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Seven common mistakes when starting out in Social Media:

Social Media Fails

Every business owner goes through the process, regardless of size or experience.  The first thing they do is get a website and try their hand at SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Then they create a Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn page, Google+ account, Pinterest and proceed to advertise, push, post and pray.  This is where things can go wrong. I am as guilty as anyone else, and when it comes to social media, the best way to learn is through experience.  Below are a few tips I have developed through my experience and my own mistakes.

 

1) do not pollute your page with “keywords”. Keywords are important for search engines but more is not necessarily better. Your content should be relevant and readable, regardless of the number of keywords you have. Really, it doesn’t matter how many “hits” you get if the average page duration (time on site) is less than 5-seconds. Keep your content tight,  relevant and focus your keywords on your key product or service.  If you are looking at optimizing, there are tools in Google Analytics that can help you determine keywords based on your business, website traffic in your area and your competition.  A good place to start for drilling down to useful keywords for your site is located here:  Google – targeting keywords On a side note, it is always a good idea to look at a small ad on Google as well. Studies have shown that people are more likely to click on an organic search over a paid search, however, they are even more likely to click on a site that appears under BOTH the paid and organic search terms.

2) Facebook is a friend focused environment, and those promoting a business should tread lightly.  When you launch your corporate page, the first mistake to make (yes I have made this mistake) is to invite all of your friends and everyone in even your most remote social circle, to your “fantastic new page”. Now if it were just you inviting your friends, that would be less of an issue. The problem arises when you, and every other person on Facebook, creates a page, or a group, and then invites their friends. Quickly this tactic becomes less friendly and more annoying, until your friends not only stop “liking” your page, but they stop “liking” you.  Instead, create your page and post that it exists (how exciting!) in your timeline.  Invite a handful, I do mean, your MOST loyal and understanding friends who agree to act as ambassadors, to like, follow, and if so desire, share your page.  If you want to expand your fans, consider a targeted Facebook ad. They are cost-effective, and allow you to focus on very specific demographics and interests. The key with Facebook is not to get hung up on quantity but quality.

3) Twitter is a running conversation, and many people who “dabble” never quite grasp its usefulness either for business or for personal.  There are a few things you need to consider when creating account.  The first is that I recommend a personal and a business account: one for your personal interests, and one very specific to what your business is about. Second, make people aware of both…it should not be a secret as secrets in the social media world will get you into trouble. That said, think before you tweet as it may come back to haunt you. Third, don’t get hung up on followers or who you are following.  What you will find is that who is following your thread is secondary to topic hashtags (#) and lists, which are far more important than your followers.  I highly recommend you download TweetDeck, a free software that allows you to sort information and followers based on topics via lists and hashtags.  If you get  a handle on this, you will get a handle on Twitter.  Click here to view, learn more and download TweetDeck by Twitter.

4) Twitter spam and Direct Message spam. These two things fall into the common mistakes made on Twitter and they are an absolute no-no. I personally do not read my direct messages any longer as they are nothing more than automated, unrelated spam messages. This is unfortunate as it is a useful service that has been cursed by crappy SMO’s pushing numbers without consideration of the medium. Instead, avoid direct messages as a form of communication and instead, do @replies. Be personal and be real, and share other’s information, not just your sales pitch. In fact, avoid your sales pitch altogether, unless of course you have a killer sale, but otherwise, focus on information that is useful and gives a personality to you and your business.

5) Pinterest for business is a relatively new area in the business arena, and it has a use but again, caution. No one is interested in a storyboard of your business and what you are offering. Pinterest is the opportunity to further personalize your business by expanding on its base to explore other options.  As an example, an antique shop may pin artifacts found online, interesting geographic sites, designers who cater to their concepts, landscapers and a whole host of related business that is of interest to that business, and also those who would shop there. narcissism doesn’t float here (or anywhere online really.)

6) LinkedIn is a business network, and as a business network, it makes sense that your business should be there. Invite staff to join and share relevant articles. You can also explore HR and hiring through LinkedIn and this is probably one of the most useful methods of finding employees who are in the field but perhaps not actively seeking to move. What you do NOT want to do with LinkedIn is to try to “Link” with everyone under the sun. The idea is to manage your connections carefully, just as you would your personal business network in your everyday life. You are who you know, and the online world is no exception.

7) Google+ is also relatively new, and an under-explored territory for most business. This is less of a what NOT to do, than a TO DO, and what I recommend is to create a Google+ account as a person who owns a business.  People connect with people, therefore, come into Google + as a person first, a business second. Firstly, the connection with Google is an obvious one, and if you are looking to be found on Google, a Google+ account is a no brainer. What is useful with Google+ is that you can create “circles” based on interests and connections.  This allows you to find and share with others who have similar interests and who are able and willing to both read your content and share their own ideas. This is a great place to connect and interact with people who are linked to you by interest, which is not easily done on Facebook and is limited by 140 characters on Twitter.

 

These seven tips merely scratch the surface of Social Media and business in the social sphere. What is key is to try to remove your message and your business from the “tools of trade” and think of it as personalization. As I mentioned above and can not stress enough, people connect with people. If you are presenting your business online, you are also connecting on a personal level, and the business’ that will have the greatest success are the business’ who have good people at the helm. It is this reason that I believe that social media is perfect for small to medium-sized business. It will be a constant battle for the McD’s of the world to capture this audience as it will always face skepticism and the evident profit motive. Social media and media in general has long dispelled the myths of Colonel Saunders and Ronald McDonald…(the first guy isn’t talking and the second guy isn’t real). The new world of media demands real people, living and breathing, with a story to tell and if you are one of those, your business should do very well with social media.