Having a personal social media profile is a world away from using social media to promote your business and, like other parts of your business, needs careful planning and constant management to be effective.
Following is a detailed guide to the common pitfalls for small business owners embarking on social media - and how to avoid them.
WARNING: Lengthy article - better get a cuppa!
Spreading yourself too thin
Often, when small business owners decide to start social media marketing, they set up accounts on too many social media platforms. Every platform needs regular content and monitoring - which takes lots of time and effort. As a result, some accounts are left inactive or not regularly maintained and that can really harm your brand.
We recommend making a list of social media channels that your target audience is most active in, then pick the top channel to focus on. You can add others later as needed. The most active platforms are Facebook and Instagram, followed by Twitter. For professional networking, LinkedIn is recommended, although it has lost some of its shine in recent times.
Posting regularly on fewer platforms is more effective that sporadically posting on many platforms.
Starting without a plan
A definite no-no! Having a social media marketing strategy is very important when it comes to digital marketing. Just like you wouldn’t go looking for finance without a business plan, you can’t go looking for online success without a marketing strategy (we call them Marcoms plans - combining marketing and communications).
You need to plan anywhere between a few months to a year ahead. Have a rough idea of what goals and targets you want to achieve during the year. Plan on a monthly basis and revisit your strategy frequently to see what’s working and what’s not. Without a strategy to work to, business postings can end up inconsistent and sporadic, badly timed with poor content - the list goes on. You must prepare ahead of time!
Not understanding who your audience are It’s essential that you know who your target audience is and the kind of content they prefer. You can’t go around spruiking whatever you want to everyone in the hope of hooking a client. With the amount of information available today, users are pretty clear on what they want to spend time on and what they don’t want to look at.
Do some research to identify this and try experimenting. If you’ve been in business for a while and are just moving online, you probably have a good idea of who your target audience are. If you’re just starting out, don’t worry, test until you find the sweet spot.
Remember it takes two to have a conversation. Make sure you are taking the time to engage with your audience. When someone comments, hit that reply button as quickly as possible and respond positively to what they have to say. That person needs to feel that someone is listening and valuing their comment for this relationship to work.
Consumers are more likely to be loyal to your brand if you make the effort to engage with them. If you want them to show interest in your brand or product, you must show interest in them too.
Adopting every trend
Occasionally, a trending hashtag may fit your brand positioning creating an opportunity for you to piggyback on it. Occasionally! Don’t start using every trending hashtag regardless of whether or not it's a good fit.
For example, a major event occurs like the death of a celebrity which generates hastags of people expressing their sympathy. You decide to join in by using that hashtag in a business post. There's an excellent chance this strategy will backfire and you will be 'called-out' for doing so, causing reputation damage and more. Be careful with hashtags.
Hashtag spam exists. If you #are #using #too #many #of #them then you’re doing just that. Using a lot of hashtags may bring random users to your posts but it makes your posts difficult to read for your real target audience. They may unfollow you.
As a general rule, stick to 1-2 hashtags on Facebook and Twitter and anywhere around 5-7 on Instagram. It's also possible to now use them on LinkedIn, just be very careful how you do so. It's still regarded as a "professionals" network, so making your posts authoritative and less commercial is a good plan.
Too much self-promotion
The reason social media users follow anything is because of interesting content. If you keep talking about yourself and your brand and don't provide your audience with relevant content they find interesting or that adds value to their life, you will lose them.
Remember social media is just that "social". Talk about subjects other than yourself that can provide value to your audience rather than focusing solely on your product or service. Use the 80-20 rule in balancing your business promo versus engaging, useful, entertaining and humorous content.
Buying likes and followers
This might seem like a good idea to some; who wouldn’t want a jumpstart on their social media marketing? Wrong! Buying fake followers can harm your brand in the long run because the algorithms of these platforms will see your content as irrelevant due to the low level of real engagement. So if you have thousands of followers but only a handful of actual followers that are genuinely interested in your content, you won’t be able to reach their news feeds.
There is no shortcut to building a large fan following. You have to put in the hard work to create and curate content that your fans enjoy seeing.
