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Many businesses are increasingly comfortable with social media, and many more have decided that social media is far too important not to experiment with.

But the growing level of maturity in the world of social media doesn't mean that mistakes are uncommon. To the contrary: many businesses make the same mistakes over and over again. Here are 10 of the most common.

Overfollowing. Social media is called 'social' media for a reason, but there's nothing 'social' about following an ungodly number of users, especially in a short amount of time. Success with social media is just like marketing, sales and PR: results are achieved one victory at a time.

Using every tool available. Getting social media 'right' is harder than it looks. One of the things that's required: focus. But it's hard to focus when you try to build a presence on every popular social media website. Which is why companies should resist the urge to get involved with all the new and shiny toys and instead focus on the social media platforms that are most likely to be a good fit.

Falling off the wagon. A social media effort is easy to start, but it can be a challenge to keep going. In short, social media is a journey, not a destination. Businesses that aren't prepared for the long haul are far more likely to give up. That's not a good thing because social media is a party and the other partygoers (your customers, competitors, etc.) are likely to notice if you pass out.

Not training employees.
Social media may look easy, but it really isn't. How your employees behave can have a big impact on your company's social media reputation. For companies that are actively involved with social media, setting expectations and creating policies for employees is the best way to ensure that they help your reputation, not hurt it.

Letting the new kid or a low-level employee manage your profiles. Who should be in charge of your social media endeavors? The young employee who joined Facebook back in 2004 and who has 5,000 followers on Twitter might seem like a good choice, but chances are he or she isn't. Your social media presence is far too valuable to leave in the hands of somebody who is new, inexperienced, lacks detailed knowledge about the company or isn't heavily invested in the company's success. Putting it in the hands of anyone else can quickly lead to disaster.

Pretending that social media is free. Signing up for a Twitter account and Facebook Page, for instance, may not cost any money, but managing them (and managing them well) doesn't magically happen without an investment that can be quantified in dollars and cents. Social media will always require somebody's time and may require that certain corporate resources be allocated differently. Businesses can't ignore these costs when planning their social media strategies and evaluating what they're delivering.

Publishing first, thinking later. In the world of social media, everything you say can and will be held against you. Unfortunately, the real-time nature of many social media websites encourages a 'publish first, think later' dynamic. Companies have far too much to lose, however, and need to ensure that what's being published is accurate, honest and in line with the company's values. Sometimes, it's better not to publish.

Ignoring metrics. When it comes to social media, companies need to be comfortable experimenting. But experimentation doesn't mean that companies shouldn't define the metrics by which progress and success can be measured. Measurement is just as important with social media as it is with any other business effort.

Assuming ROI isn't possible to calculate. The three letters R-O-I often make social media proponents cringe and social media skeptics grin. Many companies buy into the notion that social media is really, really important, but a lot of them also buy into the notion that social media's value can't reasonably be calculated in terms of ROI. That's a mistake because for all of social media's virtues, any effort made by a business eventually has to produce tangible value that can be correlated the bottom line.

Expecting the world. Social media can do many great things for businesses, but it has its limitations. For instance, it isn't necessarily going to drive sales, increase brand loyalty or create buzz -- especially overnight. Getting the most out of social media requires healthy, not unrealistic, expectations.

Photo credit: David Farrell via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 31 March, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2379 more posts from this author

Comments (33)

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MediaAgility

No company, be it small or very large is immune to competition in this ever increasing competitive business environment. No longer, mere availability of good services or products is sufficient enough to attain edge over your rivals. Only way to survive is to combine your excellent offerings with ultra-savvy marketing tactics. The new marketing buzz is Social Media. In fact, it is as important to excel at social media as it used to be to just have a web presence few years ago.

over 6 years ago

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Tiffany

I'm not sure I agree with your suggestion that hiring the young or inexperienced to handle the company's social media is unwise. I agree that whoever runs social media should understand and have a passion for the company, but a young person who has grown up with social media and understands it is far more valuable than anyone who has been trained in it. I think it is very important to have someone who has lived and breathed social media as a 'user' themselves and understands its power and how to use it effectively is invaluable. 

over 6 years ago

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Jon Clements

I agree with Tiffany that age shouldn't be the dictating factor for who handles social media. In recent high profile examples of social media mess ups (think Nestle), the default assumption is "it's the intern wot done it".

