There's no denying that social media can be a powerful tool to add to your online marketing arsenal. From search engine optimization benefits to customer acquisition, it brings big benefits--if it's done well.
Unfortunately, there are many, many companies out there that dive head first into social media, without the slightest idea of what platform is best suited for their target audience or what results social media marketing drives.
Are you guilty of these cardinal sins when it comes to social media and online marketing?
Jump into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ because that’s where “everyone” is.
It's hard to ignore the popular social media platforms. They're in the news; they've got commercials on TV.
It does seem like everyone, everywhere is signing up for a Google+ account or is snapping photos with Instagram.
But, not every social media platform is right for every business. Google+ has more than 500 million users. It's a large user base, but not one that guarantees success. Google+ tends to be popular among technology- and digital marketing-oriented crowds, and the tone tends to be informational and analytical. If your customers prefer a more casual, informal approach, or if their interests lie elsewhere, Google+ may not fit your online marketing strategy.
Key takeaway: Before you invest your time or resources in social media, you need to identify why a certain platform is important and how it will help achieve your business goals. You need to ensure that the platform you use aligns with your audience's characteristics, needs, preferences. Ask yourself: "Does [x] suit our customer personas? Will it help us communicate with them effectively?"
Automate all your posts, all the time.
Scheduling posts ahead of time can be invaluable for busy business owners. Using a tool like HootSuite or HubSpot helps you get important and/or time-sensitive messages published on time. Or, if you know you have a hectic week coming up, you can schedule your social media posts and not have to worry about squeezing in time for that Tweet or LinkedIn update.
However, don't fall into the trap of automating all your posts all the time. People quickly figure out when content is on "auto-pilot," and they can be quick to tune you out. They want to engage with a human, not a robot!
Automated publishing also turns into risky business if some sort of local, regional or global crisis strikes. Fans and followers are quick criticize brands that are obviously on auto-pilot during emergencies, calling the brand insensitive (or worse). Don't let automatic publishing damage your brand's reputation.
Key takeaway: Do use tools like HootSuite or Hubspot to help manage the social media leg of your online marketing. But, don't forget to "check in" on a regular basis to make sure that your posts are timely and relevant. Do you check your email in the morning, before lunch and before going home? Spend an extra minute to do a quick review of your social media accounts and make any necessary timing adjustments. Be proactive, not reactive.
Assume that sales will happen instantaneously.
There is evidence that social media marketing can have a positive impact on your lead generation and sales efforts. Here at RWC, social media has helped contribute to an increase in the number of leads we receive. Hubspot has published data that shows that 41% of B2B companies and 67% of B2C companies have acquired a customer through Facebook. 42% of companies have acquired a customer through Twitter.
However, these results don't just happen overnight. There's a lot of hard work to do first. You have to show that you bring something valuable to the table.
Expecting an immediate sale from a social media connection is like expecting an immediate sale from someone you just met at a networking event. Sure, it could it happen, but it's unlikely. You have to build a relationship first.
This infographic from David Mihm nails it. Facebook and other social media platforms are great for building that rapport new and existing customers. Sales can and do happen, but not as much. You don't have to discount the value of social media completely; you just need to readjust your thinking.
Key takeaway: Many companies jump on the social media bandwagon because they think they can make a quick sale. Don't treat social media as a shortcut. Like email, like blogging, like other online marketing activities, you have to nurture your leads and build relationships. Ultimately, social media becomes a helpful tool in building brand awareness. That might not lead to a sale today, but it can definitely pave the way forward for sales in the future.
Fail to set (appropriate) goals.
So often, companies start a Facebook Page or start a Twitter account because "it will be great for business." But, they don't put specific goals in place. They just "do" social media on a whim.
Or, if they do put goals in place, they don't think about meaningful goals. They hone in on surface-level things, like Facebook "Likes."
It's like vanity metrics for websites. 5 million "Likes" won't mean a thing if those folks aren't interacting with your brand, or taking next steps like visiting your website and downloading a free guide, calling for a quote, or making an online donation. Would you want 5 million website visitors with a conversion rate of 0%?
Key takeaway: Your activity on social media doesn't happen on a bubble. It needs to lead to real, measurable results. Think critically about how social media will contribute to your online marketing goals. And be sure to utilize tools like Hubspot or Google Analytics to see where and how social media connections interact with your company.
What other mistakes do you see companies making when it comes to integrating social media in their online marketing strategy? Did your own social media efforts crash and burn before taking off? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.