Author: Pratik Dholakiya, Co-Founder and VP of Marketing of E2M and MoveoApps
“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”― Rita Mae Brown
Mistakes are inevitable if you are trying something new. It is not necessarily a bad thing as the experience you earn from your mistakes is probably the best lesson of your life. As startups, you are bound to make some mistakes. Call it inexperience, impatience or ingenuousness, startup founders often end up doing things they should have avoided in the first place. But few mistakes cost you more than others, especially when it comes to social media.
Why You Need to be Careful on Social Networks
People perhaps have a poor memory and forget things after a few days, but Internet stores them for eternity. When you commit blunders on social media, they remain there for a long time. In fact, there are hundreds of such examples. Remember the celeb nude photo scandal of Spirit Airlines!
As a part of its #BareFares campaign, the airline company tastelessly made fun of naked news that were already swirling about popular stars like Rihanna, Jennifer Lawrence, and Kate Upton. The tweets were just enough to tarnish their brand reputation as Twitter users showed no mercy in slamming the company about its poor taste and poor strategy.
These are no ordinary mistakes but sins and social media users are less forgiving in these matters and by the time they forget or shift their focus from such blunders, your reputation is as good as dead. Businesses, especially startups need to be very cautious when using social media to attract the attention of potential buyers.
First thing first, startups or less popular brands need to create healthy relations with their consumers. Most startups fail to do this and on top of that they end up committing social media blunders while trying to engage with their target audience, something that can ruin their brand reputation for long.
Here are 3 social media sins every business, especially startups should avoid.
1. Not Selecting the Right Platform
This is perhaps the most basic mistake many startups make that can ruin their entire social media marketing efforts. Each social media platform has different purpose and different set of users. The strategies for each platform therefore need to be different as well.
The 1.44 billion monthly active users on Facebook (as of first quarter 2015), is lucrative enough for any business to invest largely on this platform. But are your target audiences even there? If yes, are they active?
Your first task is to define the target audience and create a strategy to target that particular segment of the market. Targeted marketing is exclusionary; once you define your target audience clearly, identify the platforms where your target audience is most active. For example, a recruitment firm will be wasting its time concentrating on Facebook marketing as people hardly come here to search for a job.
You should therefore need to identify the right platform for your business, based on your industry/product and the market you cater to. Here’s some quick help.
- Facebook is a good platform for leveraging the community effect, provided you have highly visual content, and if you have budget to spend on ads as it is almost impossible to reach out to Facebook fans organically due to the changes in its algorithm. Your approach should be to build trust by leveraging your fans’ networks.
- Focus on Twitter more to broadcast your message and/or connect with thought leaders, industry experts and people who are important to you. Join the on-going conversations and establish your position as an industry expert.
- Google+ is strictly for helping your SEO efforts, although you can use Google communities for connecting with like-minded people.
- LinkedIn is the apt platform for B2B companies. This is the place for professionals and you will have like-minded audiences. This is again a great platform to establish yourself as a thought leader amidst other professionals.
- Invest your time and effort on Pinterest if your business primarily targets women audiences. Just like Facebook, you need to have highly visual content for photo sharing platform.
2. Tweeting without Thinking
Twitter has around 302 million monthly active users and around 100 million daily active users. This means a viral tweet can expand your market reach beyond your imagination. However, it also means a wrong tweet can ruin it all. Consider the example of Spirit Airlines tweet that helped the company to earn some serious haters on this microblogging site.
You should therefore need to be careful about what you are tweeting. Even a simple spelling error or a typo can cost you a lot. Sephora, the French cosmetic giant, for instance, committed the most vulgar faux pas we have seen till date, albeit unknowingly. When promoting an Australian Sephora store opening, the company rolled out a vulgar hashtag by mistake.
Such mistakes can jeopardise your entire brand reputation. Another thing you need to be careful about is the right timing. For example, marketers are largely adopting newsjacking, especially during major events like the Super Bowl and Oscars. Time is a big thing for newsjacking; besides, your content needs to aps. Major fashion brands like Gap and Jonathan Adler along with American Apparel and Urban Outfitters were harshly criticized for their insensible “limited time Sandy Sales” marketing ploy during the devastating Hurricane Sandy that caused 285 fatalities and left millions without power, shelter and food.
3. Always Being Promotional and Aggressive in Your Approach
Another social-media pet peeves you need to avoid is being too promotional and aggressive in your approach. Social media is all about conversation. You are building your brand reputation here and therefore your approach should be like a brand. Instead of trying to be a salesman, you need to focus on educating and empowering your target audience.
L’Oreal Paris, for example, is doing it just perfectly. As a trusted brand, the company focus more on posting informative and educational content such as insightful facts, DIY, and how-to videos etc. to promote its products and attract new fans. You can say that they are doing it absolutely right as customers have a positive outlook toward the brand.
Posting only to promote, on the other hand, is the best way to ensure that people unfriend or unfollow you on the social sphere. Talking too much or too little is another social media marketing sin. Post regularly, but do not overpost or overshare. No one likes to see same type of message again and again. Also, don’t limit yourself to text messages. Remember people are more attracted toward images, so don’t waste your words and focus on creating some interesting graphics too for your fans and followers.
Your social media marketing strategy begins with knowing your audience. Put in enough effort to identify the platforms where they are most active and study the type of content they mostly interact with. To be successful on social media you don’t really have to be a ‘lit genius,’ instead you need to know what your customers are looking for and provide the same. Of course you need to be human and sensible in your approach as social media is not just another sales funnel for your business; rather, it’s a platform to build your brand.
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