12 Common Social Media Mistakes You Need to Avoid

By 13/02/2018 December 2nd, 2019 Business, Social Media

Welcome to another post! It’s been encouraging to see growth in the analytics, so if you get something from these posts, then please share them! The buttons are at the bottom of the page! Today, I’m going to look at 12 of the most common social media mistakes that companies, organisations and businesses make. Some of these are easily made, but all of them are avoidable if we take a moment to stop and think.

If there are any others, I’ve missed or you think should have been included, then share them in the comments section, thanks!

Forgetting The Basics

This is a simple point, but it’s one of these social media mistakes that is easy to get wrong and one that is hard to do consistently well. How this point plays out in practice can look differently for different business, but it can practically look like not being on every social media platform. This will suck your time, duplicate and dilute your message and become more work than you can manage.

Most people will be on Facebook and Twitter, but are you posting to Instagram and Snapchat? If so, how is this working for you? They’re similar platforms, so does using both generate value for your company? Be brave about certain decisions-your time is important and it’s crucial to make the best decisions for your company and manage your time most effectively. If that means making a decision to drop a platform and focus on others ore exclusively, then collate the proof so you can see the evidence and move forward with purpose.

If you work on getting your audience, message, creative input and timing right, you’ll be doing better than most companies out there.

Putting Social In A Silo

There are too many social media marketers and businesses who have focused all their efforts on building a following solely on social media platforms. This is one of the largest social media mistakes you can make: you don’t own these platforms. If this describes you, then focus your attentions immediately on using those platforms to build something you own and control – your blog, email list and website.

Don’t get me wrong: social media is tremendously valuable and very powerful for growing your customer base, but be smart: BUILD YOUR OWN BUSINESS, don’t help Mark Zuckerberg build his.

Social media alone won’t work best for you. You need a website. If you don’t have one, contact me and I’ll help you get online (email me here). Social media can help companies who do not have a website, but social media is not meant to be your website. Remember that you don’t own your social media channels; you’re on rented land and are at the mercy of the network. As your following grows, Facebook will make it harder for you to reach them all without first passing through a paywall. Direct your customers back to your website and let the money change hands there. You want to give away as little as possible of your sales revenue.  Sales will happen on your home website, but you’ve got to send your customers there first. I still see these social media mistakes being made on LinkedIn (by “professionals”). Find your customer on social media, but get them to your own site as quickly as you can.

Over-Automation // Not Being Human

Some of this is borne out of good intentions, but it can become a big negative. The main aspect of being on social media, is to be social-but a large number of people in businesses forget that. Customers want to connect with a company on a human level, not with a bot, or even worse, a person who interacts like a bot! Think about the following statement from Amanda Bond:

“A common mistake that social media marketers take is in their content broadcasting especially on platforms like Twitter and Facebook where you can easily schedule out content in advance or put it into a continuous rotation. This phone-it-in tactic seems like it frees up time and bandwidth by batching social media distribution but it actually puts a wall further between the marketer and the potential customers in their audience. BE SOCIAL for crying out loud. “

Now, lets get this straight first of all: scheduling is not a bad idea! It can help you be productive by allowing you to put in your social media posts at a time that is convenient and efficient for you-but if that is all you do? Then this can quickly become a box-ticking exercise and as Amanda commented, put up an extra wall between you and your customer. In this end result, you are making it harder for your customer, not easier!

Look at what Nicky Kriel says our point about being human on social media:

“One BIG mistake that I see companies make on Social Media is think that you can stick social media on autopilot and somehow it will generate revenue. Business is done between people and you need to show up in a human way. Building ongoing relationships is crucial for every company. While there is a place for scheduling, you also need to learn to listen and to have conversations on social media.”

I hear this point quite a bit from business leaders in smaller companies, and it’s understandable. With less people at their command than bigger companies, there is more expectation to generate revenue and be financially productive across the board. Again, this position is understandable from a business leader perspective: sales revenue pays the bills and salaries, not Facebook likes. But two wrongs don’t make a right: ‘build it and they will come’ might have worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, but it doesn’t work out in real life. The best things built and sold in this life take years of toil, sweat tears and effort and even then, that’s no guarantee of success!

The following statement from Owen Video also bears out this point (which I’ve made earlier): people want to do business with people! It doesn’t matter whether it’s as a a private individual buying a dishwasher or as an employee making an equipment purchase, the human element is the same:

“One of the biggest and most common social media mistakes that social media marketers make is speaking in terms common to professionals but not the end user of the product. Avoid using jargon or references that only your colleagues would understand. Instead, use the terms of your primary customers and use them the way your customers would use them.”

I could continue this one point all day long, but you probably get the point by now: people by from people and people on social media want to connect with other human beings that represent the company. The important message here is that people want human interaction and this is placed above flashy content or the product being sold.

