Tweeps, friends, followers—no matter how you’re connected, it’s likely that you’re using social media to drive some of your business. Increasingly, business is done, not with the traditional handshake, but with the click of the ol’ “thumbs up.” Sure, most of the old rules of business communication still apply, but there are some common pitfalls people make that can spike even the best social-media manager’s intentions.
The biggest problem is that people become so comfortable interacting in real time through social media that they can say things that would be unimaginable in, for example, more formal business letters or communications.
There are rules. There’s even etiquette. Just the smallest tweaks in your social-media strategy can make a big difference in your bottom line. And missteps can go viral.
Fail: Sporadic Updates
There’s nothing sadder than a neglected social-media account. That’s not to say you need to be glued to your social-media account like a high-school freshman waiting to get asked to the homecoming dance. If you launch a social-media initiative for your business, make a commitment to update and engage your followers and connections at least on a daily basis.
There are plenty of time-saving tools, like HootSuite, that will let you schedule your tweets and posts in advance, across multiple networks. You should also be generous in retweeting and sharing other people’s information. It builds goodwill among your followers, encourages others to share your information to their followers, and saves you time by leveraging the work of others. It’s a winner for everyone.
One more thing: Sending out tons of posts in a flurry is no good, either. People get annoyed when you clog up their feeds with a blast of social-media updates. Like most everything in life, slow and steady wins the race.
Fail: Hashtag Overuse
Hashtags are a great way for people to search by keyword on Twitter, but messages riddled with those pesky little buggers tend to look more like spam than actual messages. Unified social-media platforms like HootSuite make it easy to send a single message across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks, so it’s extra important to make sure that too many hashtags—which really are only pertinent for Twitter—don’t show up in your LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social-media feeds.
Fail: Getting Mad
For good or bad, the anonymity and casual nature of social media make people really comfortable expressing themselves. Your customers, clients, and colleagues are more likely to deliver brutal criticism of your service or product on social media than through other means of communication.
Be prepared. It might be tempting to respond in kind with a snarky or defensive comment. Resist the urge. Be professional and courteous, and go over and above to address any complaints. It stings to receive criticism in such a public way. But if you can embrace it as an opportunity to address the issue and show that you are willing to accept the critique and correct it, your followers and potential customers will take notice.
At the same time, use any kudos you get on social media as an opportunity to reward loyalty. If one of your customers takes the time to give your business a good review, take the time to thank him or even offer him a little something in return. Restaurants will often offer freebies to customers who rave about their services. Look for opportunities to do the same with your business.
Really, no one cares whether you’re having a good hair day, coming down with a cold, or coming off a breakup. Save that stuff for your personal accounts. Because of the nature of social media and the conversations that happen, it’s easy to develop a false sense of intimacy with your followers and connections. Just because your customers and colleagues “friend” you on Facebook, it doesn’t really mean you’re actually friends. It means you have a shared interest in the same topic. And that topic isn’t you.
People who are connected to your business on social networks only care about one thing: what the information they receive means to them. If your communications aren’t focused on delivering information your audience can use, they’ve officially crossed over into spam. Don’t bother your customers with expositions of your desire for a venti Starbucks pumpkin spice latte.