Social media can be a powerful tool for promoting and growing your business.
But with so many different platforms available it can be hard to know which are best suited for your business, and how to benefit the most from what each has to offer.
Although I highly recommend developing a social media marketing strategy and using it to expand your business, beware one little mistake, or social media mishap can be devastating.
So before you stumble or fall read my list of social media mistakes and a few tips, mishaps and blunders and learn exactly what not to do on social media.
Top 10 Social Media Don’ts
Social Media Don’t #1: Don’t Get into Fights
People love to witness a good fight and that holds true on social media. Social media fights receive a lot of attention, but not the kind you want.
Social media is a way to engage your audience and is not the proper place to duke it out.
If you receive a complaint via social media it’s best to address and remedy it – as quickly as possible.
Occasionally a business owner will receive a complaint (perhaps not worded very nicely) and instead of responding intelligently, launch straight into attack mode. This is absolutely the last thing you want to do.
These fights often go viral and in minutes get blasted all over the internet. Your reputation can literally be instantly destroyed!
Remember, it works both ways. Play nice in the social media sandbox and don’t attack anyone. Even if you are majorly unhappy with a company, a business, product or service.
Social media is one way to let them know, but be informative and respectful when making a complaint. You’ll definitely get better results.
Social media rants are to be avoided altogether. Unless you want to end up like Alec Baldwin and have dozens of articles devoted to your poor behavior on social media.
Ranting makes you look unpredictable and let’s face it, a bit crazy. Rants are a huge social media DON’T!
Social Media Don’t #2: Don’t be Sloppy…yuk!
You wouldn’t go out on stage, or on TV dressed in dirty old pajamas would you?
So don’t be sloppy in your presentation on social media.
What do I mean by this?
There are two obvious areas where sloppiness shows up, in writing and in images.
Misspellings and poor grammar are big no-no’s. They indicate that either you don’t take it seriously enough to carefully check your work, or you’re just plain too dumb to know the difference.
Unfortunately, texting has brought down the level of writing altogether, especially among millennials.
Don’t confuse your texting language with your written presentation on social media.
Some of the most common grammar and spelling mistakes seen on social media:
- Your and You’re – Your is used to demonstrate possession “your coat, your dog, your blog”, where as you’re is short for “you are”.
- It’s and its – It’s, translates to “it is”, while its is the possessive form of it. “It’s hot out”, versus, “its mouth is big”.
- Their, there and they’re – In this case their is possessive. “Their dog is black” for example. There literally means “there are” and they’re means “they are”.
- Two, to and too – Two is the number, “two boys”, to is most commonly used, “let’s go to the store” for example. Too, with two O’s indicates too much of something. “I ate too much cake.”
- Then and than – Then is time oriented, “then we went to school”. Where as than is used to compare or contrast things. “I make more money than he does.”
- Lose and loose – Lose is a verb indicating when you have lost something. “She doesn’t like to lose”. Loose is an adjective, describing something, “her pants are too loose”.
Be polished in your visual presentation
Your visual presentation is just as important. Make sure your images are the right size and shape for the platform you are using.
Images that are distorted or sized incorrectly look amateurish and will immediately drive your audience away.
Most platforms call for both a background and profile image for your account and each platform lists it’s recommended image dimensions.
FYI – recommended image sizes do change from time to time so you want to check on your accounts periodically to be sure everything still looks good.
Most of us don’t have the ability to create professional looking graphics.
If that’s the case, hire an experienced graphic designer to make sure your appearance is attractive and professional.
Social media is a big stage, dress accordingly!
Social Media Don’t #3: Don’t Appear Greedy
In general, greed is not a desirable quality, nor are businesses that appear greedy on social media. What makes you appear greedy on social media?
For one thing, overselling.
Social media is about engagement, building a community and sharing. Not just to promote your stuff!
The more useful information you share the better you will be liked and the more followers you will gain.
If you use your social media accounts to relentlessly promote your business you will be lucky to keep anyone interested.
Remember, the internet is a crowded field and there are tons of distractions you have to overcome to keep someone’s attention.
How? By sharing high quality content people will find enjoyable or useful.
Follow the 90/10 rule to avoid looking pushy
A general rule of thumb for posting on social media is the 90/10 rule.
Approximately 90% of your posts should be non-sales oriented, high quality content.
Whether you are sharing something from someone else, commenting on something you saw, or producing content relevant and beneficial to your audience and community, it’s all good.
These posts will help you to build a real following of true fans.