However, the critical point is whether the person (younger or older) can handle the ebb and flow of conversation within the social medium they're responsible for and know how to tackle a crisis when it arises.

If you are representing a brand/company via social media, this requires PR skills. The point where I disagree with Tiffany is that "growing up with social media" qualifies you to run an online community. In fact, the freewheeling nature of personal Facebook and Twitter accounts - which is fine when your principal audience is your friends - could mean unlearning some habits before becoming the mouthpiece for an organisation with a reputation to protect as well as a community to build.

over 6 years ago

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Michael White

Very good points were made here. Not entirely sure about the 'over following' point. It is still possible to be social whilst following many users. Lists on Twitter were designed with this very purpose in mind. Of course it isn't easy to see each individual tweet but it is possible to search and still @reply.

With regards to other networking mediums, such as NetworkedBlogs on Facebook, following many other blogs is beneficial as it gives your own blog increased exposure.

Unfortunately people monitor the higher amounts, more followers, as something beneficial. This isn't the case but interactivity is king. I think this is what you were trying to say anyway.

Great post! Very interesting. 

over 6 years ago

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Sharon Mostyn

Patricio makes some very important points in this article. Just because social media is the "next big thing" doesn't mean that you can throw out every other marketing principle to strive for instant social media celebrity. I think the example about the "new kid" was based on the experience and understanding of the product/service rather than the age of the user. It is very difficult to accurately represent a company or brand when you aren't extremely well-versed in it.

over 6 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Tiffany,

In my opinion, prolific personal use of social media doesn't inherently qualify an individual to handle a company's social media presence. I could find plenty of 16 year-olds that have an impressive level of programming skill but that doesn't mean that it would make any sense for a company to hire them to build out a mission-critical web application that's going to be used by thousands of employees or vendors.

Social media sits at the intersection of sales, marketing, PR and customer service. A young person or new employee may 'get' social media, but for them to be capable of managing a company's social media presence, they realistically need real-world working experience in at least one of those areas (preferably more).

over 6 years ago

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Phi P.

Excellent insight on how to use social media for an organization. I think companies tend to try to be everywhere at once when a new cool social media tool pops up. Yes, you may be exposing yourself to a lot of new viewers, but you are not engaging your viewers and getting interaction. The slow long process of building up a community is necessary if you want viewers to be loyal followers and not just numbers. I have started building the Community Lab facebook (http://www.facebook.com/communitylab) and this information will be real useful as we develop as an organization. Thanks!

over 6 years ago

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Brian

I think you have highlighted that social media needs to be approached in a professional manner if you want to use it professionally. Just like every other aspect of a business.

You have made some excellent points and I think the comments about the young guy being let loose with the company reputation has been misunderstood slightly.

I think the point you were making was that whoever is assigned to take control of the social media aspect needs to know what they are doing from the company perspective, not a personal one. So selecting the right person for the job is crucial and actually might be the young guy if he right for the task.

over 6 years ago

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Greg

Patricio,

Thanks for your insightful article.  I am new to social media and your article brings out some things that I need to think about before I act.  Social media tools are just that...tools.  And a tool has to be used correctly to be safe and effective. 

