Marketing is never easy. Social media marketing is definitely not easy.
At first glance, it would appear to be. Just set up an account on your platform of choice, post some interesting, funny, or educational comments, and soon hoards of social followers will start liking, following, and sharing your company’s content. Right?
Yet, since everyone is using social media these days, social media success is that much harder and failure so much easier.
Post something stupid or offensive and it will outlive the 24-hour news cycle. Even if you delete a tweet seconds after it’s posted, there is a good chance someone has seen it or taken a screenshot of it.
A bad ad will cost you money. A bad tweet can cost you your reputation.
So, here are some things you may be doing wrong and how to improve your content marketing and accrue a vibrant social media fan base:
You don’t think before you post.
To celebrate July 4th, clothing company, American apparel posted a picture of an explosion with some clouds to celebrate the holiday. The picture, tagged #Smoke and #Clouds was an infamous photograph of the Challenger explosion. American Apparel apologized for the tweet.
The clothing retailer quickly responded via social media to note the person who posted the tweet had been born after the disaster. That employee may have been born after the disaster, but should it excuse the mistake?
As The Frisky, writer Katie Oldenburg, suggests, “Apparently, they thought the image was of fireworks not an exploding space shuttle? Eh, mistakes happen, but AA’s excuse is pretty weak. I mean, this employee was also born way after the Titanic sank too. Saying that they were ‘unaware of the event’ kind of makes it look like AA hires idiots.”
It seems like a simple rule, but businesses, time and time again, fail miserably. For instance, DiGiornio did not take five seconds to look up what a hashtag called #WhyIStayed meant, and thus ended up using a hashtag about domestic violence to sell pizza. Think before you post or tweet. Sometimes, it really is that easy.
Your content is inconsistent.
Using social media is one of the more cost-effective marketing methods available, but that doesn’t mean it won’t cost you time. Spend time creating a social media calendar, crafting each message and auto-scheduling posts using social media management tools. Also, join in on the conversations that stem from popular posts.
You’re spread too thin.
It is better to be really good at one thing than to be mediocre at many things. This adage can be applied to life and social media. There are so many social media networks out there, each with different audiences, advantages, and disadvantages.
If you try to gain a foothold in all of them, right off the bat, you may end up with a mediocre social presence. Instead, focus on just one or two. Depending on your industry and offering you’ll want to choose a platform that makes the most sense for your audience.
For instance, if you offer exotic car rentals in Miami, then Instagram, a mobile photo and video-sharing social platform, would be the perfect place to reach luxury car aficionados with high resolution lifestyle and product photos.
In contrast, if you offer professional services, such as accounting or sales consulting, then LinkedIn – the largest network for professionals – is a good place to build credibility. Meanwhile, retailers, consumer packaged goods and various types of businesses can do well on Facebook when the message is targeted.
You don’t practice social listening.
Social media differs from other marketing tactics in that it is a give and take relationship. A brand that listens to customers, replies to them (in an upbeat and positive way) will attract fans and support. Great ways to engage and listen abound.
For instance, you can host an event where you take questions from your audience. Reddit has an Ask Me Anything (AMA) subreddit where businesses will frequently come to take questions from a global audience, and you can do this on Twitter too.
But keep your audience and their needs in mind. When JP Morgan Chase tried to host one of its senior executives in a Twitter Q&A, the result was a PR crisis in the making. “While some of the tweets were standard questions related to the bank’s business, others were highly critical of the firm’s ethics.” They ultimately bowed out admitting “Tomorrow’s Q&A is cancelled. Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board.”
Tomorrow’s Q&A is cancelled. Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board.
— J.P. Morgan (@jpmorgan) November 14, 2013
Social media is a marathon, not a sprint. You will not attract an audience with a few haphazard tweets or random Facebook posts. Yet when done correctly, social media offers a bright path for small businesses to compete with larger competitors that can outspend them dollar for dollar.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Simon Crompton is an entrepreneur running several online businesses. Currently focusing on his marketing firm, Threecolors.blue, he is also a trained journalist sharing his knowledge via several internet blogs. In his spare time he’s an avid programmer and videographer. Connect with @PermanentStle on Twitter.
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