteps will help you (or your clients) avoid the same mistakes.

1. The "Shoot First, Then Aim" Mentality

It’s amazing that there are still many companies and organizations who launch their social media presence without first establishing a clear purpose and goal for it. Who are they targeting? What’s the ideal outcome? These, and most other basic questions that must be identified and answered, are left ignored.

I’ve witnessed Facebook pages that grow to tens of thousands of Likes based completely on the strength of a brand. It’s only a matter of time before your fans realize that the overall strategy is missing and call you on it. Updates are sporadic, the information shared is not exclusive, and questions go unanswered.

I believe one of the best ways to view your social media presence is this: Think of it as a small town/city. If you had a town of 10,000 or 100,000 citizens, do you think it could run effectively without some sort of governance and leadership?

If you hope to have an effective presence, start with this in mind and be sure you know how you (and who) will govern it.

2. Using the "If You Build It, They Will Come" Strategy

There are Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that catch fire with little promotion. These are edge cases; perhaps it’s a big, recognizable brand or a celebrity that already has a big following offline.

It’s more common to see the opposite: A social media presence that’s launched with no marketing and no existent fan base. Much like the early days of forums, blogs, and e-commerce, many companies set up Facebook pages and Twitter accounts because everyone else is doing it. And they expect fans will eagerly beat a path to their door.

There are dozens of articles, books and blogs that can help to promote your social media presence. Use of online as well as offline promotion is vital to building momentum and developing an effective Facebook page, blog, or Twitter account.

3. "Our Public Relations Agency Will Take Care of It"

Agencies can be a great help in launching your presence, but that’s just the first step. What about the long term? Do you plan to have the agency continue to develop and promote your presence one year from now? Three years from now?

In most cases, the cost of an agency can make a long-term relationship cost prohibitive. Have a vision of how you plan to handle the care and feeding of your presence over the long term.

In addition, social media users seek authenticity. They want to hear updates directly from those that run the company — the developers, the CEO, the secretary, the new intern. It’s no fun getting updates from people who aren’t engaged directly in the company’s day-to-day.

Be sure to consider how you might manage customer care via social media as well. If you do a great job of building awareness and relationships, it’s only a matter of time before your customers and prospects begin to use it as a core communication channel for customer service and support. Who will monitor your social graph and respond? What tools could you use to make social media engagement more fruitful and efficient?

Odds are that your agency is great at marketing and promotion, but they are not close enough to your product to effectively offer customer care. Look to the model you use for offering customer support via phone and email and consider leveraging the same resources to support customers through social media. That can be a more effective and possibly more affordable way to offer support compared to using a public relations, advertising or marketing firm.

4. Neglecting Traditional Media ("Social Media is All We Need")

Just like print ads or any other media, social media should not stand on its own. It should be supported by broader strategies for both marketing and customer support. Over the past two years, too many businesses have pushed aside traditional approaches to building their brands in favor of social media.

No doubt that social media is vitally important and is here to stay, but only as a component of a bigger overall strategy. If your entire strategy is social media, you would probably be best off to pause and reevaluate your approach.

5. Anyone Can Be a Social Media Strategist

The good news is that many companies now realize that social media is not an easy thing to do. That means there are more people taking it seriously and not asking a niece or nephew or an in-house Facebook aficionado to manage social media on behalf of the entire company.

The bad news is that it can be hard to tell who is truly qualified to help. It seems everyone’s become social media gurus.

In my opinion, social media has evolved so quickly that almost no one should claim to be a guru or expert. Even the most veteran "Facebook guru," at most, only has seven years of experience, and that’s if they helped Zuckerberg build it!

Odds are, most self-proclaimed experts have two or three years of experience in a field that is shifting and evolving rapidly. Take any statements of anybody claiming to be an "expert" regarding their level of expertise with a grain of salt.

My general rule is if someone refers to themselves as a "guru" or "expert", run away. Fast.

A few suggestions that can help you avoid the false gurus:

  • Gather and follow up on references with needs similar to yours. How did the project go, and what has the ongoing involvement been?
  • Do your best to understand if they have a complete understanding of how the various components of marketing and customer care fit in with social media. If they don’t have broad experience in these areas, it will be difficult for them to understand how social media fits in.

