Sometimes you don’t have time to follow all the best practices of inbound marketing. Or maybe your boss or client is standing over your shoulder, giving you instructions, and you don’t have the power or strength to argue anymore.
In these situations, you can be forgiven for abandoning protocol. Just don’t forget the lines that should never, ever be crossed. There’s a big difference between tweeting a link to a helpful article without mentioning the author, for example, and making sure to only post links to pages that are about your brand.
Yes, there are some social media transgressions that have the power to damage your efforts and actually lengthen the distance between where you are now and your marketing goals. These are the ones to watch out for.
Don’t Talk About Yourself Too Much
You are on social media to build awareness of your brand and steer the conversations around it, right? Many marketers think the best way to accomplish this is to post non-stop about their amazing product or service, with a few special deals thrown in, and wait for the sales to roll in.
This tactic won’t work, because, let’s face it, no one cares about you! What they care about is how you can help them solve their problems.
Talk about your audience and what they want. Then tell them how you fit into the picture, but always focusing on the benefits of using your products, rather than the specs and features. When you keep your prospective customers at the center of the conversation, they will have a reason to turn to you instead of the competition.
Be Helpful Instead of Sales-y
Yes, you want to sell your product, but people are not generally hanging out online in order to read ads. What they are looking for is content that captivates them, amuses them and makes them feel like they are in the inside of a cool, branded world. Customers have so many options online and offline, so you need to stand out from the competition.
When you are helpful to potential customers, they’ll form an emotional attachment to your brand and look for your products when the time comes that they are ready to buy.
Remember: Your “Audience” Consists of Real People
Audience is such an overused buzzword that it’s easy to forget that there are actually people behind these screens—people with real problems and needs.
Treat them like you would treat a customer walking into your office, store, or showroom. And just as you don’t try to target every single person who passes by, don’t try to market to the entire Internet at once. Instead, think about who your target audience is in the narrowest sense, and turn them into evangelists for your products.
Stop thinking of your audience in terms of demographics. Pinpoint exactly who your customer is, and market to that specific person, crafting messages intended for individuals. Build relationships with these individuals by hanging out where they hang out, and write content directed towards them and what they care about.
And if you’re using automation tools, make sure not to let them take over the conversation. People can tell the difference between robots engaging with them and people engaging with them.
Don’t Try to be Active on Too Many Channels
The blogs you read about online marketing often extol the virtues of various social media channels and make it seem like you must be active on every single one of them. It makes sense that you might be confused and take a headline like “Why Your Business Should Be on Instagram” too literally.
Of course, taking on too many social networks will cause a major time suck and not have the desired effect. Instead, choose a few channels which your audience frequents and put all your efforts into these and only these.
It’s important to remember that each social media site is a micro-universe of its own, with unique etiquette, community norms, and functionalities. Don’t just post the same exact content a million times on a million networks. Think about how to present your content on each network in a way that’s suited to how and why people use that network, this will make your audience more likely to respond.
Unreasonable Expectations and Incorrect Measurements
There’s probably someone whispering in your ear telling you should have some astronomically high number of followers on each of the social media channels you are active on (and possibly even on the ones you ignore). Not only is this unreasonable—it’s far from the best measurement of success.
What matters is not how many people clicked Like or Follow, or even how many shares a piece of content received. What’s really important is whether metrics like sales, awareness, support response times, or share of relevant conversation are on the rise. If social media efforts are making real impact, then that translates into an upswing in sales.
And some metrics are more helpful for informing the process of refining engagement tactics than they are helpful for proving your activity is helping business. Keep track of which types of posts strike a chord with your audience and what time of day is the best for posting to your followers.
You can set up tracking with a powerful, premium inbound tool suite like HubSpot, but free tools with narrower scope like Google Analytics and Buffer are also useful for tracking and measurement.
But please don’t forget that some ROI is simply not trackable—providing a positive customer experience and turning a disgruntled consumer into a brand evangelist is simply priceless.
Where Do You Draw the Line?
When it comes to social media engagement, some compromises simply won’t fly. Whether it is chasing after bad metrics, spreading yourself too thin, making it all about you, over-automating, or using hard sell tactics, there are plenty of “worst practices” that are way too rampant.
Think something important is missing from this list? Do you see brands posting in other ways that make steam come out of your ears? Leave a comment below!
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!