Ten Social Media Mishaps to Avoid

Nov 30, 2010 9:36 PM  By

Social media has been a charm for some merchants and a flop for others. But even the successful social sellers have made a faux pas or two along the way. And for many, making mistakes while trying to build their “social nation,” as social software provider Mzinga’s chairman/CEO Barry Libert calls it, has meant damaged reputations for their brands.

Libert, author of the book Social Nation: How to Harness the Power of Social Media to Attract Customers, Motivate Employees, and Grow Your Business shares the 10 mistakes social media marketers commonly make:

1) Running a social nation like a traditional business.
If you want your company to be social, you first need to understand that almost everything you do is a two-way street. That is to say, you’re not going to prosper if your products and services are designed solely by folks on the inside. You need to embrace the perspectives and contributions of your employees, as well as those of customers and partners.

2) Underinvestment in social initiatives and abandoning them too soon.
Early on, you’ll need to invest a good deal of time, thought and money in attracting fans and followers. But your efforts will need to be sustained.

Successful social strategies include posting quality content that people want to consume, and letting customers tell their stories and post their grievances, and then responding to their criticisms.

Also, make sure that prospects are able to learn about your business through customer and employee testimonials. And remember that using multiple approaches—for example, a blog, Facebook profile, and interactive website—will reach more people.

3) Neglecting to find ways to encourage and inspire your followers and fans.
Your fans and followers are essentially volunteering their time and energy to serve as developers, sounding boards, and advertisements for your company. So you need to respect what they have to say and take their input to heart.

4) Relying on a “build-it-and-they-will-come” mentality.
Libert says rolling out a community and just expecting people to join as friends or followers is a flawed philosophy. Basic marketing principles still apply, so you need compelling incentives to have people join your community.

You also need an aggressive programming strategy – one that includes defining your key audiences and targeting them through all available channels, so that they know that you want to build a relationship with them.

5) Delaying the process of going social.
If you don’t start gathering loyal followers and fans now, there’s a good chance that some other company will woo them first. One of the best strategies for going social as quickly and effectively as possible is to designate employees and subject matter experts to act as community success managers focused on fostering community growth and member satisfaction.

Separate from your sales and support teams, these community leaders should have the ability to advise members of the community on how to best participate with the company and with each other.

6) Underestimating the power of social media.
If you believe that social networking is just a window dressing that your company needs, think again. Social media and community collaboration bring many benefits, including brand building, customer loyalty and retention, cost reductions, improved productivity and revenue growth.

7) Neglecting employees, partners, investors, or customers when building your social nation.
Set up a focus group of employees to serve as community leaders who will shepherd your company into the social networking world, but don’t put all of the power in their hands. Social nations are organic, so the more people who are empowered to influence yours, the better.

8) Relying on traditional approaches when designing your social plan.
Just a few years ago, you probably would have been horrified at the thought of releasing ideas and products into the hands of your customers before they were as complete as you could get them. With social networking, that monolithic approach is now becoming obsolete. A customer’s input in social media can help you from a real-world dud.

9) Developing your own social software and analytics solutions.
Do what you do best, and outsource the software and community building to the experts, Libert says. There are many vendors out there that can provide ready-made, complete solutions to help you build your fans, followers, and friends.

Remember, Facebook and Twitter encourage fans and friends to advance their businesses, not yours. Consequently, although you should leverage the communities they have built, you need to create your own community to ensure your long-term success.

10) Getting caught without partners to help you succeed.
Remember, your constituents want to connect with like-minded peers, and they want to feel as though they are contributing to a purpose that’s bigger than themselves. Given that they are buying products and services from you, investing in your company, and working for your organization, providing them with a community they can call their own is the least you can do for them.