13 Social Media Mistakes New Business Owners Can Avoid
Small Business Social Media
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As a new business owner, you may not be ready financially or operationally to hire a social media manager or social agency. Still, you know that it’s essential to have a social media presence for your business. This puts the pressure on you to DIY your social media posting and profile management.
If you’re like many other new business owners who are handling their own social media marketing, you may feel a pressure to post constantly, you may experience a creative block on what exactly to post, and you might feel like you’re using each platform all-wrong.
I can’t tell you what to post or when. We could point to cute infographics with general ideas but without digging into your industry, audience, and brand, I would be wasting our time. What I can do, in broad strokes, is help you understand what not to do, and avoid the pitfalls that many brands experience in the social space.
Here are some of the biggest social media mistakes I see all the time…
1. Copying the Competition
I won’t imply that businesses are copy-and-pasting posts from their direct competitors, but I see a lot of copy-catting on social media. We see a larger “known” brand posting gifs, so we post gifs. We see our more established counterparts microblogging or sharing tutorials, and we do the same thing.
An influencer adopts a particular aesthetic and we create our own botched versions of the same thing. Rather than view social media as a place where you constantly have to “keep up,” change your mindset. Who do you want to engage with? What do you want to tell them? What resources do you have to tell those stories? Answer those questions and stop worrying so much about what everyone else is up to.
2. Focusing on Quantity Over Quality
When I take on a new social client or consult with a client about social media, the first question is always “how often should we be posting?” While this question is usually a logical one – frequency of posts will dictate the resources you’ll need and create a framework for your plan – it goes deeper than that.
When I hear the “how much” questions about social media, I’m reminded of the kid who just wants to eat the bare minimum amount of broccoli so he can have a piece of candy after dinner. Stop thinking about social media as the broccoli and start thinking of it as the candy. As a business owner, the opportunity to connect with your ideal audience free of charge should send you over the moon, not repel you.
With that in mind, the answer to your quantitative quandaries is simple: as much as you can without denigrating your message. Saturation IS key, especially when starting out, to stand out in a barrage of noise.
However, if the frequency you choose creates immense pressure for you and your team or forces you to post garbage, loosen the demand. It’s most important that your message holds its integrity.
3. Following Too Many Trends
There’s a time and place for a trendy, buzzworthy post which I’ll address next. However, if you’re a sandwich shop posting about the latest Marvel movie, over-capitalizing on movements like Pride Month or #MeToo, and posting irrelevant content just to keep up with “the youths,” you’re doing too much.
Not only is this perceived as the gimmick that it is (we’re savvy out here!), it is also doing nothing but planting you in a sea of other bandwagoners who are doing the same thing. By blindly joining in to every discourse, you’re devaluing your unique voice, alienating disinterested customers who follow you for YOU, and generally making yourself seem sad. It’s sad, frankly.
4. Failing to Keep Up with Trends
Despite the previous point, trends still matter in social media. It’s important to know what everyone is talking about and find thoughtful, relevant ways to join the conversation.
Every trend won’t be for you, though, so it’s important to jump on those that feel authentic and organic to your industry and age of audience, and forgo those that don’t. It’s no longer acceptable to be completely unaware of what’s going on in pop culture, politics, and the world at large.
5. Forgetting to “Read the Room”
Speaking of paying attention, read the room. As we evolve societally, we stop using words that are derogatory once we realize they’re problematic. While twenty years ago, something might have been okay, it’s smart to pay attention and understand what has changed over time.
We communicate differently every year than the year before. We learn new things about other cultures and we show more grace. We don’t uphold known abusers of power and privilege and when we do, we pay the consequences of association.
6. Neglecting to Proofread
This is an obvious one. I won’t go into detail here but couldn’t bear to leave it out. While less “professional” linguistic choices like emojis or the occasional “u” in place of you are generally accepted on social media, failure to spell important words correctly, tagging the wrong account, or posting the wrong link could cause more trouble.
If your typo leads to confusion, inconvenience, or frustration, you aren’t just causing yourself a reputation problem, but a customer experience problem as well.
7. Posting without a Plan
What does a social media manager or agency do, that you can’t do? We all know how to hit “publish” or “share” on our favorite platforms and it isn’t rocket science, right?
In addition to understanding the nuance of each platform and knowing what will work on social media, social experts also know how to plan ahead. Professionals will plan your content and schedule it out in advance, leaving more of their “live” work to things like outreach, community management, and monitoring. This way, they don’t stick themselves with the pressure of the question “what should I post today?”