Greg

over 6 years ago

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Science Girl

What kind of role can social media potentially play in an academic environment (ie. at the outreach, PR, marketing level of a faculty within a university) ? How would you approach it? Do the same preceding principles outlined in this post hold true for, say, a Faculty that is experimenting with social media in an attempt to engage the student body and the community?

over 6 years ago

Corinna Witt

Corinna Witt, Owner at Corinna Witt : e-conceptory

Excellent post! Thanks, Patricio.

over 6 years ago

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Mike Smith

I particularly like #2: Using every tool available. Great point. I think that as a whole, social media is emerging from its "shiny new toy" phase, so hopefully on a bigger scale, this will become less of an issue. It is becoming "we have the toy. We've played with it. Now we can start fine tuning its application instead of marveling at its newness."

over 6 years ago

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Joe Buhler

Very true and valid comments. Unfortunately, it seems, too many companies are still not following this advice and especially when it comes to allocation of resources, both human and financial they are failing. The other factor overlooked is the long term commitment necessary to establish a credible presence on the social web. Shortcuts won't bring success and neither will the all too often observed focus on the tactical tools rather than an objective based strategy.

over 6 years ago

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Alex Roe

Some excellent insight here. It's very tempting to jump on the social media bandwagon, but, as mentioned here, it is not all plain sailing. Getting an intern to manage things may be OK - provided you send him or her on a training course first, and supervise them too. As for all the tools - and there are zillions of them, you do need to experiment, but then prune and focus on those which do produce results/ROI. Regarding ROI - the investment is often time, which is money, whereas the return is more difficult to measure, and may not be evident initially. Social media can achieve quite a few ends, such as increasing sales, raising brand awareness, establishing and maintaining brands etc, etc. However, it can also do great damage -if not monitored carefully, and if some kind of 'crisis management' strategy is not decided upon - preferably before the poo hits the fan. I like to think of social media as being the 'spokes on a hub', with the hub being your business and your objectives. At the end of the day though, social media is very new, and not too much is certain - aside from how disastrous errors can be. Best, Alex, a Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, Flickr, LinkedIn, Buzz, Friendfeed etc etc user.

over 6 years ago

Billie Andersen

Billie Andersen, User Experience Consultant at Foviance

Great article.

I think one of the most important points is training employees. As mentioned in the points above, just because people are famliar with social media, it does not mean they are able to use social media to represent a company for activities like marketing or customer service. People are trained for most other aspects of their job so why not this?

Training employees also works on different levels by bringing them on board and engaging them with whatever strategy a company is trying to acheive. Ingraining the use of such technologies within the culture will give them more chance of success.

over 6 years ago

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CHATTR

which is money, whereas the return is more difficult to measure, and may not be evident initially. Social media can achieve quite a few ends, such as increasing sales, raising brand awareness, establishing and maintaining brands etc, etc. However, it can also do great damage -if not monitored

over 6 years ago

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Internet Marketing

Well said while we are working on social media we should be very careful.Excellent article on social media.Great insight.

over 6 years ago

Neil Warren

Neil Warren, Publisher at 2N Media Ltd - ModernSelling.com

Excellent blog Patricio, as ever, and spectacularly true with this comment...

"Social media sits at the intersection of sales, marketing, PR and customer service"

...which is precisely why we are banging on and on about getting some serious, top-flight, trusted advisor, go-to-guy/gal, "sales" people involved.

It should end up with a situation where "the internet" is simply added to "the telephone" and "the car" as a communication platform where sales people can meet, greet, inform, interest, advise and help their curious prospects. It has a greater bias towards "pull" sales & marketing than "push", of course, but I think we all want an end to the worst excesses of "cold calling" via the phone anyway. It's a useless activity for the bulk of sales people, as well as the buyers, of course.

But there is nothing new in the principle of laying out an attractive stall, locating it elegantly/stylishly in the busier market squares, and letting punters walk up to you to see if you can solve their (surprising yet burning) "need" for a lovely bunch of ripe bananas.

over 6 years ago

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Ashish Sharma

Working With ,a href="http://www.seo-smo.net/category/social-media/">Social Media Promotion need proper skills and focus...Social Media can turns up to a juicy business aspect for Business promoters...

over 6 years ago

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Osman Yarjah

I may have agree with Shama, But my comment is that Social media must be able teach the Morale ethics and basic value of communication to clustered audience thereby  ensuring the measument of events.

over 6 years ago

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Gerrit Janssens

This is great advice, and I totally agree with the realistic expectations and metrics.

