Now that we've talked about social media, it's important to note what social media is not. This is best answered by talking about the common mistakes companies make with social media. These mistakes fall into three categories: mistakes with strategy, mistakes with tools, and mistakes with messaging. Most of these mistakes are easily avoidable if a company is willing to take time to understand the users‟ wants and needs on each medium.
Common Mistakes Companies Make With Strategy
Some of the most common mistakes companies make with social media revolve around making decisions that aren't consistent with having good business sense. Because social media tools are free, some companies tend to take the pasta approach: throwing noodles at a wall to see what sticks. Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid with social media strategy:
Not developing a social media strategy
Because social media is the hottest trend in marketing, companies assume that all they have to do is set up a Twitter account and a Facebook fan page. This is the equivalent of pulling random magazines out of off the rack and purchasing full page color ad in each one, then throwing together a quick and dirty PowerPoint flyer to run. Just like any other communication medium, social media requires a well-thought out marketing strategy plan.
Perfecting a social media strategy
Even though a social media strategy is important, don't wait for the strategy to set up your company's accounts. Reserving your company's name on various social media sites is of the utmost importance. Furthermore, because it takes time to build social media accounts, every minute you waste by not being there is followers you could be losing.
Gathering followers rather than building a network
There are no shortcuts in social media, and the bottom line is companies have to build relationships with their customers before they can sell anything. Social media may seem free, but the hidden time costs to build relationships Social media is not a quick way to make more sales; in fact, social media actually adds cycle time to the sales process. Just like any other process, a company must consider how much of its resources to invest.
Putting all eggs in one basket
It's exciting to see extraordinary results on one form of social media, and tempting to invest all your resources into what's working. Try to resist. With the speed at which technology changes, social media is starting to look similar to the fashion cycle: one day you‟re in, the next day you're out. Tools fall in and out of fashion all the time – remember Friendster, and more recently, MySpace? Companies that build a large equity on one tool will find themselves with nothing if the tool loses popularity. Page 10 10 Social Media Marketing
Putting the horse before the carriage
Another cliché is the company that doesn't follow a logical process with social media and then wonders why it isn't seeing results. Common sense comes in handy here. For example, consider a company that doesn't currently have many customers, but creates a Facebook fan page and starts promoting it with Facebook ads. The keyword is "fan;" people who haven't experienced the product are not likely to join a fan club for it. Make sure your company is following a logical customer acquisition process by thinking about social media from the user-perspective.
Common Mistakes Companies Make With Social Media Tools
Social media is not a set of tools, but rather a way to communicate information. Here are some of the most common mistakes companies make in regards to social media tools: Thinking the tools are everything
Most social media talk revolves around tools – i.e.: 10 Ways to Get More Followers on Twitter. While it's useful to get into the details and tactics of social media, a solid marketing strategy should work no matter the medium. The smartest companies will focus on strategy because in the world of Web 2.0, the tools are constantly changing.
Not using the tools correctly
It takes a long time to build credibility, especially as a company because individuals are taught to be wary of anything that looks like marketing or spamming. Unfortunately, it only takes one discrepancy to do damage to a company's reputation. Err on the side of
caution with each tool, and take time to listen to the conversations and learn the etiquette for each medium.
Not using the tools at all
Every tool holds opportunity for companies, so companies must be willing to experiment. Rest assured your competitors will be experimenting, so don't let them set the tone or build equity without having your own presence.
Common Mistakes Companies Make With Messaging
Every social media user has a very clear idea of what social media means to them, and how they want to be approached by companies on social media. Most companies don‟t realize that the way they approach social media sends its own message to consumers. Here are some of the most common mistakes companies make with messaging:
Creating impersonal accounts
Users don't follow companies; they follow engaging people who work at companies. Unless the tool is meant specifically for companies to use (i.e.: Facebook fan pages), every account should be an actual person who has a name and a title that clearly signifies him or her as a face of the company. This person should write with a conversational tone and respond to other participants in the conversation. Automated accounts or accounts that are updated with a stream of links do not produce results.
Controlling the message
Social media is not about controlling a message. In fact, the very nature of social media is such that no one person or organization can control the message. Because social media is a medium to share information through a network, companies must realize that
once they put the message out there, they have no control anymore. Users can choose to edit the message, inject their own opinions into the message, share the message, or ignore the message. Furthermore, companies can't even control where the message starts: a user can also create a message about a company without having any affiliation to them. Because of the nature of social media, companies that try to control the message will have difficulty reaping any of the benefits of the medium.
Not controlling the message
While companies should be careful about trying to exercise too much control over the message, there is also the opposite end of the spectrum to avoid. Companies often cite "control over message" as a reason not to participate in social media, but the truth is that companies have lost control of the message whether they participate or not. This is because, as mentioned earlier, users can create a message and drive the conversation surrounding that message.
So how can companies exercise some control over a message and still reap the benefits of social media (rapid diffusion of information through people sharing messages with their networks)? The answer is that companies need to participate in the conversation. Responding to complaints and stressing the benefits and what the company does well; these are all ways for companies to control the end-consumer's perception of its products.
Abusing permission is by far one of the worst mistakes a company can make with messaging. An example would be if a company collected emails from various blogs in a
certain niche and started sending weekly newsletters. While this seems harmless on the surface, none of these bloggers signed up for the company‟s weekly emails, and thus have not requested the information.
Abusing permission is a fast way for companies to lose credibility, damage relationships, and generally make a bad name for themselves in social media. So where do you draw the line with abusing permission? Unfortunately, this question is similar to asking where comedians draw the line with potentially offensive jokes. The truth is that different users have different levels of tolerance. Just like a comedian might experiment with messaging based on the feedback he or she is receiving from the audience, your company must experiment with the right level of communication, erring on the side of unobtrusive.
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