4 epic social media marketing fails to avoid

Experts reveal the common mistakes marketers make when using social media to engage with customers

The race to stay ahead of the social media marketing game is forcing several companies to stretch the limits of what is achievable or authentic in the fast-evolving social space.

So what are the things marketers should avoid doing when implementing an effective social media strategy? We ask the experts.

You can also read our piece on the big social trends marketers should be looking out for this year here.

1. Don’t be too pushy

The hard, big sell is one of the biggest mistakes a social media marketer could make, says Appliances Online CEO, James Fleet.

“Your audience all share common interests which drive a relationship with your business, so use your social media property as a hub to discuss common themes and issues of relevance, not just sell,” he says. “If all you do is push advertising and ‘PR speak’ on your fans, they will turn away in droves - be real, be topical and admit any mistakes when you make them.”

Tactical PR director, Hannah Moreno, also recommends avoiding the temptation to sell or market too strongly on any social platform.

“While it might be odd to recommend marketers actually refrain from marketing, social media is really about social sharing – interacting and engaging with your target audience, in their language and on their terms,” she says. “It is not talking at them about your brand or product. Find a way to connect, and they will naturally like you, and your brand, as a result.”

The fundamental rules of social still bears true, adds CMO Council senior vice-president, Liz Miller: Be authentic or be a #fail.

“Avoid brand arrogance - you know, that voice in your head that says of course our fans want to hear about this because they love everything we do,” she says. “Have a strategy, have a voice, but don’t think your voice is so awesome that anything you do will be valued. Authentic can mean spur of the moment, but it can also mean thoughtful and intentional. “

According to Miller, social is bi-directional and should not be seen solely as a billboard to voice your marketing message.

“It is a conversation, so hit that reply link and actually converse with your customer,” she continues. “Regardless of channel, my guiding mantra in marketing and communications is the camera is always on and the mic is always hot. If you can adopt this mindset, it adds a sense of responsibility to everything you say, everything you type and everything you do. There is never a backstage for marketer, there is just the spotlight of the customer. So respect it, be aware of it, and then go shine in it.”

2. Don’t try to outsmart the Internet

The last thing you want to do when posting shareable content on social is trying to outsmart the Internet, says CEO of Wi-Fi provider PoweredLocal, Michael Jankie.

“Try and get your target audience to share posts, don’t do it yourself,” he says. “We’re seeing all the fails by corporates putting up a post. Mostly people post pictures they like or think are funny, so don’t think you are smarter than the Internet.”

If you do post content, Jankie suggests only posting to hyper-targeted demographics and take time thinking about who in a target demographic will not ridicule you.

“And the less replies you do to controversial posts, the less impact and reach it will get,” he adds. “You cannot win a fight on social media, so don’t let your brand do it.”

Marketing agency Naked Communications’ chief strategy officer, Brett Rolfe, says one of the biggest fails is assuming everyone uses a particular platform in the same way.

“In particular, don’t assume everyone uses it the way you do,” he advises. “As adoption increases, audiences become more diverse. It is also more likely that key decision makers will be platform users. In the past we’ve had to educate stakeholders on what Facebook was. Now, we have to show them that they may use Facebook very differently from their target audience.”

Rolfe suggests making a clear decision about whether you are using social as an advertising space or a content sharing vector.

“The two don’t usually mix well,” he says. “If you are using it to get your message out through social sharing, as always you will need laser-sharp focus on what drives your audience to share and how you can take advantage of that.

3. Don’t mismanage negative comments

Experts believe deleting negative comments can actually do more harm than good in social media, especially given the need to push for a more authentic, transparent strategy.

“At times, members of your social network can be your most vocal critics, but deleting negative comments is a big no-no,” Fleet says. “Transparency is key, so make sure you listen to their concerns, respond promptly indicating when and how you plan to resolve any issue, and act as promised. If you do this, you can turn a negative into a positive and create an advocate from a critic.”

According to Hootsuite APAC’s director of growth and marketing, Roger Graham, marketers should avoid getting into negative discussions or arguments and instead, focus on responding honestly and authentically to your audience.

“If you have an unhappy customer on social, stay positive and don’t hesitate to acknowledge errors and offer a fast resolution - or take the conversation offline through email,” he says. “At the same time, it’s also important to keep things positive by finding and engaging with key opinion leaders. This will enable you to rapidly reach new audiences and new customers.

“Once you find influencers that have a strong following, engage them and develop partnering opportunities such as co-creation of content, lifestyle trend reports or product reviews. By working with influencers, you will be able to align your company or brand with a reputable, independent source that may yield excellent results through increased reach.”

4. Don’t do social for social’s sake

Experts warn marketers can make the mistake of being on social for social’s sake, and risk misaligning their strategy with their authentic brand voice.

“Marketers need to avoid social media for the sake of social media,” Social Soup founder & CEO, Sharyn Smith, says. “Good social media has a purpose, KPIs and aligns with your companies’ business objectives.”

She suggests marketers need to create time for innovation in social through test and learn, adapting to the community and conversations, with a focus on building meaningful connections with the long tail of influence.

“Don’t waste resources on creating content for platforms that aren’t relevant for your business or missing out on platform that are relevant to your business,” Smith adds. “Be current and be relevant.”

In attempting to capitalise on current trends or events, brands can sometimes come across as insincere if there really is no relevance to their brand image or story, Moreno says.

“I would suggest avoiding jumping on the bandwagon of something just because it’s gaining social traction,” she says. “Take the time to first consider whether there is any alignment with your brand before posting content on the topic.”

Graham warns against building a social media strategy that is too complex by requiring content that is beyond your resourcing capabilities.

“It is easy to sign up for social networks, but each one requires dedication to properly engage with audiences and keep the conversations interesting and fresh,” he says. “It is much more effective to start with 2 social networks and build out those audiences by posting and engaging regularly with your audience.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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