Everybody is telling everyone else to get on social media. We all know we need a presence. We all have aspirations to solicit new business, raise our profiles, a desire to network and want our share of voice on Google. But too many of us are getting it wrong. And, believe it or not, that can send your sales into freefall.
Here are the eight worst offenders on the social media blunder list:
1. Accidental spamming
SMEs which use their social media channels as an extension of their mailing lists (such as the messaging service on LinkedIn) risk being reported for spam. So import users at your peril: social media platforms tend to shut your account down if they perceive you to be spam.
2. A one-way conversation
Social media is not simply a broadcast channel. In fact, when companies simply post constant content without engaging with the audience, they often come a cropper. Don't just yap away, build a rapport with your followers and foster an ongoing relationship.
3. Stagnant profiles
LinkedIn is the biggest ‘people’ search engine in the UK, possibly the world. It should be treated as a shop window, yet many businesses and businesspeople don’t take the time to carefully write their profiles. This can reduce your credibility in the marketplace. Make sure you update your profile and your busines page to present a professional front.
4. 'Opinions my own and not those of my employer'
Many SMEs don’t train and educate their staff about social media or have a social media policy. If your staff include their job titles in their Twitter bios, for example, you could foot the bill for any libellous tweets. Make sure that all your employees understand what is and isn't acceptable - swearing, for example, should always be out. And warn staff about the consequences of misusing accounts.
5. LIKE ME, PLEASE!
Many companies wrongfully request recommendations. These should be earned on merit, not asked for, so avoid begging for scraps from your audience. Whether it's Facebook Likes or LinkedIn recommendations/testimonials, let your users come to you - sending out repeated requests for social media love smacks of desperation.
6. Staying power is key
Many businesses make the mistake of thinking that as soon as they launch their Twitter acount, the sales will come rolling in. And when there isn’t an immediate sales opportunity they quickly lose interest. Play a long game, else you risk cutting off possible referral opportunities.
7. Do not sell over social media
If you're the kind of business owner that believes ‘Oh! You're talking to me. Then it's okay if I market to you' will quickly find that the followers dry up. Social media is a platform for brand-building, offering help, advice, or freebies. Not for cold selling.
Still stuck? Try keeping an eye on similar companies / individuals who are getting it right. You'll know they're getting it right by the number of followers/Likes they have. What channels are they using? If it’s a business with a visual aspect, perhaps Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube are the most relevant channels? If it’s an accountancy firm, do they have an interesting blog and regular Twitter feed? Beyond choosing the right channel, the hard work is really down to the narrative. You want to people who might have no interest at all in your company or service to come across your content and think, ‘That’s interesting’. It's only when you've got these key principles right that the sales will start coming in.
Charlie Lawson is the national director of BNI (Business Network International)