Trying to copy the big brands
One of the mistakes that even social media marketing companies sometimes make is trying to act like big brands. As a small business entrepreneur, one of your major strengths is that you are dealing with local customers every day. You know where the pain points are along with the good news stories - all of which need to be told. You have the advantage of being "local" and therefore more "personal" - which is what social media is all about. The big brands often come across as being out-of-touch, faceless and uncaring. The reverse of these characteristics should be your strengths.
Take advantage of the fact that you have genuine stories to tell, including behind the scenes happenings which help make you authentic. If you’ve outsourced your social media marketing to an agency (like Local Area Marketing) make sure you tell them about the little details of running your business and share content related to it. If it's us - don't worry - we will be chasing you and providing ideas anyway!
All text and no visuals
Gone are the days of reading long texts. Visual content performs a lot better than plain text, especially good quality visuals which takes time and effort to produce. Having strong visuals in your strategy can be a huge asset, so make sure you have a good balance of high-quality photos, graphics and videos to keep your feed rich and interesting.
It doesn't always have to be yours. For example, have a look at your Local Area Command (LAC) police posts for local content (lost children, supported events and more). Some of these can be reposted by you as a 'local concerned/involved business'. Also check out their use of humour and interesting photos. These provide a relatively new and successful means of engaging with communities and providing insight into the organisation and its people.
Too much automation - not enough "me"
Scheduled posts are useful and sometimes necessary but won't deliver the results you need. Remember "social" which means having a personal touch in your posts and platform. Schedule time each day to interact on your various platforms and to create 'personalised' content. If you get comments, respond to them straight-away or as quickly as you can (that's why you receive email notifications). This will improve your response rating as well as impress the posters. Remember the 80-20 rule.
Not tracking results
If we are trying to achieve something, we usually have some some kind of Key Performance Indicator (KPI) to guide us on whether particular actions we are taking are helping us to achieve our goal. It's no different with social media (or any marketing task). You need to track your efforts, analyse performance and fine tune where needed to reach your objective. Cut back on posts that don't drive results and don't be afraid to try new things. Don't be hesitant to ask for input from your audience, which is another good engagement strategy.
Poor grammar and spelling
Abbreviated words, misspellings and poor grammar may be acceptable with some people in texting, but not in your social media. It's totally unprofessional! It demonstrates a lack of care that echoes the kind of service clients can expect from you. These things are easily corrected with tools readily available in social media or via word processing packages. Proofreading is a must before hitting the "publish" button.
No recognisable branding
Consistent styling in your posts is an important part of brand building. You might think you’ve used a certain style or the same colour scheme too much, but the important thing to realise is that this consistency increases your brand recognition. Your target audience is not seeing those posts as many times as you are. Using the same fonts, colours, styles, imagery, and language is what helps your audience connect the dots and recognize your brand.
A brand guide will help you and your team create consistent posts online (including your website) and increase their effectiveness. Keep in mind that personal preference in deciding on these elements should be avoided. Rather look at the psychographics of your target audience and match them with the psychology of various design elements, particularly colour. There are people who, for a small fee, will analyse your business objectives and market and provide a recommended colour scheme to suit.
Trying to do it all yourself, underestimating what's involved
Trying to work in your business and manage the social media accounts is not the same as handling your personal accounts. Many people underestimate the amount of work involved in creating an effective social media marketing plan. It’s a full-time job and between that and running your business; you’ll quite likely be pulling your hair out from all the work overload and probably not be achieving the results you want.
Work out a budget and ask for social media marketing proposals from a few companies. Let them know what your objectives and target audience is. Most companies will provide you with a strategy that works within your budget while aiming to achieve your objectives.
If you’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and start out with some social media marketing for your small business, good on you!
Social media is a free digital space that every small business should be capitalising on. But, like anything else, it needs to be done properly - and that's the hard part - developing the skills and avoiding the pitfalls!
Local Area Marketing's mantra is to "make life easier for small businesses." We free owners to do what they do best, while we look after their marketing and communication needs, including social media management (all the above and more).
We can tailor solutions to your budget and have a special low-cost Business Start-Up package to get you on the road. Email us for details.