10 Common Social Media Marketing Mistakes - dummies

10 Common Social Media Marketing Mistakes

By Shiv Singh, Stephanie Diamond

You may follow all the right steps with your social media marketing efforts and still fail. In fact, however frightening it may seem, you may fail completely. The reason is that you may make one of the ten common mistakes of SMM (social media marketing). Steer clear of the common mistakes described here and you will have a better chance of enjoying a successful social media marketing campaign.

Encroaching on customers’ time

Many companies forget that their customers can have a limited number of conversations at one time. They often gravitate to specific social platforms for coincidental reasons, but after they’re on them, it’s hard to move away. They become accustomed to that social environment, invest in it through their contributions, and bring their friends on board.

Any company thinking of starting a conversation with its customers must begin by asking where its customers currently spend their time, how willing they might be to move their conversations to a new location, and whether they can manage another set of conversations. If you don’t think this through before you build something, you may have an empty community.

Pestering customers who don’t want to hear from you

The social web is fundamentally about people talking to each other about subjects that are of interest to them. It isn’t designed to be a marketing vehicle. However, some brands naturally have permission, in a manner of speaking, to be a part of those conversations, whereas others may not. It’s important to know whether your brand has that permission.

Finding out whether your brand does have permission can be tricky, but the first step is to determine how you want to engage with your customers (what your social voice will be) and how much your customers trust your brand and are favorably inclined toward it. Then ask yourself whether your customers look to you for advice and information beyond the realm of the actual product that you sell. As you answer these questions, you’ll discover whether your brand has the permission to participate.

For example, the Barbie brand celebrated its 50th anniversary in early 2009 and ran an extensive social media marketing campaign. People were excited about the anniversary and welcomed Barbie into their conversations. There was a lot of passion and nostalgia associated with the brand. It was a natural fit for social media marketing. People wanted to talk about it. But that may not always be the case. Ask yourself whether you have permission to practice SMM with your customers.

In contrast to the Barbie example, a brand that has always been aloof, distant, and serious won’t have the natural permission to start participating in online conversations in a personal, humorous, and light fashion. It would seem as though the brand had been hijacked, and customers wouldn’t respond favorably to that. That’s an example of a brand not having permission.

Choosing the wrong SMM voices

It’s critical to choose your SMM voices carefully. Don’t assign the job to an employee who lacks communication skills or passion for the social web. And don’t choose someone who can’t commit the time and effort that it requires to be an SMM voice. This person needs to know the social platforms like the back of her hand. She needs to be willing to invest the time to participate and respond to queries.

Companies that have chosen employees who lack authenticity as their SMM voices are rarely successful. In the case of Whole Foods Market, the CEO was blogging and commenting in discussion forums. The only problem was that he was doing it under a pseudonym and bashing his competitors. When the truth surfaced, he lost all credibility. So be careful whom you choose to be your SMM voices, and train them on how to use those voices effectively. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many obvious mistakes are made through SMM voices.

Being impatient

With an SMM effort, it can be difficult to know when it may break out (in other words, when your SMM effort may suddenly gain immense traction). Many a marketer has canceled an SMM effort too quickly, only to see a competitor launch something six months later that turned out to be widely successful. Be patient with your SMM effort; it may not be a runaway success on day one or even day one hundred. It could take longer.

With your SMM these efforts, recognize that SMM isn’t a campaign; rather, it’s a commitment. Because you’re working on the social web, you’re marketing to customers one at a time in a personal, engaging, and conversational manner, and results don’t always happen quickly. Your goal, always, is to get the customers to do the marketing for you. But it may take longer than you’d like. That’s a possibility to always keep in mind. And to do this right, when you start your SMM effort, convince your bosses that it needs to be a 6–12-month commitment at least. If they get cold feet after the second week or the second month, you must not let them pull the plug on the effort.

Treating SMM in isolation

Marketers who don’t integrate their SMM activities are always bound to fail. The reason is simple: You can’t market to customers in a conversational, personal, and transparent manner on the social platforms but then use a different language, style, and tone elsewhere. Your SMM activities must always complement existing marketing initiatives.

So whether the rest of your marketing efforts constitute display advertising, search engines, TV advertisements, print, outdoor media, advertising on mobile phones, or just a few of the these, make sure that you’re thinking about how SMM works with those other marketing efforts. Ideally, each of those marketing initiatives should tie in with the SMM ones, as SMM strategies and tactics can be promoted and extended through these other advertising formats and media, too. This integration especially applies to mobile, where increasingly cellphones allow for social influence in new and dynamic ways, with applications that integrate customer reviews and real-time polling for feedback.

Having only one approach

Another common mistake of SMM is to treat influencers the way you would treat a member of the press: showering them with attention, inviting them to exclusive launches, and peppering them with press releases. The reality is that influencers in the SMM world are different, and it’s important to be aware of those nuances. Otherwise, you’ll turn them off.

For example, expert influencers who share a lot in common with the mainstream media press would still rather not be treated like the press. They want the special attention but expect you to engage with them on their own terms, recognizing the boundaries that they operate in. Many of them now publish guidelines for marketers explaining how they want to be approached. Referent influencers have never been marketed to in the past, and they usually don’t know what to expect or how best to manage expectations. And the positional influencers would much rather that you not even know that they’re a big influence on the customer. So when you market to the influencers, think carefully about the influencer type and how to appropriately market to them.

Thinking of SMM as a channel

Marketers who treat SMM as a channel have the least success. The reason is that you aren’t pushing the message through a channel, as you would in traditional advertising. If you use traditional advertising strategies on the social platforms, you won’t get the results that you’re looking for. Think of social influence marketing as truly a new form of marketing with new strategies, best practices, and rules of engagement.

Failing to plan for the worst

If you don’t plan for the fact that you’ll probably face a PR crisis at some point or other when you practice social media marketing, you’ll be blindsided when it does happen. Now, not every SMM activity results in a PR crisis; most never do at all. But because you’re engaging with your customers in a more direct, authentic fashion, there are risks that you may not see with traditional advertising. The risks take two forms:

  • Threaten the actual structure of an SMM campaign: You may ask users to do something, and they may respond to that request negatively. Or a small part of the responses may be so inflammatory in nature that it may undermine the campaign or your brand.

  • Unintentionally elicit a visceral reaction: This was the case with the infamous Motrin episode in early 2009, when moms responded extremely negatively to what they considered to be a derogatory TV advertising campaign. The campaign launched on a Saturday, and the marketers didn’t notice the firestorm and respond quickly enough. Make sure that you do your scenario planning so that you know how to respond to any different crises that may arise.

Focusing on one large campaign

Social media marketing is fundamentally about many little efforts that when strung together have as much impact (usually much more) as a single traditional campaign or marketing program. This means that it’s always important to plan to launch several small initiatives simultaneously, rather than run one long, mammoth one.

Having several efforts at one time matters more than ever because your customers are doing a lot of digital snacking. They hop from one platform to another, exchange notes about something in one social network and then move on to view a video clip, and sometimes go offline for days on end. Putting all your eggs in one basket doesn’t serve you well.

Forgetting to reward your participants

You must incentivize, reward, and recognize the contributions of the community. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many marketers assume that consumers will participate generously without any return. Make sure that you match the reward to the level of participation you demand. These rewards don’t have to be monetary in nature, but if you’re asking something extra of the community that surrounds your product, you’d better be willing to thank them for their contributions, reward them for their participation, and recognize how they’re changing your company for the better. These rewards can be as simple as invitations to special events, discount coupons, featuring customers on your website, and sneak peeks of new products and services.