You've heard it everywhere: to grow your business, you need social media marketing. It's the new form of word of mouth, especially considering the fact that about 70 percent of Canadians now use some form of social media.
But where do you start? If you lack specific and dedicated expertise in the topic, it can be difficult to get a handle of the complex world that is social media. In isolation, a brand presence on the medium makes sense. And yet, without the right approach, you risk joining the countless businesses who spend time and resources on it, only to see a negligible return on their investment.
When that happens, you fall into problems. You waste your budget and time on a medium that doesn't actually help you reach your marketing and business goal. In other words, you fall into these 6 pitfalls of bad social media marketing that any business should avoid.
1) Not Knowing Your Audience
The first step required in mastering social media actually has nothing to do with the medium itself. Instead, it starts with the same step every successful marketing presence has to: understanding your audience.
To succeed, your social media marketing has to be audience-based. Otherwise, you risk pushing messages into a void without effect, essentially wasting your resources. If you don't know your audience, you cannot develop any part of your social media strategically successfully.
Start your audience research with the basic demographics of your audience. Age, location, and education level can all be helpful. But don't stop there. The more you know about your potential customers' likes, hobbies, and preferences, the better. Understanding your audience helps not just in choosing the best network for your business, but all steps below.
2) Picking the Wrong Channels
Social Media is a general term, and it can mean something very different depending on the network. The basic definition may remain the same for Snapchat, Facebook, and LinkedIn, but user behaviours and expectations differ significantly based on the platform we're talking about.
That means you have to choose the network you will focus on strategically. It's tempting to go with the option that most closely suits your personal preferences and familiarity, but that could be a mistake. Even the greatest content will be wasted on a channel your audience doesn't actually frequent. Instead, find one that closely balances your business type and your audience's behaviour.
Here, a good place to start is by understanding the varying demographics for each social media network. Always choose and optimize your presence on one network to start; only move on to a larger, platform-crossing presence once you have optimized the first.
3) An Aimless Strategy
Having selected your best-fit network, it's time to set your goals. Without this step, your strategy is essentially aimless. You cannot hope to achieve your business and marketing goals if you don't know what these goals actually are.
What exactly are you hoping to accomplish with your brand presence? The overarching objective is probably business growth, but that means something very different to different businesses.
A new startup may want to focus on brand awareness above all. A local brick and mortar store may prioritize increasing their walk-ins. An established business may shift its focus to retaining existing customers. Each of these (and other) goals requires very different social media strategies and emphases.
4) A Lack of Strategy
Don't assume that setting your goals is enough. In addition, you also have to build a strategy that actually helps you reach them. Without a strategy, your goals will remain impossible targets rather than realistic accomplishments.
This step includes finding your brand voice, defining the type of content you want to publish, and standardizing the ways in which you will interact with your audience on this medium.
Your brand voice should be closely aligned with the rest of your marketing content including your website, but adjusted to the medium. Snapchat, for instance, requires a very casual voice to resonate with your audience, while LinkedIn users will expect a professional presence.
The type of content also depends on the network. Instagram posts have to be visual, but Twitter might work best with text-based snippets. Generally speaking, though, look to go heavy on the visuals for maximum user awareness and engagement.
Finally, put an internal social media policy in place that helps you interact with your audience on your posts. Standardizing this process means multiple people can pose as your brand while staying consistent with your brand voice. It also helps you determine how to manage spam, negative comments, and more.
5) Posting Without Considering the Timing
On social media, timing is crucial. When and how often you post can make the difference between a successful presence and one that simply disappears into the flood of updates. On Facebook alone, 35 million people update their status every day.
Facebook is a perfect example of why timing matters so much. The network's EdgeRank algorithm ensures that users see updates from their friends and brands they follow not chronologically, but according to how relevant these posts are to each individual user. Only brands that post frequently and generate engagement can break into their followers' newsfeeds.
How often is frequently? The answer differs based on your network of choice. Studies have shown that brands posting once or twice a day on Facebook generate the most engagement, while Twitter might require up to 15 tweets per day. To account for the right frequency, consider building a content calendar that helps you plan out your posts ahead of time.
6) No Evaluation of Your Efforts
Finally, an age-old rule of marketing applies to social media, as well: question everything. Don't simply rely on best practices, assuming that what works for others will work for you as well. Instead, constantly measure and evaluate your efforts, making adjustments where needed to optimize your Facebook presence over time.
Without this step, you have little chance of future improvement. If you do not evaluate constantly how your efforts are performing, you cannot improve them. Fortunately, avoiding this pitfall is relatively simple.
All major social media networks now offer their own analytics platforms to help you in this step. External solutions like Google Analytics can help as well. Evaluate which of your posts tend to work, and why that might be. Experiment with timing and visuals. Over time, you will see increased success, which in turn means a greater chance of your social media efforts leading to tangible business growth.
The claim that businesses have to be on social media is not wrong. But it's also not complete. Only those with a consistent strategy can actually leverage the medium for tangible marketing success. Avoid these pitfalls and you can build your brand presence on social media in a way that turns it into a core marketing channel for your business.