Launching and growing a social media presence is a long-term proposition, so be sure you choose a partner who will be there to support you over the long term, even when social media becomes old news.

Conclusion

Social media needs to be a part of your overall marketing and customer care strategies. It should not stand on its own, and it needs long-term goals to have any chance of real success.

If you or your clients decide to venture into this space, take the time up front to develop a strategy, ask for expert help, and put a long-term plan in place with concrete goals.

What mistakes have you seen? What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear your ideas, so share them in the comments.

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About the Author

Jason Schubring has built more than 100 websites and delivered e-mail campaigns for companies of all sizes. His strategic, design, and Web development background creates a unique perspective on effectively combining digital and traditional marketing. To connect with him, follow him on Twitter @jasonschubring or find him on LinkedIn.

24 Comments

Catalina

May 6th, 2011

One day I read over a social media strategy plan from one of those agencies. It’s shocking that companies may consider paying for “engagement services” that break it down to “up to 6 tweets a day and facebook updates, 3 articles per week of 350 words…”.

Josh Jackson

May 6th, 2011

Well done, Jason. I agree with point No. 5 in particular, and like how you phrased this:

“Even the most veteran ‘Facebook guru,’ at most, only has seven years of experience, and that’s if they helped Zuckerberg build it!”

Josh Jackson

May 6th, 2011

Well done, Jason. I agree with point No. 5 in particular, and like how you phrased this:

“Even the most veteran ‘Facebook guru,’ at most, only has seven years of experience, and that’s if they helped Zuckerberg build it!”

Albany

May 6th, 2011

Good article here. Social media marketing has great potential, but jumping in without a clear goal and plan can be disastrous. There are plenty of businesses who feel they need to get involved, but don’t know how to do it, or what to expect. I think your advice is sound. Plan ahead, diversify your marketing strategy, and hire the right people.

Matt

May 6th, 2011

@Catalina I agree social media should be more involved than just a few tweets, but from the agency’s perspective they need to quantify what the client is paying for and avoid any expectation they can commit 24/7 to all their clients.

Jason Schubring

May 6th, 2011

Great comments, all!
@catalina, I agree… what other specifics do YOU urge clients to consider and document up front?
@josh… thanks! It’s exhausting to keep hearing how many people have “years” of experience as a guru, isn’t it!?

Elias Shams

May 6th, 2011

It’s no brainer to see that social media is here to stay for good. Given vast variety of the existing channels to choose and stick with, it’s time for such a hot space to enter into a new category. There is a need for a portal to provide a quick and intelligent decision for both the consumer and the enterprise about their online connections.

A Platform to Help us to Distinguish Our Quality vs. Quantity Friends, Fans, Followers, and Companies

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Flickr and others have been doing a decent job of providing additional marketing exposure and even in some cases, additional revenue. However, as more and more social networking sites pop up, how do you manage your brand across all these channels? Maybe more importantly, which one of these sites should you select as the one that will help you best reach your target audience? The proliferation of the social media avenues is becoming overwhelming.

This glut of information reminds me of the early 90’s when WWW was adopted broadly by the general public. Every company rushed to have a presence, to the point it became literally impossible to find the right information on the Web. That’s when a better generation of search engines – at first the Yahoo! and then Google – entered the market and helped us find the most relevant information by just typing simple keywords in their search box. If you had asked before Google launched, if there was a need for another search engine – most would have said no, we already have those….

Then came Web 1.0 & 2.0 – Youtube, Flickr, myspace, Facebook, Twitter and countless others have turned everyday people into content producers, influencers and experts. We basically tripled down on the information overload How do you know which channels to select for deploying your social media strategy? How do you know which one is the right channel to let your fans and followers to find you, your products, and services? Most importantly, who is Joe Smith that is recommending that person, that company, that product?

I hope my awesomize.me can accomplish such a mission. The site is not another social networking platform. Yet the portal to all your existing social media channels. The platform helps you, your fans, your potential clients to make an intelligent decision as to which company to connect to or follow via which social media channels and why? It’s free!

Joyce Aldawood

May 6th, 2011

What I love are all of the telemarketers and others who email and offer to get you on the first page of a google search- when they have 1) not bothered to look at your website and 2) not googled any keywords that might pertain to your business to find out if you are already on the first page of a google search…..
I worked really hard- and continue to do so to improve our recognition on the web.