Hashtag Abuse

Some of these social media mistakes can be fun. Hashtags can be fun on a personal level. You can convey a secondary message that only really applies to affirm what you have already said. But when we take it to a business level, like everything else, we need to plan it out, be methodical and follow established conventions.

So that we all understand, the main purpose of a hashtag is to get into larger conversations with people who aren’t your followers. Lots of businesses think they need to “brand” a hashtag. For example, if you want to talk to the audience talking about #SXSW, but you use hashtag #YOURBRANDSXSW, you’ve just guaranteed that you’re only having a conversation with yourself. All we need to do to “brand” a hashtag is to put your company’s name in the same post with that hashtag. That’s it.

Before using a hashtag, do a search to see what folks are using that hashtag for. It may stand for something that is in direct opposition to what you want to say, represent a sensitive topic that’s inappropriate for advertising use, or make you seem like a spammer during a Tweet chat. Trust me, you don’t want any negative attention around your company for an innocent mistake with confusion around misuse of a hashtag. Whether or not Phineas T. Barnum actually said it, there is such a things as bad publicity. Look at this recent example of hashtag fails:


  •         Intention: Now Thatcher Is Dead
  •         Interpreted: Now That Cher Is Dead
  •         Result: A viral rumor was spread about Cher being dead

#therapist – a tough one for any therapists out there:

  •         Intention: Therapist
  •         Interpreted: The Rapist
  •         Result: Entering into a completely different conversation online

Sabotage Times provide some other examples of how combining words to create hashtags can result in completely unintended meanings:

#PowerGenitalia – Powergen Italia

#LesboCages – Les Bocages

#BlackHateBook- Black Hat eBook (an eBook about Python programming for hackers)

Now, maybe we can laugh at these examples, but they do have a serious side to them: namely the negative effect on a business. Just because they sound good to you, and clear to you, does not mean that anyone outside of your business will see it the same way.

My solution: Bulletproof your ideas. Put them out to someone you trust, either in your company or a trusted friend. Put the hashtag in a google search and see what it brings up. Ask a teenager-if they take one look at your hashtag and laugh, then find out why immediately and then change the hashtag! But under no circumstances publish first and research afterwards.

Not Having A Crisis or Customer Service Plan

A common mistake is to only have a crisis management plan which starts working after the fact and not a pre-emptive and proactive plan to build resilience in to your brand – this will help it to better withstand a crisis.

Another common mistake is the thinking that customer service is someone else’s problem. As a social media marketer for your company, you need to know that the more you spend on marketing and the bigger your following becomes, the more inquiries you will need to handle. Why? Because when your brand interrupts people’s social feeds with marketing, you will also inadvertently remind people of any unresolved issues that they may have with your company (but this can also remind them of the good experiences). Although we all wish that every comment on our marketing posts would be about our oh-so-clever marketing, in reality our posts may result in customer service inquiries. As marketers, we can’t just solely focus on “community management” and brand-love posts; they must also work with customer service to create a memorable all-around experience for every customer and prospect.

Overthinking It

Some social media mistakes can take many forms. Trying to be too perfect or being frozen by ‘I’m not ready syndrome’ is one of them. ‘Being perfect’ can bring about social media meltdown (ref any female who edits their physical appearance or has it done on her). Trying to follow that quest for perfection will squeeze any humanity out of your presentation.

Choosing to NOT try something because of fear of failure will also result in failure (surprising right). None of us wants to be seen to fail, and so the easier chopice is to not try.

The issues above can often lead to avoiding decisions or not experimenting enough to showcase your business, how it is different and why people should choose you. Instead of fearing the perception of your failures, own them. Make choices quickly and try and test them all. Not only will you learn from your journey, but others will, too. Bringing people along with you while you test out different things will help you create a real connection to them. With social media posting for example, the simple truth is that you can work out what times work best for your audience and stick with them-why post when your audience isn’t there to hear your message? This can be figured out by a systematic testing process and sticking to the best results.

Failure can lead to greater successes, but you need to try first.

Forgetting To Listen

Truthfully, there are days when I think that no one takes the time to listen on social media. We’ve all seen the keyboard warriors out in force about the donkeys, or the kittens, or rugby, or something else that they are offended about.

But how do we turn this around in our favour? Anna Hoffman presents a potentially very useful idea for how we could solve this problem: “For every update you are about to post, read and engage with at least three updates from others. Become an engager and contributor first, and your updates won’t fall on deaf ears.” 1

This follows on from an overarching idea in social media that you present yourself as an expert in your field. To do that, you need to contribute to online discussion to help others with problems they are having. But remember that in talking to others, you should be listening to them more. Only by understanding them will you be helping them and ultimately solving their problems rather than ‘actively marketing’ on social media, which is, when you think about it, is the greatest form of marketing there is: converting followers into fans and evangelists for your company.  This particular type of social media mistakes activity, productivity and visibility as something good – but sometimes it can be better to remain silent on some topics.

