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Too many businesses seem to forget customer service and best practice as soon as they venture online. They behave as though any sales behaviour is allowed via the internet.

In fact, with so many people relying on the web for shopping, socialising and research, these companies risk alienating huge numbers of people and damaging their corporate reputations.

So what kind of bad behaviour is most common and is your organisation guilty?


One of the newer social platforms to be used for online marketing, Twitter is already host to some abysmal practice.

Many businesses forget that it’s designed to be a social tool and they market at users relentlessly.

Of course, an additional danger with Twitter is that people can share their frustrations with their followers very easily, so mis-using this platform can be particularly bad for your reputation.

For example, some major brands have been slammed for using popular newsworthy hashtags to advertise their products. Negative comments on Twitter can spread like wildfire if you’ve behaved badly.

Here are a few more things to avoid. Make sure any marketing agency you use avoids them too:

  • Tweeting marketing and advertising comments but nothing else.
  • Failing to respond to genuine questions or criticisms.
  • Spamming people simply because they’ve used a term you think is relevant.
  • Following thousands of people in the hopes of generating more follows back.

All these common mistakes show that the business has not grasped the subtler purpose of Twitter.

Email marketing

The good news is that many companies have considerably improved their email marketing, partly because of legal requirements.

But many still burn out their contacts by misusing their details.

Here are a few of the most common reasons you’ll lose customer trust and damage your brand:

  • Emailing irrelevant offers.
  • Passing on their email addresses without permission.
  • Sending too many emails.
  • Failing to protect your data.
  • Not offering an easy unsubscribe option.
  • Landing in the spam/junk folder.


I spend so much time extolling the marketing and networking virtues of a blog but it’s important to remember that it has to be done well to be of benefit.

Done badly, a blog can make your organisation look unprofessional or spammy and your staff badly educated.

A bad blog is not better than no blog at all. In fact, you’d be better off forgetting the whole thing if you don’t have the resources to do it well.

So, here are the most common mistakes and issues that I see on corporate blogs:

  • Sales pitches instead of useful, informative articles.
  • Irrelevant or useless content.
  • Attention-grabbing or alarmist headlines that aren’t backed up by the content.
  • Errors in spelling and grammar.
  • Rarely posting so the blog looks uncared for.

Paid search

There are few things as satisfying within the online marketing sphere as paid advertising.

You put money in and you get a specific number of visitors and an easily measured return.

The more you refine the terms you want to bid on, the more relevant your visitors are, making them more likely to convert.

But even in this, some businesses make mistakes that risk alienating their potential clients and wasting their investment.

Most paid search mistakes will simply cost you money and waste your investment, but there are errors you can make that alienate your visitors and damage your brand.

Here are just a few:

  • Bidding on vague terms, meaning you’re unlikely to give the visitor what they want.
  • Advertising around contentious subjects, for example, a national newspaper bidding on ‘Madeleine Mccann’.
  • Placing ads around specific products that you don’t have in stock.
  • Advertising a specific product but then taking clickers to an irrelevant or generic page.
Kevin Gibbons

Published 14 June, 2011 by Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons is UK Managing Director at digital marketing agency BlueGlass. He is also known as an SEO speaker and can be found on Twitter and Google+.

102 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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Nick Stamoulis

When it comes to running a company blog, you really should aim to create informative and educational posts. A promotional post every now and again is fine because, hey, it's your blog. But a lot of fluff and thinly veiled sales pitches won't help you in the long run.

over 5 years ago

Robert Shaw

Robert Shaw, CEO at Epiphany

Couldn't agree more.
Before I worked in Search I worked in the Contact Center industry and it amazes me how many large organisations are either missing the point when interacting with their customers on-line or doing it so badly it would be better to remain silent.
I also find it amazing that many of these companies are letting their Marketing departments control the social media accounts (Twitter & Facebook most commonly) when it's actually the customer service staff that are best placed to deal with this consumer facing channel.

I've seen several examples of brands attempting to deal with customer queries or complaints via Twitter. Many seem to forget that this is a public medium and they are 'airing their dirty laundry in public'. It is so much simpler when dealing with a query or complaint in the social media to get the customer on the phone wherever possible and deal with the issue once and for all. If you do a good job the consumer may well praise you openly. If they are unhappy and you deal with them badly in public then it is there for all to see.

I think this is a big area that the large companies are get to fully grasp.

over 5 years ago

Suzanne Tennant

Suzanne Tennant, Digital Programmes Manager at BBH

I don't actually see anything wrong with following thousands of people on Twitter, as long as those you follow are carefully chosen and you believe they may genuinely be interested in your business. Please can you explain why you think this is a common mistake?

over 5 years ago


michelle carvill

What seems to often get forgotten with online marketing - and certainly with social marketing, is the fact that effective marketing really needs to be targeted. The social platforms are rich in conversations - but cutting through the noise is vital. You certainly don't want to be rambling aimlessly on Twitter - bad for brand and bad for the channel. With regards to blogging - I'm a passionate blogger - and pretty much blog daily. (Yes, there's always something of value to share). What tends to be missing from most businesses - is a 'content strategy' - the 'media' bit of the social is critically important. Sharing irrelevant info is a waste of effort - what businesses should be doing is providing compelling, useful, newsworthy, shareworthy content that enables those interacting with it to like you, trust you, want to hear more, talk about you and ultimately do business with you. Whether it's a blog post, a Twitter post, a YouTube video, a Facebook offer or ad - ensure it's targeted and compelling. Anything other is a total waste of effort.

over 5 years ago

Neil Warren

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

"...I also find it amazing that many of these companies are letting their Marketing departments control the social media accounts (Twitter & Facebook most commonly) when it's actually the customer service staff that are best placed to deal with this consumer facing channel...."

Hear, hear Robert. And even more so in B2B, where a "trusted adviser" is needed, rather than a brochure.

over 5 years ago


Emma Wensley

Hi Suzanne,

Following thousands of people is irrelevant - they're only going to see your message if they decide to follow you back. And the more people you follow, the more 'noise' you have to filter through to see that customer who actually wants to talk to you. That's my opinion on why it's a mistake anyway!

over 5 years ago

Suzanne Tennant

Suzanne Tennant, Digital Programmes Manager at BBH

Emma, anyone using Twitter management tools to track relevant keywords and brand mentions etc, probably won't be using the home feed as a main monitoring tool, and so excess noise will not be a problem.

Following people is one of the best ways of alerting them to your presence, they may not choose to follow you back, but if they don't know you are there in the first place they certainly won't choose to follow you.

I do not at all think there is any point in following people for the sake of it, it's a huge waste of time, but I disagree that it is a "mistake" to follow a large number of people as I don't believe it will do you any harm.

over 5 years ago

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