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 is fitting for describing my team's experience in working in the social media industry.
Indeed, we have “seen a thing or two” when helping clients with their social media strategies and management. While most of it is all good, there’s 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.
Below, are some common social media pet peeves and mad misconceptions to be aware of as you put yourself out there online.
1. Having a LinkedIn profile without a photo (or with an inappropriate photo).
Other professionals are less likely to connect with someone who still has the default shadowy silhouette as a profile image. Even worse, we’ve seen individuals on LinkedIn who have used cartoons as their profile photo. No. No. No. Always use a good-quality image that reflects your professional self.
2. Leaving questions or comments unanswered on business social media pages.
This can result in hard feelings and missed opportunities. When people engage with you on social media, they expect a response promptly.
3. Not proofreading social media updates before posting them.
Social media posts riddled with poor grammar and typos look sloppy and unprofessional. Before you make them live, review what you wrote and correct any errors. Then review your post again after you publish it to make sure no errors have slipped by you.
4. Sharing inappropriate or overly personal updates on business social media sites.
Consultants and other independent professionals often have personal and business social media accounts that they maintain. If your personal and professional brands are necessarily one in the same, be judicious about what you share on your business accounts. Commentary on politics, religion, and other hot-button topics may alienate or offend the people you wish to build business relationships with.
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 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 rude to connect and then ask for free advice or request that a person shares your content, like your Facebook page, or introduce you to someone else. Offer to help them first and begin building rapport before you ask for anything from your connections.
7. Thinking you need to post 10 or 20 (or 100) times per day.
Often, our customers and prospects will share with us all kinds of "best practices" they've heard about social media, including what is the ideal posting frequency. There are many factors to consider when deciding how often to post. On all platforms, relevancy, quality, and consistency should be the top priorities.
8. Believing the more followers, the better—and buying them is an excellent 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).
9. Thinking it's OK to "wing it."
Using social media effectively requires more than knowing how to send a tweet or schedule posts using automation software. To establish a robust social media presence, you need a solid plan of action based on clear goals, choosing the right platforms for reaching your target audience, and creating engaging content. Planning will ensure you use your time, money, and energy wisely.
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. It's ROI won't be immediate, because success with social media hinges on forming relationships. That takes time, consistent effort, and interaction. If it sounds like a lot of work—it is. But it's worth it. As you gain traction on social media, momentum accelerates (sometimes in exponential proportions), and the awareness and opportunities it generates 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 will more quickly experience the professional benefits of using social media consistently and conscientiously.