The remaining 10% of what you post can be directly related to your business and include a sales message. It’s just like sales face to face.
Pushy salespeople can be overwhelming and annoying; they make you want to run away.
A smarter salesperson offers information that is valuable to you, and gets you interested, prior to pitching anything.
The same goes on social media.
Don’t buy likes or followers, it will hurt you more than help you
Ugh. I hate even writing this. As someone who spends loads of time figuring out how to best drive traffic organically, the thought of this practice is repulsive.
I’ve never heard of any success stories from someone who’s ever bought followers. None.
But it does happen, a lot.
In social media, as in life, there are no short cuts. You have to EARN your followers. Period!
In fact, most of the time anything that appears to be a short cut will just turn around and bite you in the @#$! and buying likes is no exception.
The likes you buy are not authentic fans or visitors. Those people will not engage with your page.
On Facebook having fans that don’t interact with your content signals that your content stinks.
Using algorithms Facebook will figure this out and possibly shut down your page or decrease your reach and visibility.
Plus, real fans you have may figure out, due to the lack of engagement, that you bought fake fans, and that, (like a bra stuffed with toilet paper), looks really bad.
Focus your efforts on attracting and engaging real fans who will interact with you and appreciate what you have to offer.
Don’t follow just to be followed back and don’t follow back just to be nice
This stance may be a bit controversial, BUT I don’t think it’s advisable to follow people just to be followed back.
Authenticity is extremely important on social media (stay tuned for more on that coming up later in this post) and feigning interest to gain another follower is certainly not authentic.
You should follow people and businesses that add value to your life. If someone follows you do not feel obligated to follow them back.
Some may call this rude or selfish, but following a bunch of accounts that don’t share content that is relevant to you or your business just jams up your feed, making it more difficult to find the content you want to see.
Better to develop a group of true followers who will read and likely share your content than lots of unknown followers who have no real interest.
Social Media Don’t #4: Don’t be Phoney
One of the most important uses for social media is community building.
If you want attention, (and yes you do), on social media you need to deliver content that is appealing and useful to your target audience.
One of the keys to establishing your brand on social media is to be truly authentic. People smell phoney from a mile away, and it’s a total turn off.
What can you do to appear authentic on social media?
- Post pictures, real pictures that you have taken.
Whether it be of your workplace, or the view from your front porch, pictures that are genuine and represent a slice of time in your life are best.
Humans remember a measly 20% of what they read versus 80% of what they see so it’s no wonder pictures are so powerful.
Plus our brains process pictures 600,000 times faster than text. With how time crunched we are, pictures rule.
- Don’t post strictly according to a set schedule.
Although scheduling services are highly useful for making sure you post regularly, do some spontaneous posting as well.
You want your audience to feel that you are openly and organically sharing with them. That will keep them interested.
- Ask questions and start conversations.
People like to share their thoughts and opinions. Engage your audience and be prompt and responsive when they reply.
- Share, share, share. But only share the good stuff.
Everyone loves free information but with such an inundation of material on the internet these days it’s imperative that you only share high quality content.
What makes content high quality?
It must be original, informative, well-executed and hopefully strike a chord emotionally.
If it’s something that you enjoyed and think would benefit your audience, share it!
- Express your opinions and values through your social media.
We relate to others and brands through our value systems.
Although this may seem dangerous, most likely your core audience already shares a large portion of your values and they will appreciate your openness.
Social Media Don’t #5: Don’t be Inconsistent
One of the biggest social media mistakes people make is jumping on all the different platforms, getting overwhelmed and then not keeping up with them.
If you don’t consistently post, work to build your audience, and engage with your followers, you won’t have any.
It’s way better to focus your efforts on one or two social media platforms and do a good job on them than to spread yourself too thin and minimally participate on a bunch of them.
You can use a scheduling program, like Hootsuite or SproutSocial, to plan and schedule posts.
Just be careful not to become overly predictable with your posting schedule.
Post spontaneously as well.
Be consistent with your tone
Your use of social media isn’t the only way you need to be consistent. You also need to establish a consistent tone.
We all know someone on social media who posts all sorts of random, unrelated stuff and perhaps puts their unbalanced emotional state on display as well, (one day they’re happy, next day they’re ranting).
This creates an undesirable, irrational and unpredictable image.
When developing your social media persona, or brand, you need to convey who you are and what you are about through your tone.
Your voice, so to speak, should be consistent and clear. This is highly recommended by branding experts across all media.
