By Natalie Smith
Social media platforms give entrepreneurs and small businesses great opportunities to spread awareness of your brand, engage with customers, and attract new leads.
You’ll reap the benefits of social media when you properly develop a strategy. And part of that strategy is being aware of – and eliminating – mistakes that can mar your reputation.
In this article, we’ll look at five common mistakes and suggest ways to avoid those annoying errors.
1. Messy or incomplete profiles
Your social profile should give a new visitor a succinct overview of who you are and what you do.
By “succinct,” we do NOT suggest that you should leave your profile blank. A profile with no bio or no picture practically guarantees that no one but spam bots (and maybe your mom) will follow you.
If your profile fails to convey a clear picture of what you do, you’re confusing visitors. Even worse, if your profile is full of grammatical errors or inappropriate content, you’re giving your brand a bad name.
To build a complete profile, use a professional-quality photo or a logo that clearly shows that the social media page is owned by your company.
Completely fill out your contact information, a description of your company, and an address if you’re a local business.
2. Too much self-promotional content
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is assuming that social media is a sales tool. Instead of treating their social media profiles as a way to stir interest, they aggressively advertise their products or services. This only puts people off.
View social media as an online learning tool through which you can educate your customers and guide them through the sales process.
Instead of constantly pushing your products, help your followers discover solutions to their problems. This can be done through informative posts, how-to articles, lists, instructional videos, and so on.
How often to post?
There is no set-in-stone rule for how many times per day or per week you should post. It depends on your specific audience, their needs, and how often they want to hear from you.
Here are some general suggestions on how often to post, based on research by Mark Uzunian on the SumAll blog:
Blog: 2 posts per week
Facebook: 2 posts per day
Twitter: 3 posts per day
Instagram: 2 posts per day
LinkedIn: 1 post per day
Pinterest: 5 posts per day
Google+: 3 posts per day
3. Ignoring customers’ comments
Many businesses overlook the importance of great customer service on social media, so they ignore customers’ comments and questions. This is the worst thing you can do because people remember negative experiences 20 times longer than they remember positive ones.
Complaints about bad service travel fast, and that “digital dirt” can be difficult, if not impossible, to recover from.
On the other hand, if you provide excellent service, people will sing your praises.
To get fantastic word-of-mouth referrals, use social media to address your customers’ concerns. Answer their questions, respond to their comments, and resolve their issues. Not only will you satisfy them, you will also let others see how much you care.
However, keep in mind that some people will be unhappy, no matter what you do. If you try to fix a customer’s complaint privately and the individual continues to attack you online, use your best judgment to decide whether to ignore or delete their comments.
4. Sounding too formal or too informal
To connect with people on social media, use language your followers can relate to. You need to sound like an actual person, not a robot.
Using words that are stilted or academic – such as purchase (instead of buy), endeavor (instead of try), or ideate (instead of imagine) – can hurt your chances of connecting.
On the other hand, using language that is too informal can make you sound juvenile and unprofessional.
Would you trust a company that litters their social updates with phrases like OMG, pleeeeeez, LOL, or freaking rocked?
To find that balance, think about who your audience is. How do they speak? What kind of humor do they like? What words and phrases irritate them?
To leave the right impression, you must know your audience, and speak their language.
5. Poor Grammar and Spelling
Grammar and spelling are important, but mistakes happen.
Consider the fallout when The Boston Globe accidentally posted “investifarted” instead of “investigated” in a tweet. It caught people’s attention, but not for the right reason.
One proven method for avoiding bloopers is to proofread your text before posting (or to hire a proofreader to review it for you).
Simple mistakes can ruin your authority, so double-check your use of commonly misused words such as their/there/they’re, you’re/your, and its/it’s.
Can you think of other social media mistakes that can ruin the reputation of a company? What drives you up the wall?
Natalie Smith, a freelance writer from Seattle, follows topics related to entrepreneurship, leadership, marketing, social media, and business in general.
You can reach her on Twitter @Natalie Smith