Ignoring The Data

Many businesses think that by focusing on gaining fans and followers instead of using the great target audience possibilities Facebook offers you in their ads product that this is the main metric of success. Don’t get me wrong, having that type of reach is useful, but you’ll only be reaching people who already know about you, who have used your services or are returning customers. This group is the extreme minority. You want the people who don’t know about you to hear your message and ultimately become customers.

Take the time to analyse each post to see if it was a success. Try different times for posting to see how they do and compare the metrics that return. Ask yourself what was done to make a particular post so popular and engaging. If it was a failure (by your own KPI standards) then ask yourself why and learn from those mistakes… All feedback is just data. Analyse your feedback that your audience is giving you and use it to constantly improve what you put out into the world. Your aim should be to fail your way to success-be constantly learning from these “mini-failures” to constantly improve and move forwards.

Test everything! Never assume there is only one way to reach success. Constantly try new things, and be willing to test your tactics. There is more than one way to reach your goals and be successful, but you need to be willing to try.

Focusing On The Wrong Metrics

When we are measuring our key performance indicators (KPIs) for your social media marketing, many marketers fall into the trap of the vanity metrics. Companies think that measuring the number of fans on Facebook or followers on Twitter is ‘ROI,’ and if these numbers are growing, they are happy. The social media mistake being made here is vanity.

But at the end of the day, if these people aren’t engaging with your message or buying your products/services, then we have to be blunt and ask: what’s the point? It is a nice ego boost to know that [insert unrealistically large number here] are following your company, but instead of getting hooked on the number, you should look to concentrate your efforts on targeting followers who actually care about your marketing messages and sales promos.

One way to obtain the right kind of followers is to set up a Facebook Pixel on your website. You can use this to run ads of your content, products/services, sales or coupons to people who have visited your site. Using this means that you won’t have to spend much more than a pound/euro/dollar a day to see positive results.

Not Using The Full Power of Platforms

One of the most common social media mistakes companies make, is using social media as an inbound tool instead of an outbound one.  You share your content in the hope/expectation that people will click on the links and visit your website.  The unfortunate reality is that Facebook is a business too, and so for you to get a high level of reach with social media you need to pay for ads. Social media is an amazing tool for finding the most relevant customers/partners/audience for your business/organisation/message.  For example, you could use LinkedIn to identify potential customers and reach out to them with a ‘value first’ approach.  Why wait for people to find you when you can find them and present your solutions to their problems?

Another of the biggest Facebook Ad mistakes people make is only using the Boost Post to run adverts.  Your Facebook ad can be optimized much better through the Ads interface.  You can create specialised audiences, optimise around conversions, and have better ad placements. When you spend more time in focusing on the type of customer you want to find, your results can be much more focused and result in a better quality of customer.

Getting Personal

Another one of the major social media mistakes to make is to rant or comment about how other social media professionals, companies or organisations use social media. Remember that when people make comments on social media, it is public. It can take years to build a solid online reputation, but that can all disappear in a couple of lines of text, a poorly chosen image, or when you start talking about other companies.

The truth is, it doesn’t even matter if what you are saying is true, correct or can be proved with quantifiable evidence, when one company comments on another-it can become news. Even it doesn’t everyone who is connected to your platform will hear it. So at the very least it can leave a bad feeling in the mouth, or at worst, become a full scale social media embarrassment.

Focus on your community and what you can be doing to engage them. Stay away from the negative stories. They might be appealing for a quick win, but tomorrow the story might be about you.

Trying To Do It All

Trying to do too much all at once can be an honourable crime for some organisations, but it is still a crime! Some of us have been there as sole traders. Quite literally, if you don’t do it, there is no one else. So in this context, the best advice is to do what you can, but focus on doing it well. You don’t need to be on five social media platforms, especially when choosing two well-matched platforms would serve your business just as well, but benefit you in reclaimed time.

The simple truth is that some platforms don’t work for certain contexts. I don’t use Snapchat, personally or professionally. I have tried it, but it doesn’t work for me-which is absolutely fine. I have to be deliberate about my choices-as do you. Choose the ones that work best for you and exploit them to their fullest, but stop trying to do it all.

Do less better.

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Michael Johnston

About Michael Johnston

I'm a Lecturer in Computing and the Foundation Degree Director in Computing for the Northern Regional College in Northern Ireland. My research interests in the areas of technology enhanced learning, how we interact with technology, blended learning and professional development. Michael currently specialises in the computing areas of web development technologies, cyber security, software development and IoT. Michael has worked in a range of different roles in IT-from teaching roles to running his own web design company, Michael is equally at home working with theory, as he is conducting research, or building a bespoke IT solution. Michael is currently studying a PhD in Cyberpsychology.

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