This far in you’d think brands would’ve started to figure out this social media malarky. There’s plenty of best practice advice available, and dare I say it, common sense should help. But still, there are plenty of examples of how brands shoot themselves in the foot with their social media strategy.
There’s no cookie cutter approach that fits all brands (and that includes your personal brand), but there are certain things you should try to avoid. Lets look at a few here:
1. Randomness as a social media strategy
Some accounts don’t seem to have any purpose. Social media is part of your comms strategy, whether you’re using it for customer service, promotion, or education. Therefore, like your PR, customer emails, or advertising, there should be a plan as to what you’re trying to achieve and the messaging you’re trying to convey. Sharing random articles, posting sporadic updates or only sharing your latest blog updates is not a social media strategy and nor, is it an effective way of building an engaged community.
2. Hashtag hijacking
A surefire way of generating some negative attention is to jump on the popularity of a hashtag when there is absolutely no connection with your brand. This has been done to disastrous effect with tragic news stories, but the trend du jour seems to be hashtags around popular TV programmes. Most often it comes across as lame, desperate and accentuates the lack of conversation around your own brand.
3. Me, me, me
Like dating, it’s a turn-off if you just talk about yourself all the time. When you’re trying to grow your business its understandable that you use your social channels to share your blog content. But people have trouble connecting with brands at the best of times, so solely sharing your own content comes across as just self-promotional. Sharing informative, useful content written by you AND others, however, will make you a helpful, valuable resource.
4. Bitching with other brands
Tesco Mobile made a bit of a name for themselves by having an edgy approach to social media. They went against the grain and took on naysayers in a humorous way. Others brands started getting drawn into conversations and some fun conversations were had. Unfortunately, this appears to have emboldened some brands into being bitchy about competing brands. Sadly, it just makes the brand look petty. Know the line not to cross and play nicely with the other boys and girls.
5. Retweeting every nice comment made about your brand
Yes, it’s great when someone says something nice about your brand. And fair enough, sharing a little of those nice comments can be useful in reinforcing to others that your product / service / advice works. Just don’t over do it. Filling your audience’s social channels up with comment after comment quickly becomes annoying. And don’t even think about retweeting the retweets of your tweet!
6. Not replying to questions from people
With bigger brands, volume can be an issue – but not an excuse – when it comes to replying to comments. It may just be me, but when someone asks you a question, it’s rude to ignore them. You wouldn’t do it in a physical store, so why online? So if you’re going to be active in social then make sure that someone is there to answer the questions, as well as posting your content. Remember, it’s supposed to be a conversation and conversations need to be two-way.
Endlessly sharing famous or inspirational quotes is not a social media strategy. It just shouts “I’ve nothing interesting to say so I’m just going to pad it out with something ‘inspirational’ that someone else once said that has probably already been endlessly tweeted by other brands who don’t know what else to say”. Or something to that effect. If you want to inspire others, do it with your own original thoughts.
8. Flogging your wares
Imagine talking to a friend in the pub and someone tapping you on the shoulder and saying “I couldn’t help but overhear you mention the word ‘car’ and wondered if you’d like to buy some motor insurance?” You’d tell them where to go, right? So, why do some brands act the same way in social media. Monitoring software is a great tool, but be considerate when joining conversations uninvited. If you want to jump in, be helpful not sales-y. Be useful, foster goodwill and you’ll have a better chance of turning the prospect into a customer when they reach the appropriate point in their buying decision-making process.
9. Buying your friends
Trust me, if anyone promises to get you 5000 followers for $100 dollars, then just hit ‘report spam’. Spending money to buy popularity is a precarious social media strategy. Quality will be low and engagement non-existent. Far better to grow organically by being really interesting and really helpful. This is all beginning to sound like a guide to making friends in real life, isn’t it? Funny that.
10. Outsourcing your voice
This is a contentious one and plenty of big brands do this. There are agencies who provide a full social service, creating assets, sharing content and responding on your behalf. What they lack, however, is authenticity. Their voice is not your voice, it can be a close facsimile, but they’ll never have the passion that you’ll have for your own brand. They also will be detached from what is happening inside your business. A maintenance page going up quickly whilst a problem is fixed may not reach the agency in time, who are busy running sponsored campaigns driving traffic to your website. That disconnect can be costly.
11. Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics
Hopefully you’re monitoring the impact of your social activity. Preferably in a meaningful way. It’d would be great if you can show how it’s impacting your core business (i.e. generating leads / sales), but at the very least how it’s increasing engagement with your prospective customer base. Please, though, don’t just count followers or fans – if that is the only thing that’s important you might as well go buy those 5000 followers for $100. If they’re not interacting with you, does it matter how many have clicked the follow button?
Once you’re looking at engagement metrics consider the sentiment of those interactions. 4000 mentions from a tweet isn’t a good thing if 95% of them are negative. You need to balance volume with what is being said. Is your social media activity generating positive conversations? Are people sharing your content (because they like it, not because you made a mistake or did something shocking)? If not, then you need to review your approach.
As mentioned up top, there is no cookie cutter approach to social media. You can do whatever you like – and maybe some of these tactics will work for you – but just be considerate of your audience. The social part of ‘social media’ is a big clue. People are on there to mix and share with others. As brands we need to tread carefully on their turf. Timing, relevancy and value should be the watch words of your social media strategy. Better that than bull in a china shop.