With social media it’s even more important because of the speed at which it moves and it’s tendency to go viral.
One off-balanced message and you could end up being tomorrow’s cautionary tale.
That being said, it’s best to avoid social media altogether when, or if, you are impaired in anyway.
Don’t jump on LinkedIn and start randomly posting after doing tequila shots with your buddies, watch Netflix or go to bed instead.
Keep in mind, although your tone should be consistent, it should not appear canned or contrived in anyway.
Always be genuine and don’t use pre-packaged responses to inquiries or comments you receive on your social media accounts.
It’s best to come up with a social media strategy in order to maintain consistency.
Like a business plan for your social media, it should include posting schedules for the different platforms (how many times per day or week).
A framework for how you will respond to complaints or negative feedback.
It’s also useful to have a collection of great images, that you add to on a regular basis, to use for posts.
Social Media Don’t #6: Don’t Behave Inappropriately or Post Inappropriate Content
Don’t behave inappropriately
There are many bizarre examples of wildly inappropriate behavior on social media.
One of my favorites, that has recently gotten some attention, is people using LinkedIn to try to Link-Up!
Yup, that’s right. LinkedIn, undisputedly a professional network, has become a hunting ground for some who are seeking a bit more than professional connections.
Loads of female LinkedIn users report receiving messages from men complimenting their profile pictures and then asking them out.
Men report that women, with sexed up profile pictures, try to connect with them hoping to sell something.
Both are HUGE SOCIAL MEDIA NO-NO’s!
LinkedIn is for making professional connections, not for dating.
So guys listen up! Even if someone has a knock-out profile picture, they are not on LinkedIn looking to hook up.
If you have a work-related request then message them, sure.
But if not, leave the hotties alone! Ladies, please, this is a professional network. Behave professionally. Make sure you are appropriately dressed in your profile picture. Do not show cleavage! You won’t be taken seriously.
There’s nothing wrong with looking for love on line. Just go to appropriate sites. Match.com, E-harmony, and Plenty of Fish are all waiting for you!
Don’t post inappropriate content
This should be obvious, but considering how frequently it happens, clearly it’s not.
Posting content that is offensive should be avoided, even if you think it’s hilarious.
What is considered offensive?
Anything that is racist, sexist, homophobic, or that singles out, or picks on any specific group.
In addition, avoid using profanity, sharing or displaying overly sexual or violent content.
Remember, social media is a stage and what you post is a representation of you and your brand. Keep it clean!
If you do post something inappropriate it may bite you in the butt and fast.
Take the example of Justine Sacco. Boarding a flight to Africa the former InterActive Corp executive tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” During her flight the tweet went viral. A hashtag started trending almost immediately on Twitter #HasJustineLandedYet.
Needless to say, Sacco was sacked.
If you do screw up, apologize
There are countless examples of careless posts, massive social media blunders that have been made.
The most important thing to do, if you accidentally, (or god forbid purposely), post something inappropriate is to apologize immediately.
Take responsibility for the mistake and move on and hope your audience does too.
Fortunately, the Red Cross immediately followed it up with this “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”
A very clever apology, both heartfelt and humorous.
The American Red Cross handled the social media mishap with humor and class, smartly averting disaster.
This story has a happy ending.
Breweries and bars carrying Dogfish Heads beer later used the infamous social media mistake as a promotional tool, giving free pints of Dogfish Head to those who donated blood to the Red Cross! Woohoo!
Bring on the beer and the needles!
Social Media Don’t #7: Don’t be Ignorant About Common Practices
No, ignorance is not bliss, especially on social media.
One area that creates a lot of confusion is the use of hashtags.
Hashtags, or the # sign are used to help categorize topics online and they are commonly used on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, and Vine.
They can be very helpful if you want to find content relevant to your business or interests.
The first thing you need to know about hashtags is that they don’t contain any spaces.
So if you are hashtagging Hillary or Donald, you would write #donaldtrump, or #HillaryClinton (caps or no caps doesn’t matter, they are not case sensitive), with no spaces between the first and last name.
Secondly, hashtags need to make sense so that others interested in the subject could and would intuitively search for them.
If you don’t immediately know what the hashtag is referencing reading it, most likely your audience won’t either.
Thirdly, don’t overuse hashtags.
Posts with more hashtags than words are annoying.
For Twitter and Facebook use up to 3 max, on Vine and Instagram you can use a few more.
Avoid abusing or misusing hashtags
Occasionally hashtags are abused. A trending hashtag will be plugged into a post or tweet that is completely irrelevant to the tag.