You can steal these strategies, as a DIY-er. Don’t just wake up every morning wondering what you should post on socials – plan for the month in advance.
While you should still be posting things “in real time” such as live-tweets during events or behind the scenes Instagram Stories, planning and scheduling your content will make sure your account never stagnates and you are never left wondering what to put up.
Having a plan isn’t JUST about getting ahead of the schedule, though. Your strategy should include what products, services, or other types of content you want to promote, actions you hope to get your audience to take, and metrics you hope to reach every month. Without a goal, a purpose, and a plan to measure success, your social plan will be nothing more than filler and fluff.
8. One-way Social Management
Social media management isn’t just about marketing. While channels like Facebook and Instagram are great places to organically market your business, and buy comparably affordable and effective ads as well, that isn’t their purpose. Social media is about socializing – hence the name.
This means that your social profiles aren’t billboards and TV commercials – places for you to yell into the void and hope for attention. Instead, social media is a place to provide customer service, to network with potential affiliates and partners, to build brand awareness, to survey your audience and gain valuable intel, and yes, to generate leads. If you aren’t using these platforms to do all of these things, you may want to diversify your strategy beyond “what to post” and carve out time to engage.
9. Overt Promotion
The biggest dark side to the one-way social management we just covered is self-promotion.
Of course, social media is a place to tell people who you are and what you do.
Of course, your followers want to score a coupon code or find out the latest new products or services you’re putting out.
Of course, it’s okay to be excited when you accomplish something, hire a new team member, or cross a big milestone off your list.
However – if that’s all you post about, your consumers will see through you. They will know that you’re just engaging to get their dollars and they will disengage, unfollow, and avoid you. Don’t be that guy.
10. Auto-dispersing and curating
It’s okay to share things that aren’t yours (with credit) on social media – sometimes. It’s okay to share the same thing to Instagram as you do on Twitter – sometimes.
However, if all of your posts are pulled from an RSS feed or reposted from other places, you are failing to do one of the major things that social media allows us to do: build your brand awareness. How will your ideal customer know who you are, what you stand for, and how to engage with you if all you ever share is other people’s stuff?
Imagine a freelance graphic designer only sharing other people’s artwork on Instagram – this is easy, efficient, and could get him a lot of followers. However, none of those new followers will want to hire or collab with him because they haven’t seen his work and, more essentially, they haven’t gotten to know him, his style, and his approach.
11. Missing the Key Components
Tactically, the best practices on social media vary. As I said in the beginning of this post, I couldn’t possibly prescribe your next week of content effectively without knowing your brand better. However, there are a few checklist items that need to be met on each platform and it’s a mistake to miss those. These might include:
12. Phoning it in
Let’s just put it all out there. If you are going to get on social media just to post a generic “Happy Veteran’s Day” post on November 11th and not post again until “Happy Valentine’s Day” three months later, you’re wasting your time and your audience’s time.
If you are just going to post links to a few of your blog posts and little else, you might as well just curate an email list to send those to and forget socials. If you’re just going to post quotes from people like Winston Churchill or Steve Jobs and act like that’s doing anybody any good, just pack it up and get out of here.
The world is saturated with enough noise.
13. Letting it Die
I see it all the time. Brands do well on social while they have an intern to focus on it or while it’s top of mind for a few months and then, “poof!” Usually, this lull isn’t coming from a lack of time, energy, or intent to post. It happens when you burn out – you pressure yourself to post a metric ton or you get discouraged about your lack of “going viral” – a thing that isn’t a thing.
The fact is, it isn’t that serious. Yes, social media is an incredibly powerful business and personal tool. These platforms have pushed governmental boundaries, connected the disconnected, and transformed the digital ecosystem in which we live.
However, the best social media content for your business does not have to be the funniest, the most scandalous, or the most Earth-shattering – it needs only to be the most authentic. What’s great about this is that you should already have all the tools you need to be successful.
As a business owner, you should already know who your target audiences are, what they want, how they think, where they spend their time, and what your brand has to say to them. If you do, just put it out there already and quit being so weird about it. If you don’t, start there first.
Kayla is a branding & content marketing consultant at Kayla Naab Consulting. She helps small business owners launch and grow their businesses through identity, empathy, and communication. Kayla is also a business journalist and writer who advocates for the gig economy, freelancers, and remote working culture. When she isn’t doing digital things, Kayla can be found roadtripping the western US, taking nature photos, and making art.