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6 Social Media mistakes other people make – and how to avoid them

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Internet marketing is complex and it’s becoming more so every day. You can’t do everything, so it is essential that what you do is done well to maximise your investment in time and money.

Social media is all the rage at the moment, and astute business builders realise that business is where the people are. Yes, you can incorporate social media in your marketing strategies. And the fact that most businesses still are not doing so only enhances the value for those that do.

Getting it right is essential. In fact, getting it wrong in this space can be very damaging, so read this list carefully.

1.  Not having a social media plan

Research and planning is just as important with social media strategies as it is any other form of marketing and advertising. Every community is different and won’t respond in the same way.

Every successful campaign needs to have a set of goals. Ask yourself what you want to achieve.

> Attract subscribers

If your plan is to increase RSS and newsletter subscribers, you need to know the sites where users are web savvy enough to use RSS readers. Members of social news sites such as Digg and Reddit will generally be more inclined to subscribe to RSS feeds than users on social network sites such as MySpace and Facebook. On other hand, the latter ones will be more inclined to join your newsletters or club if asked for details.

> Sell a product or service

Do you want to sell a product or a particular service? You might attract more traffic from social news sites, but are these users really in the frame of mind to buy something when they reach your site or do they just want to be entertained? If you’re selling a product then you might be better off using social shopping sites and contacting influential bloggers in your niche.

> Increase the recognition of your site/brand

Do you want people to instantly recognise your website or brand name? You can use social news and video sites to help spread the word about your company, but you still need to set clear goals for what you want to achieve from this brand recognition.

> Create a community

Do you want to create a community? If you do, then you’ll need to research the best ways to engage your audience. Do you want more comments to your blog or for your audience to create content? If you want more comments, ask for your readers’ opinions. If you want your audience to create content for your site, you need to provide them with the tools to do so.

The solution

You might want visitors to your site for more than one of the reasons above, but you have to define your goals before you create your content and submit it to the various social media sites.  If you don’t know what your goals are then neither will your new visitors. Whatever your goals, make sure you adapt the tactics to the strategy, not the other way around.

2.  Not understanding your audience

This is simple and obvious – and yet often forgotten. You need to know what type of audience uses a given social media site.

If you are interested in marketing to seniors, it doesn’t make sense to spend too much time on MySpace, for example.

The solution

Learn about the demographics for any given social website. Each one has their own rules, ethics and, sometimes, their own vocabulary. For example, ‘RT’ or ‘ppl’ on Twitter doesn’t make any sense for LinkedIn users.

Each social media site begins to develop its own unique dialect. If you don’t understand the basic dialect, you will stick out like a sore thumb to the regular users of the site.

Choose your social media channels by finding where the customers who want to talk about your company are talking. If they are not talking about your company anywhere, then you need to find common topics that a given community is interested in. Example: If you have a site about young tech males – Digg is definitely your place. If you have a site about cooking and gardening, you’re going to have to pander to young techie males on Digg, or you’re going to need Kirtsy.com. Find the community that your customers are most likely to hang out in. Then, maybe, explore a few bigger ones, and try to find a few of your people out of a crowd.


3. Not Listening
It is inevitable that you will get negative comments as well as positive ones. Do not make the mistake of ignoring or dismissing these criticisms. Sure, sometimes it’s frustrating to read negative feedback about your brand, product, or site – but criticism can also be beneficial.

The solution

If you want to know what people are saying about you or your company, track online discussions and learn from them.


4. Trying to interact with ‘everybody’

As great as it is, there is way too much noise within the social media environment. Do not try to interact with and respond to all the messages, discussions and tweets available. Be selective. Go deep rather than broad.

The solution

Engage with and respond to just the relevant discussions and not the ‘noise’. Align with peers in your industry. Interact with possible pain points.


If you can’t beat them, join them. If you have an outspoken critic in your social media space, bring them into the fold. Don’t ignore them; they’re passionate and will probably keep on blogging. Don’t sue them; that just gives them more to blog about.

Reach out to them on a personal level – invite them into your organisation to understand how things work. Your most outspoken critics can also be your biggest advocates. Get them to think about you differently, and you’ve turned a critic into an ambassador… or at least quietened them down a bit!


5. Social media spamming

One of the worse things you can do is to send out your content to completely the wrong people.

Many new users (and some not so new) feel they need to send their content everywhere and to everybody.

The solution

Don’t spam. The above points should already make this clear, but social media communities tend to be very fast in acting on spam. Just don’t go there.

6. Lying and trying to fake it.

Don’t pretend to be someone you are not. You will be caught. Don’t try to insert comments, stories, votes, etc.

It’s very tempting and various big advertisers have already been caught in this trap.

You’ll get caught. Coke got caught, and so did Sony and Wal-Mart.

The solution

Act normal, collaborate, talk about what you do, about what you like, or dislike, your stories. Don’t be afraid to share, but don’t make up stories and don’t pretend you are something you are not.

Lucio Ribeiro is founder of www.theonlinecircle.com. He is one of Australia’s leading Social Media and SEO professionals, and was recently elected one of top 10 most trusted SEO/SEM professionals in the world by Marketing Today.

Photo: altemark (Flickr)

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