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Small Business Tips

The 7 deadly sins of social media marketing

Manasa Reddigari

Social media marketing snafus are all too common in an era when entrepreneurs go to great lengths to get their businesses seen online. But small business owners who can recognize the pitfalls of these digital platforms before they hit "Post" are better poised to grow their business while maintaining its good name.

Keep reading to identify some of the most common social media marketing mistakes; and how to avoid them.

Focusing on one social media network to the exclusion of all others

Facebook is still a social media giant, but it might surprise you to know that it's used by 68 percent of American adults, compared with the 73 percent that uses YouTube, according to a Pew Research study.

The stratospheric success of YouTube, the flight of young users to Instagram and Snapchat and recent Facebook News Feed changes that prioritize personal over business content prove that not even businesses with large follower counts on a single social media site can assume that they have a captive audience. To accommodate an audience that will flit to and from multiple social media platforms, you should create and maintain a business profile on multiple social media platforms.

Going without a social media marketing strategy

Posting random photos, videos and text willy-nilly to every social media platform for which you have a business profile is a fruitless exercise that may win you a few followers in the short-term but will not sustain the growth of your social media channels over the long-run. You need to first develop a concrete social media marketing strategy that covers, at a minimum, the five W's:

  • Who is the target of your social media content? This is your target audience.
  • What will you be posting? Nail down both the types of content and the theme and specific message that the content will convey.
  • When will you post? Decide how often and at what times of day you will post.
  • Where? Determine which social media platforms you will post on and to which platforms you will post specific types of content.
  • Why? Set an overall goal you want your content to achieve. Example: Gain 1,000 followers or sell x units of a product.

Censoring negative reviews or feedback

The trust that exists between a business and a customer is easily broken if you delete negative business reviews or feedback that you assume will hurt your business. In truth, the act of censorship will do far more damage to your brand than the feedback itself.

There's no doubt that some forms of negative feedback, such as hate speech or fake business reviews, are fair game for deletion. But when you receive constructive criticism that is valid, don't delete it and ignore it; publicly acknowledge it and figure out how to use it to improve your product or service.

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Engaging in verbal attacks

One of the biggest social media marketing mistakes you can make is to personally attack or publicly engage in verbal tit-for-tat with your social media followers. If a follower makes an incendiary remark that doesn't warrant a response, don't lash out with a similar retort; ignore it. If, on the other hand, the negative comment requires an answer, respectfully address it. But stick to the facts and steer clear of ad hominem attacks.

Posting copyrighted images

Some entrepreneurs have been verbally reprimanded or faced legal action for posting an image or video to social media without legal permission to post. If you must post someone else's media, first check the copyright policy to see the policy regarding copyrighted material. In some cases, you may need to ensure that the image author and the image itself are on the social media platform to which you're posting it in order to safely repost it.

If not, you may need to find out who holds the copyright and contact him or her to obtain his or her permission to use it. Beware that some cases may require licensing the image for a fee. The best way to avoid copyright issues altogether is to use your own self-created media on social media.

Relying On canned responses

At one time or another, you've probably received the classic stock answer from a customer support department that looked like it was generated by a bot rather than drafted by a person. These canned responses are usually cliched, unhelpful and devoid of the human touch that people expect to find on a social media platform.

Sure, it's normal to rely on scripts when addressing a high number of followers with the same question or comment. But as a rule, you want to communicate with people in less formal and more personal terms on social media. Tailor your responses to the individual as much as possible.

Spamming your followers

The purpose of social media marketing is to boost brand visibility by interacting and engaging with current and prospective customers. Do not try to sell something. It's not a good use of your social media feed if it has a steady stream of "Buy now" links. Spamming tactics are major social media marketing mistakes as they will almost certainly encourage customers to hit the "Unfollow" button.

Instead, you should post promotional content in a discreet way that incorporates the product or sales mention into a larger, more engaging conversation about how the brand fits into the lives of customers.

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