During the last decade social media became an increasingly powerful tool for branding and marketing. The networks provide ready made audiences for the brand's message, and the cost of utilizing social media for a campaign is very low. The ease of entry into social media marketing causes many business owners to believe that they can jump right into a campaign and have immediate success, but they fail to understand the complexity of social media and the amount of research and preparation that must go into social media marketing. When starting out in social media there are five pitfalls business owners must avoid.
- Failure to understand the audience: Social media platforms are as varied as the markets companies are trying to reach. Facebook is a wide platform that can reach most demographics; however, younger people are drifting away from Facebook and spend more time on Twitter or Instagram. Female consumers often prefer Pinterest, while males dominate Google+. The company must decide which networks to target, typically no more than two or three, based on the type of consumer they wish to attract.
- Failure to use posting etiquette: The key component of social media marketing is the number and quality of posts. Companies that post too often get ignored by consumers, who feel the company is flooding their news feed with useless junk. On the other hand, if there are not enough posts, consumers lose interest. A good rule of thumb is a single daily post on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+, and multiple posts per day on sites like Twitter or Instagram.
- Failure to communicate: Consumers love social media because it gives them an opportunity to interact with their favorite brands. They can ask questions, post complaints and get almost instantaneous feedback, all of which enhances customer loyalty. Companies who see social media only as a platform to spread a brand message, and neglect interaction with their customers will soon find their follower counts eroding. Social media is a two-way street and at least one person in the company should be assigned to engaging with consumers daily.
- Failure to create a call to action: Too often companies get distracted by posting, sharing and the number of followers they have in their network, and forget that the real purpose of social media marketing is to drive sales. Posts that don't prompt consumers to investigate the products or services the company offers any further than the shared content will not reap any substantial return on investment.
- Failure to monitor: Finally, social media campaigns are run by people, and sometimes they post messages or links that can harm the brand or the company's image. Part of social media marketing is staying on top of the posts and the responses so that business owners can respond decisively to negative posts. Never allow a social media campaign to operate without supervision; that's a surefire way to get embroiled in controversy.
Social media is a necessity for modern businesses, both as a way to communicate with consumers, and as a platform for sharing the brand's message. Using the right approach, companies can have success in the social media space, growing the brand faster than ever.