I find social media work best when you behave like you are in a real conversation. This means it's no place for hard selling, but a great way to build deeper relationships that may, in the end, result in more sales.

over 6 years ago

louise robertson

louise robertson, Chief Marketing Officer at Palm Tree Technology

Some excellent advice, but I have to agree with the comment 'prolific personal use of social media doesn't inherently qualify an individual to handle a company's social media presence.' 

Social media sits at the intersection of sales, marketing, PR and customer service, it need monitoring and a simple matrix I have a matrix I use that works well for us at the moment.

Would suggest reading,David Meerman Scott- The New Rules of Marketing and PR and Guy Clappertons 'This is Social Media'.

Internet World is at Earls Court next week and a great number of the sessions are focused on Social Media and how to use it.

over 6 years ago

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Rob

Great post, thanks Patricio.

over 6 years ago

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Brian Ellefritz

Patricio,

After several years of reading blog posts on cautionary tales for social media practitioners this is one of the most concise and useful lists I've seen.  Thanks so much, will be sharing this with our teams here at SAP. 

Best regards,

Brian Ellefritz, SAP Social Media Marketing

over 6 years ago

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Easywriting

This is a good post, really useful. I have taken a lot from it but I also have some of my own views .. in agreement and some in non agreement. I hope you do not mind but I am going to write a short post on my blog referencing and expanding on your 10 pointers. Aimee http://www.easywriting.co.uk

over 6 years ago

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SEM Freak

Many of the sentiments above are often reflected in the recruitment approach taken by many companies looking for Social Media personnel. They often miss the essential element - engagement - the simple concept of having company and industry knowledge and the ability to engage with relevant audiences.

A key challenge for all Marketeers is to ensure other functions understand the objectives of Social Media and that it is not a box to be ticked so we can say we are keeping up with our competitors. 

about 6 years ago

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Adrian Goodsell

Great post Patricio, thanks.

I agree with all of your points here.

I'd like to propose an 11th (if I may be so bold)...

Forgetting that great ideas and content are still the most important part of any marketing strategy.

Social media has given us a wonderful new range of tools and networks through which we can disseminate ideas, amplify messages and intimately engage with our audiences in ways we couldn't have imagined before. When harnessed well it can be tremendously powerful. But at the heart of every successful social media strategy is a series of good ideas. Ideas are our true currency as marketers; it's important to remember that social media networks and tools - despite the current hype - are often merely environments and/or a means of execution. They will not (and won't ever) replace the need for fresh, exciting ideas, stories and content.  

Cheers, Adrian (@adigoodsell)

about 6 years ago

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Brett Widmann

This is a great article. Posting too much info can be a hazard as well.

over 5 years ago

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record phone calls

Ive been preaching these points for a long time to the newbies that join us.

also, the only thing worse that no social media presence is a bad one!

about 5 years ago

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Bill - Lawn Mower Reviews

Hi Patricio,
Thanks for the interesting post. Some really good points here about social media, particularly the last one where people expect the world. I think a lot of folks get caught up with the hype and hysteria of facebook and twitter etc, and think they are going to make millions by doing nothing.
It all takes work, and as you say building brand loyalty and trust takes time.
Thanks again for the read. Some really good points here to pass on to my employees.
All the best
Bill Jenkins
Webmaster, bestlawnmowerreviews.net

about 5 years ago

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Eric Franco

It is very recommended notes to be marked. These days, reputation of the companies are depending on the social media. Thanks for the good warning.

about 5 years ago

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blackberry geminis 3g

I don't disagree with this article

almost 5 years ago

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العاب واي

This is a great article. Posting too much info can be a hazard as well.

over 3 years ago

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