One great example of this is when Habitat, a furniture company misused several trending hashtags in a lame attempt to promote its spring line.
They hashtagged the iphone and even went so far as to include the Iranaian election hashtag (#MOUSAVI) in one of their tweets.
Deservedly, the backlash was swift and fierce.
Know the difference between mentions and replies on Twitter
If you start a tweet with “@AdminESolutions”, it will only be viewable by me, you and any mutual followers we have.
This is considered a reply on Twitter. If, on the other hand, you insert a period before it “.@AdminESolutions” the tweet will go to you, me, and all of your followers.
This is called a mention.
If you want to reach out directly to someone, and not include all of your followers, use a reply.
To share your tweet with everyone, but to draw particular attention to someone within it, you will want to use a mention.
Social Media Don’t #8: Don’t be a Plain Jane
Keep in mind that for effective social media marketing, building a community or following is key. That will never happen if you are just too darn boring.
How can you avoid be boring? First and foremost don’t publish stale content. Social media used to be a game of posting as much as possible.
Now that the field is so inundated, the quality of the content you post is much more important for winning followers or likes.
Generate original high quality content to share. Do not recycle old content again and again. This might make your job easier but it will cause your audience to doze off. Mix up the types of content you share.
Social media expands well beyond the written word and visuals are key. Publish plenty of awesome pictures and engage your audience even further with videos or podcasts.
Share others’ posts that you find especially informative or engaging.
Pose questions, start conversations, create contests.
Anything you can do to add variety and stir up conversation is great. Shake it up!
Follow what is trending in your industry, or exciting to your audience, and creating posts around those topics.
Participate in online conversations by making comments on trending topics that show you’re interested and engaged.
Don’t forget your area of expertise, whether you’re a plumber or a film critic, your career is an area about which you know a lot (hopefully, if not, it might be time to find a new one).
Draw upon that knowledge to create content that is extraordinarily valuable and informative.
Producing this type of high value content will win you lots of loyal followers.
Social Media Don’t #9: Being a Lazy Bum
Do your research
You’ve taken the time to establish all your social media accounts, they are up and running, and well-designed, now what? Like farts in the wind, nothing becomes anything if you do nothing!
First, do some research to find out exactly what it is your target audience is interested in. There are many tools available to help you figure this out. Check out what your competitors are up to.
What are they doing that is creating interaction? How are they using social media marketing tactics to engage their audience and which topics are popular? You can learn a lot by observing your competitors, and then aim to do it better.
Examining what comments are being made can be very insightful.
Google’s Trends, Related & AdWords tools are great for identifying and analyzing keywords.
Keywords are the words relevant to your subject that are being most searched online. Use what you find to strategize.
Where are your potential followers hanging out? On Twitter or Pinterest? Craft compelling campaigns that specifically work well on those platforms. You won’t catch any fish if you don’t properly bait your hook.
When you are contacted through social media, be sure to respond.
Don’t let complaints go unanswered or comments ignored.
This is all about engagement. It’s called social media because it is social! Plus, this is a fast-paced and often impatient world, so try to respond as quickly as possible.
Social Media Don’t #10: Don’t Sit on the Bench
Now that we’ve gone over all the social media mishaps, mistakes, faux pas, and blunders, perhaps you’re scratching your head wondering “why bother?”.
The simple answer: because you must.
I can promise you, your target audience is using social media.
Right now as you read these words, they are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., posting, commenting and tweeting their little hearts out.
And if you’re not there too? Well, then you’re lost.
Social media is too popular to ignore and it’s not going away. It’s popular because it is social, fun to use and FREE!
Imagine if all the movie theaters in the country suddenly started offering all the movies free. Bet they’d be pretty packed, right?
Well, that’s exactly what is going on with social media. It’s a flood of consumers happily interacting and eating up content everyday and all the time.
By developing a social media strategy, being consistent with your social media marketing and offering awesome, high quality content you have an unprecedented opportunity to reach your target audience and increase your customer base like never before.
Plus, it will help you build relationships with your fans and followers on a deeper level.
By actively engaging them through social media they will get to know you better, and develop trust and loyalty to you and your brand. That is great news.
Don’t back away from social media, embrace it. It can do more for your business than you ever imagined.
Just remember to keep this list of the Top 10 Things Not to Do on Social Media handy to help you avoid any social media mishaps in the future.
But, if you do screw up, despite all the great advice in this post, please, say you’re sorry!