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What You're Doing Wrong with Social Media and How to Fix It

"That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works!" The esurance® commercials have become quite well known for poking fun at the misuse of social media, with errors ranging from actually posting photos to a wall to mistaking hash browns for hashtags. While hopefully your company is not making those types of social media mistakes, there is a strong chance that you are making a few errors that could be detracting from the success of your social media campaign.

Social media can be an effective method for reaching potential customers and interacting with and building loyalty among your current customer base. That is, provided that you handle it right. Make missteps and fail to correct them, and social media can actually harm your business more than it can help.

How do you know what is working and what is not? It can be a challenge. One of the most common indications that your social media strategy may not be working is lack of growth in your user base or followers. For many businesses, the most common goal of social media is to grow their followers or user base. If you have noticed that your fans, likes, retweets, and followers are not increasing, this is a strong indication that no one is visiting your social media page. Furthermore, all of the efforts and resources you are putting into your social media campaign are not reaching their potential. A stagnant user base often serves as a sign that you are making one of the following mistakes.

Misusing Hashtags

Those little number signs are often misunderstood and worse, misused. The purpose of a hashtag is to gather and organize a series of tweets, according to the Chicago Tribune. The problem comes in when they are used too frequently. There is no need to hashtag everything. In fact, research points out that overusing hashtags can actually decrease the effectiveness of your tweets. According to Inc., while hashtags have the potential to double your online engagement, one or two hashtags is the maximum that should be used. Twitter's own research further confirms that when more than two hashtags are used, engagement shows an average decline of 17 percent.

The Solution: Rather than add a hashtag to everything, consider using the following strategy for determining whether an item actually requires a hashtag:

·       Is the topic trending?

·       Is the topic something you would Google?

How do you know whether a topic is trending? There are numerous tools available to help. For instance, if you are interested in what is trending in pop culture, check out BuzzFeed. Hashtag.org is another excellent tool for researching trending hashtags. With this tool, you can research trending hashtags within the past 24 hours as well as see hashtags that have not been used. Interested in finding out how popular your hashtag is? Hashtracking.com gives you charts and graphs for tracking the popularity of your hashtag. The takeaway here? Use hashtags, but use them wisely and #DontOverdoIt.

Adopting a Scatter Approach

Many businesses are so excited about getting started with social media that they jump in and create a presence on every platform. While such enthusiasm is certainly laudable, a social media presence will only benefit your company if your customer base spends time on that platform. Fox Business points out that Pinterest tends to work well for brands in the fashion, food, and beverage industries. By comparison, if your business is more b2b, it may not be as visual. Consequently, Instagram and Pinterest might not be the best social media platforms for your social media strategy.

The Solution: Consider where your customers spend time online. If you don't know, ask. This is an easy way for business owners to find out where their customers spend time on social media. Google Alerts is another excellent way to monitor what is going on in your industry in the social media hemisphere. With Google Alerts, you can monitor if your business is mentioned online and even find where your customers are hanging out. When there is a mention of the topic you are monitoring, you receive an email. It's a simple and effective way for keeping your finger on the pulse of your industry, identifying the channels your target audience uses, and expanding your online presence.

Using Social Media for One-Way Broadcasting

The entire goal of social media is to build relationships and boost engagement. Social media is drastically different from static marketing methods used in the past. The Huffington Post points out that if your updates primarily consist of links rather than personal updates, you are actually spamming. This type of activity is not only unappealing but could result in having your account suspended. 

The Solution: First, you need to ensure that you are completely familiar with all of the guidelines for each social media platform prior to getting involved. Next, carefully consider the type of content that your follower base might find interesting. Remember that no one wants to interact with someone who takes over the conversation and only talks about themselves. Mashable reports that the best brands spend between 70 and 80 percent of their time on content that benefits their target audience and helps them to work or live better. The remaining 20 to 30 percent of content is spent on products or services.

Ultimately, the goal is to remain flexible with your social media strategy. Look at it this way, if you had a product or a service that wasn't selling well, you would likely change strategies. Social media should work the same way. 

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