by Jennifer Lonoff Schiff

9 big small business social media no-nos

Dec 08, 2016
IT LeadershipRetail IndustrySmall and Medium Business

Social media marketers point out some of the biggest (and most costly) mistakes companies make when using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest u2013 and offer advice on how to avoid making these social faux pas.

social media online presence profile user
Credit: Thinkstock

These days, just about every business, regardless of size, has a presence on social media. It might be just a Facebook or a Pinterest page, but chances are if you are a small business owner, especially a retailer, you have an account on one of the major social media platforms. And while having a Facebook and Pinterest (as well Twitter and Instagram) page can be beneficial, it can negatively impact your business if you make one (or more) of these nine small business social media mistakes.

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1. Setting up a page and then not posting anything on it.

“The biggest mistake on social media that I see small business owners make is to set up a Facebook or Twitter [or Pinterest or Instagram] page and then [fail to update it] for months at a time,” says Stacy Erickson Edwards, owner, Home Key: Organized Social Media. “Not only does this send a message to potential customers that you don’t care, sometimes people see it and think that you’re not in business anymore.”

2. Not having a posting strategy/schedule.

“The biggest mistake any business can make on social media is inconsistent posting,” says Vincent Scatena, CMO, IMP Corporation. “If the business [doesn’t have a sound] posting strategy … potential followers will [be] less likely to engage. A simple solution to inconsistency is scheduling [posts]. This can be done via scheduling tools such as Hootsuite, Buffer or Sprout Social. These tools allow you to schedule your posts in advance while providing the flexibility to update your posts when urgent news occurs.” And when you post consistently, on a regular schedule, it makes it easier for your audience to find and follow you.

3. Posting user-generated content (UGC) without the user’s permission.

“Re-posting user generated content is one of the most influential ways to engage with your fans,” notes Tom Kuhr, senior vice president, marketing, MomentFeed. “And while the content [may be] voluntarily submitted, you should always ask for permission before you [post it]. It avoids any breach of trust and will help get the word out [as] the user [will] tell their friends.”

4. Not responding to comments (in a timely fashion).

“Engaging with your social followers and customers is vital if you want them to know you care about them,” says Ry Colman, social media manager, Veterans United Home Loans. “Answer their questions, respond to comments (even if it’s just thanking them for sharing their thoughts) and address their concerns. Don’t delete negative posts. Instead, do your best to acknowledge the problem. Remember that the customers who voice their dissatisfaction are your friends [or potential friends]. Learn from them and show [them you are] dedicated to serving [them] and solving their issues.”

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5.Only publishing sales and promotions.

“Many businesses post sales-related content a majority of the time, but this approach can actually work against them,” says RJ Licata, inbound marketing coordinator, Terakeet.

Indeed, “57.5 percent of people are turned off by promotional material on social,” says Rachael Samuels, social media specialist, Sprout Social. Yet “brands often bombard their followers with repetitive promotions, copy and the same stock imagery.”

To avoid turning off potential customers, “social profiles should focus on building relationships and trust,” says Licata. “Limit hard sales content to 10 to 30 percent of the time, depending on how often you post. The rest of the time should be used to inform, educate and build rapport with fans. If you do that, the sales will come.”

6. Treating your business page(s) as your personal page(s).

“Social media has long been touted as a place to communicate your point of view,” says Erin Green, senior manager of media services, ReachLocal. “However, for businesses, this is not the ideal medium to vent about your personal or political views,” unless you are a political consultant.

“Your business social media page should educate customers about your business [or industry], promote specials or offers and engage your online audience in a non-threatening way,” she says. “Taking a political stance on your social media pages just alienates those customers who may not agree with your views and invites arguments and conflict on your page.”

Similarly, do not post pictures of your kids, your pets or your personal life, unless they directly relate to your business (e.g., you sell kids clothes or pet products).

7. Buying followers (especially fake ones).

“Many business owners assume that having a lot of Facebook likes or Twitter followers will help improve their social media presence,” says Alexa Rees, digital marketing specialist, seoplus+. “Some will even go as far as to purchase followers. This is a mistake, as buying followers ultimately decreases the value of the business and hurts the authenticity of your social presence.

“One of the most important, and often overlooked, aspects of social media is post engagement,” she points out. “Even if the followers you paid for were real people (and many are fake accounts), if they have no true interest in your business they are not going to engage with your posts. Accounts that you pay for are not going to be buying what you’re selling. So save your money! Focus on creating a consistent schedule of interesting posts in order to foster engagement with your audience and boost your followers organically.” 

8. Using too many and/or irrelevant hashtags.

“In many ways, using too many hashtags on social media has the same effect on people as using too many keywords has in SEO,” says Matt Gibbons, director of digital marketing, inSegment. “An overload of hashtags will make the post hard to read and spammy. So use your hashtags wisely to reap their benefits instead.”

Per most social media marketers, when using Twitter, limit yourself to one or two hashtags. However, when using Instagram, the opposite is true. The more hashtags – 11 and over, with a minimum of eight – the more likely your posts will be found.

Also avoid using irrelevant hashtags. Only “use hashtags that are completely relevant to your posts and to your business,” says Gibbons. “For example, it would make no sense to share a post about B2B marketing and use hashtags related to the latest Kardashian news.”

9. Automatically direct messaging Twitter followers.

“Don’t auto-DM users when they follow you on Twitter,” says Josh Hayes, social media manager, 18Birdies. “It feels spammy and robotic and it’s the wrong message to send to new followers. You want your brand to feel authentic. [Also] most auto DMs don’t generate many responses or engagement. Prioritize authenticity over automation.” If you want to thank someone for following you, send them a personal note or, better yet, return the follow.