The 5 biggest social media mistakes and how to avoid them

Yesterday ClearEdge Marketing led a discussion on the five biggest social media mistakes and how to avoid them. ClearEdge provides innovative marketing solutions that give professional services a competitive edge.

Leslie Vickrey, President and Founder of ClearEdge, and Michelle Krier, VP, Marketing & Digital Services at ClearEdge, shared their best tips for identifying and listening to your target network, executing a focused strategy and creating appropriate content that will help build brand awareness and generate leads.

Here are their top five social media mistakes and how to avoid them:

1. Not knowing your social targets

Before investing in social media it is important to define your audience and have a clear understanding of your demographic. Being able to analyze their online activity will help you identify which networks are worth it for your company to invest in. Social media is “not about numbers, it’s about connecting with your key target audience,” Vickrey said. Forrester is a good tool to better understand where your audience spends their time online.

If you are trying to grow your audience Vickrey recommends identifying and following customers, clients, company partners, key media and tastemakers. “Once you get someone you really respect, see who they are following and use that to start building your audience,” Vickrey said. Because social media is as much a listening and learning tool as it is an engaging tool, seeing what this select group is interested in sharing will help you create content well suited for your target audience.

2. Implementing a scattered strategy

Once you understand why you have selected these specific networks, you need to proceed with a purpose. Having a plan during the initial stages will help you identify your ROI down the road. “With no plan there is nothing to measure,” Vickrey said. Identify why you are using social media, what you want to accomplish and how you will achieve your goals. Do you want to increase brand awareness, consumer revenue, connections or engagement? You can also use social media to build credibility, find talent and generate leads.

Facebook is great for promoting culture, recruiting and retention. According to Vickrey, it is the most important social network for B2C companies because it helps promote lead generation while building presence, improving name recognition and promoting ideas. She says that 77 percent of businesses acquired new customers through Facebook in February 2012. Blogging is also very helpful: 60 percent of businesses acquire customers through a company blog. To maximize the reach of each blog post, make sure to tag blogs correctly in the backend, use relevant keywords and promote each post on Twitter multiple times.

3. Sharing without listening

Don’t place too much focus on updating. The focus should be on who is seeing the content you are promoting and tracking if they are engaging with it. To successfully build an interactive audience you need to show that you’re listening. This means regularly responding to comments, following competitor’s social networks and reading relevant industry publications. You should also be monitoring what is being said about your company on sites like Yelp and Glassdoor.

4.  Putting the wrong person in charge

Think of your social media manager as a brand ambassador. Make sure you choose someone who knows the company and its products or services. “If you are not comfortable putting whoever is managing your social media on a sales call and selling to an organization, they have no business managing social media channels for you. If they are not comfortable talking about your business, they are not going to know how to respond or communicate through social media,” Krier said. Having a digital marketing background or a strong understanding of digital marketing and strategy is also very important.

The person running your social media should have excellent communication skills and be naturally curious. The most effective social media managers will be doing sales and social media. They should be able to engage audiences, identify what is important to them and understand how to personalize content so it works on a variety of platforms. Because social media is not a 9-5 job they should be constantly training, aware of the newest technology and love spending time online.

5. Making poor content choices

Good content asks questions and sparks interactive discussions. The ultimate goal is to produce content that gives your audience something valuable that they want to share. To successfully vary the content you are posting include both original content and relevant industry content. Make sure this content provides useful information while being fresh and original.

To improve the quality of your content post consistently, vary the type of content (video, blogs, graphics, photos, articles, events, etc.) and expand who is producing it. Tracking the response to your content will help identify what is working and what is not. Krier also recommends having a gatekeeper so none of your content goes unvetted.

According to Vickrey and Krier, other social media no-no’s include being unclear or confusing your audience, telling customers/clients that they are wrong, failing to respond gracefully and restricting social communications.

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