Five Social Media Marketing Mistakes

A few days ago, Mashable had a good post about the five marketing mistakes made on Facebook, which inspired me to create a list on the five social media mistakes overall.

1. Unrealistic expectations. Even though there may be less hype about social media, many companies still believe it is a silver bullet or magical solution that will generate fantastic results in a short period of time – be it more sales, better customer service, more Web site traffic or more buzz. It often means companies are disappointed when they don’t get instant gratification from their social media efforts. As a result, they lose their enthusiasm for social media or abandon it altogether.

2. Not recognizing there is a lot of grunt work involved. Social media just doesn’t happen. It requires an awful lot of work on a day in, day out basis. After the strategic plan has been created, the real work starts to happen when the tactical plan is executed. It requires someone to invest the hours to create content, engage with consumers, build a community and establish a vibrant presence.

3. Adopting a shot gun approach in which multiple social media services are launched at the same time based on the idea more is better. What usually happens is companies spread themselves too thin and, as a result, their efforts are, at best, mediocre. Instead, they should focus on doing less but doing it as well as possible. Only after establishing some traction should additional social media services be considered.

4. Not listening. In the scheme of things, listening is one of the most important things a company can do on social media. As much as creating content and engagement are crucial, listening is a key element because it offers companies insight, information and intelligence to effectively target their social media efforts. Too many companies are so intent on talking that they forget about listening, or make it a secondary consideration.

5. Creating social media as a standalone or silo-ed activity. Social media can do a lot of wonderful things but it can’t succeed or even establish a solid foothold without support from other parts of the organization. Many companies, however, think social media is so magical it doesn’t need any support to thrive. Some of the common mistakes include not highlighting their social media services prominently on the Web site, or not mentioning social media within sales or marketing collateral. In an ideal world, social media supports a company’s other activities, AND a company’s other activities support social media.

Any other common mistakes that companies make? Leave a comment to let us know.

14 Comments on “Five Social Media Marketing Mistakes”

  1. In addition to listening, you need to make sure reactions don’t seem too canned/automatic. Saying that you’re ‘listening’ just doesn’t cut it. Social media users – in fact, people in general – aren’t stupid. They’re more savvy than ever. Take for example this recent exchange on Odeon’s Facebook page:

    Having posts deleted as ‘spam’ and then having a carbon copy ‘we’re listening’ response means that this customer is even more unsatisfied with Odeon’s level of service.

    1. Hamid,

      Totally agree that listening needs to involve being authentic. In other words, you really need to listen as opposed to going through the motions. Thanks for the comment.


  2. Hi Mark,

    Hi Mark,

    Another common mistake that is implicit in your list is that companies are not clear about why they are using social media. Many don’t really know why they are using social media – they just believe that they better get on the bandwagon. I think this lack of clarity comes from a reactive (fear-based) rather than a proactive response to the discovery of a new, potential income stream. I’ve experienced this reactivity with organizations when they discover that they might be able to get an infusion of revenue from any income stream – not just social media.

    1. When I talk to companies about social media, the first question I ask is why they want to do social media. It’s amazing the responses that they give! Mark

  3. As usual Mark, you hit the nail on the head. It is very easy to dump content all at once when those other departments do something specifically for social media. The expectation that follows is often for a quick turn around and immediate listings of the new material. This can be problematic for controlling frequency of posts for multiple social media services at one time.

    While these problems can arise, most can be averted with communication as well as the ability to compromise. By crafting realistic expectations everyone should be able to benefit.


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  5. Great words of wisdom here.

    Another piece of advice I’d add to this, is properly valuing the role social media plays in your company. In many cases, this is your business’ front line communications with the public, and a such should not be managed by an intern, just as you wouldn’t have an intern act as your publicist.

    1. Erica,

      Too many companies make a mistake by hiring someone green or cheap. In the end, you usually get what you pay for. Thanks for the comment.


  6. HI Mark and 5 good points… In my experience,you can add the following to this list….1. Companies dont actually discuss or work out why they actually want to be on Twitter / facebook etc in the 1st place… no clear ideas,strategy or reasons to be active in the space…

    2. They have no idea who to select to ‘do the stuff’ Your right social media takes a fair amount of effort, work & dedication… Most companies usually select the youngest person in the room as that person… wrong… You need to find ‘the business champion’…. they are the best person to perfom this task…

    and finally.. 3. success What is it, what does it look like and how will you measure it.. again, many companies have no idea on what a successful social media campaign is… and by the way it is not how many followers you get….


  7. how do you get followers?

    I know there are your FB friends, and posting on your website, but, how does a small, new, small budgeted company expand their customer base?

  8. @Soph: One thing that seems to be working for us is focusing on areas our customers are going to for information. By thinking like your costumer you will place yourself as a resource of information concerning their needs. Identify your customer base and become involved in part of the organic conversation.

    As a photography studio we strive to not only focus on photo news but also what is going on with advertising and packaging. Being involved in the conversation as opposed to just advertising, places our expertise and resources in an easily accessible place. I don’t know if that approach works for everyone in every industry, but it has proven successful for us.


  9. Mark as you are aware conversati­ons are taking place today all over the social web that impact your/our business – whether you are a large commercial Enterprise­, a government department responsibl­e for executing policy and programs, a Small or Medium business trying to grow your business; or a Not for Profit organisati­on perhaps trying to influence government policy.

    Any and all of these organisati­ons today must have a ‘Listening­’ capability – the ability to ‘hear’ these conversati­ons on the social web and in turn be able to analyse the resultant data to understand the impact of those conversati­ons on sales, service, marketing, product developmen­t, policy formulatio­n, policy execution and to understand the behavior and impact of customers, citizens, influencer­s and other conversati­ons on your actions.

    The social web and social media have a remarkable depth of informatio­n. It is possible to uncover detailed informatio­n on sentiment, demographi­cs, locations, influencer­s, reach, amplificat­ion and more through the capturing and analysis of online conversati­ons in social media.

    “If a conversati­on took place on the social web and you weren’t there to hear it did it really take place?”

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