Barry

May 6th, 2011

Good article. Social media is an adjunct to other forms of getting the user interested. Fine job

Kent M

May 6th, 2011

Everybody seems to forget about traditional marketing. Advertising on facebook, twitter, myspace…ect isn’t even really that great of an idea.

I think these social media sites are more like a point of reference than anything else. Its sort of like the new Better Business Bureau where people can check you out to validate you.

I.E “If this company doesn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, it must not be real”

Jatin

May 7th, 2011

Nice article. I was almost laughing when reading each sub-topic title and images

RSaling

May 7th, 2011

Spot on. So many companies regardless of size fall into either doing nothing at all or jump in without any thought of how to manage the social media campaigns.

I should know because I have 8yrs experience as an online social media guru.

Just kidding.

Sam

May 7th, 2011

“That means there are more people taking it seriously and not asking a niece or nephew or an in-house Facebook aficionado to manage social media on behalf of the entire company.” – haha, I have seen this happen before – nice to know I’m not the only one who finds this amusing! Thanks for the article.

Natasha Kahn

May 8th, 2011

Everyone has their own ideas of running social media campaigns as three four years back when there were no facebook pages likes you see on the websites or website bragging their twitter followers counts… and so there was no proper social media marketers known to exist… but with the times people started to know about the importance of social media and I really say it was a self learning process, i know lots people who never hired any social media agent, but still they have more than hundred thousand followers on their twitter.
Social media is all about dedication and hard work its about how much you give to the people share with them, interact with them… you do all this and you can go as successful as Ashton Kutcher ;)

Mark Mooney

May 8th, 2011

Good Topic Jason, and I think that the major factor in all of this is that for social media to work for any company/individual it must be something they do in-house and not to outsource the whole thing, as already pointed out it’s success relies on relationship building and interaction.

Over the years I have worked with many local businesses and once they see that they must play an active role in anything they do online they start to see far better results… it should be looked at in the same way same way a company understands it’s financial obligation, companies employ and outsource work to accountants however if they don’t have a general understand of finance they will fail. The same can be said for social media.

vishnu

May 9th, 2011

Social Media is very much powerful for building relations and developing website

Jason Schubring

May 9th, 2011

@mark, I agree. However, I’ve also seen large companies outsource their social media monitoring and response with great success. As long as it’s treated as one component of an overall customer care strategy, it can work. Assuming the vendor they outsource to fully understands the brand and delivers excellent customer care, of course!

Irene Morcillo Martínez

May 9th, 2011

Logical approach, it seems some people are losing their heads in the rush of doing things before their competitors?
Great article, thanks for sharing it.

Karen

May 9th, 2011

Very nice article that points out a lot of issues that companies and corporations have to take seriously and provide real custommer service through social media…

Rishi

May 11th, 2011

anyone that is going to hire a “Social Media Consultant” should read this first. Great article!

Jim Karln

May 11th, 2011

Social Media is one of the best ways to promote sites. I use hellotxt.com service to publish and link all my posts in every social media site I can. I also creat profiles in all web 2.0 sites to improve the ranking of my sites.
Thanks you for the article.

Michael Whitehead

May 11th, 2011

I agree with these 5, and I’d add a 6th; “Trying to directly sell products & services across social media.”

Maria Serraino

May 23rd, 2011

This is a great article. Thank you for the useful information. This explains how there are a lot of issues that companies and organizations need to understand before just deciding to come up with a social media plan and campaign. This is especially useful as I help with a company with its social media planning. Social media is a great way to promote a brand, organization or company, but the difficulty in creating a social media campaign or becoming an expert in social media, cannot be underestimated. It’s nice to hear that social media is more than just knowing how to use facebook and twitter, and more about understanding why and how social media can be used effectively and successfully.

Gagan Chhatwal

June 28th, 2011

Many companies failed due to the lack of the knowledge about the social media promotions, optimization, and their impact thats why some of the tools came in the market which not only track the customers but they discover that what will be the appropriate and exact brand for the customer and thats where they are targeting they are having feedbacks, reviews, etc. and they are building good network among the customers.

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