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Social media is an obstacle course for new businesses and marketers. It offers so much potential, but it also has pitfalls. There’s no right way to use social media, but as it turns out, there is a wrong way. Whether the blame falls on the company for posting or the consumer for commenting, there’s plenty of room for negativity here.
Fortunately, even when mistakes happen, there are ways to make it up to your readers. Whether it’s posting the wrong thing or leaving a customer question unanswered, you can bounce back.
Even with the knowledge that one mistake isn't the end of the world, it's better to steer clear when possible. The best way to avoid blunders and forge a successful campaign is to know what not to do. Here are nine examples of social media fails that could cost you.
1. Forgetting to Edit
You wouldn’t publish an eBook without proofreading and editing, so why send a tweet without doing the same? Everything your brand posts to social media becomes solidified as part of your digital marketing footprint. Even content you delete hangs around as memes, screencaps, and consumer memories. Miscommunicating information can change the way your customers view your brand.
The United States Department of Education learned this the hard way when a typo landed them in hot water with internet trolls. A tweet by the department quoted famous author and sociologist, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, misspelling his last name as De Bois. Considering this was a Tweet from an educational institution, there were some choice words thrown around.
This is a small sample of what could happen if edits aren’t completed. In this case, it’s safe to say the U.S. Department of Education will go on to tell the tale. For a small business, however, this could sink credibility and deplete customer loyalty.
2. Putting All Your Social Eggs in One Basket
It’s easy to look at the social media landscape and assume that the best place to post is Facebook. With over 2-billion users as of 2018, it’s an attractive platform to start with. The trouble with limiting yourself here, despite its popularity, is that you’ll miss out on connections.
Different social media platforms are designed to meet the needs of a specific audience. Just as your business has a target, so too does Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp. LinkedIn, for example, is a social space for professionals and B2B marketing. Rather than followers and subscribers, you network with connections. For businesses who market to other businesses, foregoing LinkedIn could be disastrous.
Other platforms, such as Snapchat, are far less professional and draw a younger crowd. If your target audience is between the ages of 14 and 34, this is another potential area where you could lose traffic by not creating an account.
The best way to overcome this potential problem is by branching out. You don’t need to have an account on every platform but choosing 2-4 and posting regularly broadens your readership. Be sure to interact with customers whenever possible to strengthen your position on the site.
3. Marketing Without a Strategy
A business plan outlines your goals as a company and maps the road to success. A social media strategy does much the same, and without one, you could be hearing crickets. It doesn’t matter how great your content is if there’s nobody there to read it. Some concepts outlined in your strategy should include:
- Target audience for each platform in use.
- Content schedules.
- Communication tactics.
- Metric tool management.
- Time investment.
4. Referencing Sensitive Material
Social media offers a relaxed atmosphere; this is part of its charm. It lets businesses and consumers interact on a less formal platform. Despite the causal element of conversation, it’s important to protect your business’ reputation by avoiding offensive material.
In 2018, Snapchat crossed this line by posting a “Would You Rather” game. A common party-game, Would You Rather asks players which they’d choose out of two less than attractive options. Unfortunately, one question referenced a celebrity scandal involving domestic abuse. The backlash was immediate and widespread, losing them millions of dollars and hundreds of followers.
5. Ignoring Negative Feedback
One of the worst mistakes a marketer can make is ignoring customer concerns. Negative feedback brings the experiences of your customers to your attention. When a consumer has a problem with your brand, whether it’s a product or service, an apology should be issued. Not all companies have 100% money back guarantees, but they should all guarantee common courtesy.
The problem with ignoring a customer complaint is the impending snowball effect. It’s just one customer, so it might not seem worth your time to address, but that complaint is visible to millions. Sometimes, the way a business deals with negativity has the greatest impact on consumer opinion. Tips for dealing with bad reviews include:
- Be Honest: Everyone makes mistakes, even our favourite brands. If you’re at fault, be transparent. Your customer will appreciate it, and if they don’t, it’s hard to blame somebody for their honesty.
- Offer Recompense Where Necessary: Not every situation calls for a refund, but when it does, offer the customer what they’re due. Sometimes, all a customer is due is an apology, and that’s fine too.
- Empathize: Even if there’s nothing you can do, trying to see the situation from the customer’s point of view helps. Use terminology like, “We understand how frustrating this situation has been for you. We’re sorry you had a poor experience, and we hope you’ll give us a chance to improve your next one.”
- Remain Professional: Some negative feedback can be downright rude. When this happens, it’s hard to keep cool, but remember, it’s not personal. Stand behind your brand and be the voice you want consumers to remember when they see your logo.
6. Being Too Formal
Yes, it’s important to stay professional, but social media is one place where businesses can let their hair down. Engaging with your customers is a huge part of what these platforms are for. Take the opportunity to relax and have a bit of fun. Use your content to show consumers the lighthearted side of your brand. Tasteful humour, personal anecdotes, and experimenting with different types of media humanizes your brand. Try posting content like:
- “Introducing the office” videos
- Memes that poke fun at your own brand
- Contests which include audience interaction
7. Separating Social Media and Your Homepage
Your web presence is made up of every platform your brand takes part in. This includes your website, social media pages, blogs, press releases, news articles, and mobile apps. You may not be able to control the content in all these mediums, but the ones that you do control should be connected.
Separating your social media and homepage is a recipe for lost traffic. Your Facebook and Twitter pages should link to your website and vice versa. Including social media buttons will help internet users share your brand with friends and family. This leads to more traffic, higher rates of conversion, and increased revenue.
8. Not Monitoring Automated Tools
While it would simplify so many things to just “automate it and forget it”, this isn’t practical. Automation tools let you schedule posts to multiple platforms, but they’re not perfect. There are bugs and human error to consider.
Companies that rely solely on these tools could suffer a mishap similar to a women’s clothing brand called, Pretty Little Things. In November of 2018, a customer-wide message went out wishing a "Happy New Year Huns." Sure, it's a small thing to celebrate New Year's Eve 2-months in advance, but if it could impact your brand authority. For law firms, medical organizations, and financial institutions, something like this could cause doubt and loss of business.
Having a second set of eyes on your automation will help keep things running smoothly. Even with help, checking up on these systems once or twice a month is a good idea.
9. Taking a Political Stand
Too often, social media is used as a platform for political debate. While it’s fine for consumers to post about their favourite party, as a business it’s best to remain neutral. IHOP learned this the hard way when an employee took to Twitter, retweeting an unkind comment about Hilary Clinton.
Celebrating national pride is great, but there are less aggressive ways to do so. Encouraging voters by posting a picture of yourself wearing a “go vote!” pin will garner far better responses from the public. Aside from possibly offending people, having a strong political opinion as a brand could lose your business. This is one area where separating your personal and business life is necessary.
Life on Social Media
Social media is like any other marketing tool; it requires a plan and confidence in the driver's seat. Research, regular maintenance, and a strong sense of customer service are pivotal in achieving success.
Mistakes will always happen, no matter how perfect your marketing strategy is. It's how you deal with them that matter most.