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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.