There are thousands of brands on social media and most of them make posting and interacting appear effortless. As if their marketing team has a constant flow of envelope-pushing, sharable, and most importantly, relatable content pouring out of their airy, exposed-brick office. Before I joined a marketing team, I’d think, “how hard can it be?”
Now I know. Social media is not the effortless entertainment customers know and love. Some brands may work out of an airy, brick-walled office, but all social media campaigns are meticulously planned and strategically implemented. The job is fun. It requires creativity. It means engaging and sharing a connection with thousands of strangers who suddenly don’t feel like strangers.
It’s also exasperating. Anyone who has gained a mere seven twitter followers after putting some serious thought into posting and deciding who to follow can probably sympathize. There’s no secret for mastering social media (and if there is, maybe ask Buzzfeed). Much of it is try, try again, but it’s necessary. Not useful. Not suggested. Necessary.
Social media creates and fosters brand recognition and loyalty. It levels the marketing playing field because anyone can join. It’s a way to interact with your community, form relationships, gain customer insight, and improve your customer service.
As of March 2017, there were 1.94 billion monthly active Facebook users. Instagram currently has 700 million active profiles. Twitter users post 500 million tweets per day. LinkedIn has 500 million members.
Social media is forgiving. There are millions of posts per day and zero guarantee that anything will go viral, but that doesn’t mean your content can create noise for the wrong reasons and damage your brand. No strategy is 100% perfect, but you can lessen the chances of driving your audience into the arms of other brands.
Below are a few social faux pas all brands should avoid:
Faux Pas #1: Not Responding to Feedback (Positive or Negative)
Negative feedback is a good opportunity to build community, retain customers, and show that your brand values and listens to your audience. Everyone wants to be heard. Reserving the right to stay silent in the middle of a crisis is saying something. Instead of ignoring negative commentary, show that you care.
About six months ago, an ice cream brand found itself in the national spotlight after receiving criticism from a public figure. They had three choices: brush off the comments, attack the other side, or spin the story and transform it from negative to positive press. Here’s what they decided:
White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, has carried on a public (one-sided) feud with Dippin’ Dots since 2010. In 2015, he was livid when the ‘ice cream of the future’ ran out of his favorite flavor, vanilla, during a Nationals game.
This past January, the AV club posted his old tweets and the feud caught the Internet’s attention. Dippin’ Dots could have waved away Spicer’s accusations. They could have become defensive and attacked the Press Secretary. They did not do either of those things. With guidance from The Marketing Zen Group, the company’s CEO, Scott Fischer, wrote an open letter to Spicer and addressed his concerns.
Major news outlets such as CNN and NPR featured articles about the story, which received over 10 million views. Within 24 hours, Sean Spicer and Dippin’ Dots were trending on Facebook, but because of Fischer’s gracious reply, the outcome was favorable. Eight hours after Fischer posted his open letter, Spicer replied:
By addressing the conflict head on, Dippin’ Dots reminded all their customers that their opinions are valuable and that customer service is a priority.
Faux Pas #2: Neglecting to Publish a Wide Variety of Content
At the end of the day, it’s easy to forget why your company has a social media presence (or even exists, in general). Provide value for your customers, not solely through advertising your products—as great as they may be—, but through your content as well. Publish a wide variety of items from listicles, lengthier feature articles, polls, etc.
On Twitter, it’s bad form to tweet only your content. Mix in retweeted and curated content along with your own pieces to keep your audience interested. On Instagram, create a mixture of promotional, thought leadership, user generated, quotes and other posts more.
If you limit yourself to certain types of content, your audience will grow bored. Play around with ways to interact, engage, and provide value for followers, and your community will grow. The 80/20 rule of social media marketing is a helpful reminder; post 80% content that sparks conversation and excites your audience and 20% brand promotional pieces.
Faux Pas #3: Publishing the Same Content on All Your Social Media Platforms
Each platform has a unique audience and method of interaction, so by posting identical copy and content on all of your social media sites, you’re simply spewing your message, and that leaves little room for meaningful interactions and relationships.
Beyond the fact that each platform has its own way of creating, sharing and discussing content, it’s dull for followers to read the same material on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest. Your following will quickly lose interest if the content is the same across the board.
Treat each platform as an individual community with their own needs, thoughts, and personalities. Listen to what your audience says on that specific platform. Don’t hesitate to ask for feedback or ask questions. Ideally, you’re looking for customers or readers to follow you on more than one medium, and one of the biggest ways to encourage multi-platform following is by distinguishing your content across each channel.
Faux Pas #4: Neglecting to Engage with your Audience
Responding to feedback is one thing, but it’s also crucial to engage during “happier times” as well. Be diligent about answering customer’s questions and replying to comments. Ask your audience for their opinions. Create incentives for them to stay engaged, such as announcing giveaways, contests, or special promotions.
Engagement is a two-way street. If you expect your followers to interact with your brand, you need to give them incentives. While your social media marketing team is representing your brand, remember that people relate to people. Make your social interactions as personable as possible (while still delivering a consistent brand voice).
Faux Pas #5: Presenting an Inconsistent Brand Voice/or Message
At some point before forming a presence on social media (or afterwards if you’re rebranding), ask yourself the following questions:
- How do you want your customers to perceive you?
- What are you trying to accomplish by creating a social media account?
- Who is your target audience?
- What types of messages or content would your target audience best relate to?
- What tone should you use (lighthearted, inspiring, friendly, professional)?
Once you’ve established your aim, ensure that your brand’s image is consistent. Tiffany and Co. uses their same signature blue on their Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and Pinterest profile. The copy is different, but the logo, central color scheme, and branding are the same.
Faux Pas #6: Not Having a Team Behind You
Sometimes, mistakes happen. A post with grammar mistakes accidentally goes live. A Facebook post lacks an image. Someone on the marketing team tweets an innocent, yet politically incorrect tweet. Not all your posts will be perfect, but you can prevent certain errors.
Errors that are potentially pretty damaging. In 2014, domestic abuse victims began using #WhyIStayed as a sign of solidarity and a way to share their story. That same year, DiGiorno used the hashtag and followed it with, “because there was pizza.” Clearly, no one on team DiGiorno checked the trending hashtags and as a result, the brand came across as tactless, oblivious, and crass.
Enlist a checks and balance system so grammar is accurate, the messaging stays on brand, and yeah, you don’t unintentionally post something that offends millions of people. Perfection is impossible, but you can avoid relentless scrutiny with a diligent team, clear protocol, and efficient checks and balances system.
In the End, it’s About Understanding Certain Social Cues
Social media can be great for any business as long as you remember that it’s mostly about your community’s wants and needs, not yours. Social is an ideal tool for fostering brand loyalty, creating an active community, and encouraging discussion. And while everyone finds their own rhythm and discovers what works and what doesn’t, it’s always helpful to check out the brands who are nailing social media.