Have you seen those Farmers Insurance TV commercials that end with, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two?”
I love that tagline, and it's fitting for describing my team’s experience in working in the social media industry.
Indeed, we've also “seen a thing or two” when helping clients with their social media strategies and management, and while the majority of it is all good, there is still the occasional “bad and ugly” out there, too.
From what people want to post online to unworldly expectations about outcomes, we’ve encountered some sticky and frustrating situations. In this post, we'll look at some of the most common social media pet peeves and mad misconceptions that we've seen come up, in order to help you avoid making the same mistakes in your approach.
1. Having a LinkedIn profile without a photo (or with an inappropriate photo)
Other professionals are less likely to want to connect with someone who still has the default shadowy silhouette as a profile image. According to LinkedIn, users with a profile photo see 9x the amount of connection requests - which, conversely, means that going without one leaves you 9x worse off in this regard.
But taking that even further, we’ve seen people on LinkedIn who've used a cartoon caricature as their profile image. That is a definite no-no.
Always use a good-quality LinkedIn profile image which reflects your professional self.
2. Leaving questions or comments unanswered on business social media pages
Neglecting your audience can result in hard feelings - and subsequently, missed opportunities.
Social media is 'social'. When people engage with you on social platforms, they expect a response, and a prompt one at that.
Research shows that 72% of customers who reach out to a brand through social media channels now expect a response within an hour
3. Not proofreading social media updates before posting them
Social media posts riddled with poor grammar and typos look sloppy and unprofessional.
Before you go live, review what you wrote, and correct any errors. You should then consider reviewing your post again after you publish to ensure no errors have slipped through.
4. Sharing inappropriate or overly personal updates on business social media sites
Consultants and other independent professionals often have business social media accounts that they maintain alongside their professional presence. But if your personal and professional brands are one and the same, be extra judicious about what you share on your business accounts.
Commentary on politics, religion, and other hot-button topics can alienate or offend the people you're looking to build business relationships with.
It can work in your favor in some instances, better aligning you with your ideal business partners, but its a risky proposition, and one that can easily backfire, so take care in what you post.
5. Using the same formatting on every social media channel
There’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach that applies to all social media platforms.
For example, using hashtags is widely accepted and effective on Twitter and Instagram (and recently on LinkedIn), but not so much on Facebook.
Every social media channel has its nuances, so pay attention to audience preferences (length of content, frequency of posts, etc.) and platform-specific limitations.
6. Connecting with another professional for the first time - and then asking for a favor immediately
Talk about making a bad first impression.
It’s plain rude to connect with someone and then immediately ask for free advice, or request that the person share your content.
You should offer to help first, and begin building some sort of rapport before you go to ask for anything from your social connections.
7. Thinking you need to post 10 or 20 (or 100) times per day
Our customers and prospects will often share with us all kinds of “best practices” they’ve heard about social media marketing, which includes ideal posting frequencies.
There are many factors to consider when deciding how often to post, but on all platforms, relevancy, quality, and consistency should be the top priorities.
Think about your own experience - would you like to see five updates from a brand appear in your feed all at once? Platform algorithms are also a consideration - on Twitter, for example, users may not see all your tweets in sequence anymore, which could mean they get a cluster of your tweets all at once, depending on when you post.
There's a range of factors to consider, and there's no prescriptive process that all brands can follow.
8. Believing that more followers is always better - and that buying them is a viable way to get them
If you have 10 million followers but none of them are people who are genuinely interested in engaging with your content, what’s the point?
Although spending a little money to advertise on social media can help increase your following, I adamantly discourage buying fans or followers (which often end up being spam accounts with no living, breathing people behind them).
The platforms themselves are also taking more action to stamp out such practices, so even if you do buy an audience, there's no guarantee it'll still be there tomorrow - and it would certainly raise questions amongst your real audience if you suddenly went from 10k to 1k followers overnight.
9. Thinking it’s OK to “wing it”
Using social media effectively requires more than just knowing how to send a tweet or schedule posts using automation software.
In order to establish a robust social media presence, you need a solid plan of action, based on clear goals, which focuses on the right platforms for reaching your target audience.
Planning will ensure you use your time, money, and energy wisely. 'Winging it' is a surefire path to uncertainty.
10. Having the wrong mindset about social media’s ROI
Social media is different from traditional forms of media - and it needs to be treated as such.
The ROI of social won’t be immediate, because success with social media hinges on forming relationships - again, the 'social' aspect of the form. Building connection takes time, consistent effort, and interaction. If it sounds like a lot of work, it is, but it’s worth it for those who get it right.
As you gain traction on social media, momentum accelerates (sometimes in exponential proportions), and the awareness and opportunities generated can far surpass the value of the investment you make.
All of the above pitfalls can thwart your efforts to build a strong online presence. By knowing a thing or two about what not to do, you'll be able to experience the professional benefits of using social media in a faster, more sustainable, way.