Four ways to fail at social media – and how to avoid them

These days, everyone uses social media – some better than others.  And, if you’ve read this blog, you know how easy it is to make a pretty serious social media fail.  That being said, most of the time, the “fails” aren’t big mistakes – they are a series of little ones that results in a disinterested and stale audience, content that goes unviewed and unshared and a lost opportunity.  Here are four surefire ways to fail at social media – and how you can make sure you avoid them.

1.  Too much self-promotion: Politics is, sadly, often for egomaniacs, and social media can be terrible for that kind of people:  “OHH, let me talk about myself.  All the time.  Forever.”  There are many people, and elected officials, who only use social media as a platform for self-promotion.

How to avoid: When it comes to social media and businesses/politicians, remember this golden rule: No one cares about you. Your job is to serve the public, and doing that means you only talk about yourself in so much as it affects your audience’s lives.  Keep your content other-centered, and focus on them, not yourself.

2.  Ignoring your analytics: Picture this: You are running a major television marketing campaign, involving millions of dollars are dozens of markets.  Would you go full speed ahead based on a gut reaction, or would you check data and focus groups to determine what works and what doesn’t?  The latter, obviously.  So, why should social media be any different?

How to avoid:  This is an easy one – check your analytics!  The built in analytics tools on Facebook, Twitter, Google and most blogging platforms are extremely powerful: Use them to determine the demographics of your audience, what content they like, when they are using social media and more

3.  Treating each medium the same: Is their anything that screams “I don’t know how to use Twitter” more than a tweet that cuts off because the user ran over 140 characters?  Or someone who linked their Facebook and Twitter pages and the Facebook status has “RT @…”  Or the LinkedIn status update that is way, way too informal?  Each network has a different language, and you have to treat them as such.

How to avoid:  The answer here is a bit time-intensive.  You have to customize an update for each social network.  Is that annoying?  Very.  Unfortunately, there’s just no way around it.  Hootsuite and similar programs can be helpful here, as you can make each update from one place; however, don’t fall into the lazy trap of using one update for multiple networks: you’ll probably misspeak and look like you don’t understand how a particular platform works.

4.  I’m a robot: We all know that politician that doesn’t quite get social media.  Instead of using the medium to extend the reach of their own voice and brand, they use it to publish press releases and premade content by a communications worker who doesn’t use a real voice.  This is a wasted opportunity and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how social media works: You are supposed to sound like yourself, not “generic politician X.”

How to avoid:  Use.  Your.  Own.  Voice!  I cannot stress this enough.  Social media is for actually sounding like a human being.  Be true to yourself, and don’t just regurgitate press releases!

And other fails or tips to add?  I’d love to hear them, and I’m sure the audience would as well – let us know in the comments!

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