Incorporating social media into your business operation is important, so that your business is not left out in the cold while everyone else is tweeting away, updating their Facebook pages and having a grand time. If you don’t have a presence in that world, get one. Sure, today’s customers can find your website and might email or call, but many regard Facebook as a part of their everyday life. However, as you take the plunge, beware of pitfalls along the way.
Here are 10 common mistakes to avoid.
- Not planning. Don’t just rush in make some noise and assume it will all be good. You need to have a specific social media plan and incorporate it into your larger business strategies. Dust off your business plan and figure out how social media can fit into your overall goals, tasks and benchmarks. Then study how social media works, how it can help businesses, which media are available, and which are most popular with your particular clientele. Consider surveying your customers to see how many use which outlets. Write down which media you will use, who will be in charge of your social media campaign, how often you will interact with customers this way, and how you will measure the success of your campaign.
- Going overboard. Once you start learning about all the options, you may want to grab them all and go, but slow down. Just like other facets of business, it’s better to do one or two things well, rather a whole bunch of things poorly. If your customers are heavily into Facebook, start there. If you offer job-related services, such as career placement or resume building, consider starting with LinkedIn. If you can spin off some educational material related to your business, such as how-to videos on whatever it is you sell, look into YouTube. Pick one or two outlets and develop your use of them as professionally as you would develop any other part of your business. After you have a successful campaign, consider gradually adding other outlets.
- Not keeping it up. Using social media can be fun, but it’s also work. One of the biggest changes social media has brought is the immediacy of interaction. It’s a far cry from sending out a monthly printed newsletter. Your customers will expect regular updates on your Facebook page. They will expect a same-day response, perhaps even same-hour response, to a message they send you. Too many businesses create a Facebook page, create a flurry of excited activity in the first month, have fewer postings the second, only a handful the third, and then try to find someone else in the office to deal with it the fourth. If you are going to use social media, commit to it being a part of your daily routine, just like answering the phone.
- Assuming it’s all about the sale. People don’t want to be hit over the head with sales pitches when they see your postings or Tweets. Think of them like a customer in a brick-and-mortar store who likes a pleasant greeting at the door, but doesn’t want to be followed around the store by your salesman encouraging them to buy something.
- Not mingling with the neighbors. There’s a reason the first word in social media is “social.” It’s all about community building. So join the discussion, keep up to date with what your contacts are talking about and make your business an in-touch and caring member of the community.
- Missing the value of content. Customers are more likely to stay in touch with you if you offer them something of value. Generate a blog filled with advice related to your business. Do you sell fishing gear? Do blog about techniques, fishing holes and tournaments. Do you offer website design services? Do blog about how to take payments over the Internet, how to write an e-newsletter, or how to pick a font for your home page. One of the most popular social media vehicles today is the video. Shoot short videos of yourself giving quick tips on something related to your business. Post the videos on your website, or on YouTube.
- Expecting immediate payback. Building a network of customers with social media, like building any relationship, takes time. The more time someone follows you, the stronger the bond and the more likely that person will introduce you to others. The results will be slow and gradual, but can pay off in a big way a few years, or months down the road.
- Getting defensive. One of the biggest challenges with social media is the fact that when a customer complains about something online, any of your other customers might hear about it too. More importantly, your customers can witness how you respond. So take a breath, remember the mantra that “the customer is always right” and respond quickly, carefully and tactfully. Even if you feel the complaint is unfounded, offer a replacement, free service or some other way to make amends and move on. Think of it as an opportunity to show your company is a good member of the community, one on whom others can count to make things right.
- Being too casual. Find the fine line between neighbourliness and professionalism. Spelling, grammar and facts should be impeccable. Develop an online personality that’s friendly, but not too personal. And remember that when you post or Tweet, or shoot a video, it can be copied and forwarded to many, many other people before you have a chance to fix it.
- Not measuring results. When you use traditional media, you can measure how effective an advertising campaign is with techniques such as having customers present a coupon coded to a particular advertising order. If the weekly newspaper coupon brings in 100 people a week and the daily brings in 40, you know which one to continue. It’s important to do the same assessment with social media. Take the time to track your number of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, blog subscribers and website commenter’s. There are several tools available on the Internet to help, such as TweetStats, Google Analytics, Twitalyzer and more.
A little reading, a little visiting other company’s social media activities and perhaps attending a social media camp (these are cropping up in most towns and cities) or local seminar, will go a long way to taking some of the mystery out this new marketing genre. It might also remove the trepidation you may feel about taking the plunge and putting your company out there for all to see and talk about.