Social is hard. We get it. But fret no longer, we come with solutions… 10 to be exact. They’ll cover the biggest mistakes we see small businesses making on social media. As an added bonus, they (almost) all cost zero dollars.

1. Being inconsistent

This no-no is three-fold, but let’s start with the importance of maintaining a consistent posting cadence. We’re not saying you should publish the exact same number of posts on the exact same day and time each week, but sticking to a pattern can help your brand stay at the top of your followers’ minds (and feeds). Establishing a consistent framework can also help you stay on track and alleviate the pressure of on-the-fly content creation.

Inconsistency can also come in the form of brand voice and visual aesthetic. If it sounds like multiple people are writing or producing your content, it makes it harder for current and potential fans to relate to your brand—which is one of the key purposes of using social media in the first place. Building a style guide early on is an invaluable exercise that will make it easier for staff members to collaborate on social media content creation.

ducksinarow

2. Not defining your strategy

Style guides are crucial, but only account for a fraction of a social media content strategy. Identifying your primary social platforms, content themes, audience targets, and hashtags will help you ensure that your efforts are making a valuable contribution to your marketing goals.

Knowing your target audience is the first step toward building a solid strategy document. Fortunately Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram Business Accounts all offer free ways to do a little harmless stalking into your audience’s demographic, interests, and behaviors. Use this data to inform your brand voice, content themes, and platforms.

Define the Strategy

3. Not establishing goals and KPIs

#Goals: you can’t create a very effective social media strategy without ‘em. Each of the most common social media goals—Awareness, Engagement, and Direct Response—have unique key performance indicators (KPIs) associated with them that will help you measure and evaluate your content’s efficacy, and inform the calls to action you write into your post copy. For example, if you’re looking for more traditional engagements (likes, comments, shares) to strengthen your relationship with your fans, you might end every post with an open-ended question or statement like, “Tell us your favorite way to stay active during the summer!” If you’re more focused on driving clicks, that call to action might switch to “Check out these deals to save on fitness classes this summer!”

Just as you can’t launch a paid Facebook campaign without first selecting your marketing objective, you shouldn’t produce content without first considering your goal for the post.

clear KPIs

4. Ignoring the numbers

Data drives strategy. Thus, taking the time to evaluate the performance of your social media content is invaluable to the success of your accounts. Fortunately, in addition to free audience insights tools, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, also offer free reporting tools to help you understand the fruits of your labor.

Upon gathering these metrics on a monthly and quarterly basis (recommended), you’ll be able to draw insights which will allow you to make data-driven optimizations to your social strategy. For example, are certain content themes outperforming others? Does different content resonate better with fans on one channel more than another? Taking the time to reflect on these insights will not only help you identify opportunities for content optimization, they’ll also provide tactical examples for your brand’s success on social.

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5. Not responding to comments

From customer support to surprise and delight, community management is the gateway to your fandom. You may be tempted to hide—or worse—delete negative comments from unhappy customers. Don’t. Just as you wouldn’t ignore a disgruntled customer who approached you with a complaint in-store, you shouldn’t overlook an opportunity to make it right on social either. In fact, responding to negative comments with a sincere apology and solution can be instrumental to repairing your relationship with a potentially loyal customer.

respond to comments

6. Waiting for fans to come to you

Hashtags are more powerful than you might think. While they may get abused or misused by the average social media user, hashtags are actually quite valuable. Every hashtag serves as its own unique search and categorization tool. For example, if you look at the hashtag #MondayMotivation on Instagram, you’ll see millions (actually) of posts that feature something inspiring to the poster. It works the same way for your business. Say you own an ice cream shop. Without being prompted, your fans could very well be posting pics of their cones on Instagram along with #DonaldsIceCreamShop. Try going on to Twitter or Instagram and searching your business name’s hashtag from your business account—yes right now. You just might find content posted by your most loyal fans. Use that as an opportunity to thank them for their post, resolve a concern, or just give it a double tap. Doing so will let them know you’re actually active on the platform and could result in a new follower.

You don’t [always] need a clever hashtag to associate with your social content either. In fact, going with the obvious choice—like your business name—is actually more valuable in the early days.

UGC

7. Posting the same content on every platform

People use different social media channels for different types of content—and so should you! While Twitter is known as more of a hub for real-time trending content, users are flocking to Instagram to catalog their stylized, picturesque moments, and to Facebook for their BIG life updates. As you map out which messages are most important (and relevant) for your social channels, assess which platform is most appropriate along the way.

While it might be easier to throw the same photo and post copy up on every platform to save time, that’s not always the smartest way to connect with your fans. Remember those content themes we mentioned up there? In addition to defining those themes, think about which platform makes the most sense for each one. Perhaps “Promotions” are limited to Facebook Dark Ads, “Behind the Scenes” content makes more sense for Instagram, and “Lifestyle” works for all channels. Use your best judgement your your business when developing your strategy, and refine your approach as you start to see patterns in your reporting.

treat each platform differently

8. Promoting your product too hard

You know that friend who won’t stop talking about herself? Yeah, no one wants to hang out with that girl. Keep this in mind when composing copy for your social posts. Stray away from “we this” and “we that,” and pepper in some “you guys” and “our fans” to demonstrate that you put your audience first.

We’re not saying that your social content should be absent of any direct written or visual mentions of your brand. It’s just important to once again remember the nature of the platforms you’re using. Users are looking for authenticity, so it’s okay to humanize your business for a second and share content that can help your followers connect with your brand on a more relatable level. Maybe this means resharing user-generated content that you discovered through your hashtag search (with the user’s permission, of course). Or maybe you decide to post a series of portraits of your employees who are working hard to give customers the best experience. No matter what you decide, just remember that it’s not all about you.

be humble

9. Not promoting your product enough

Brands only have so much time to capture fans’ attention as they scroll through their newsfeeds, seconds in fact. Facebook’s advice for getting the most eyeballs on your content? Bringing your brand to the forefront. Their studies have shown that including more branded elements or products within mobile video ad content can actually improve Ad Recall performance. At the same time, it’s important to remain succinct with your messaging. Because even if you do grab their attention, you can only count on keeping it for a few seconds. On average, Facebook reports that mobile users spend an average of 1.7 seconds with a piece of content compared to 2.5 on desktop. So while you should always strive for authenticity, it doesn’t mean that you should abandon all references of your brand. It’s all about balance.

fb post

10. Treating your feed like your personal account

Say it with me, “My brand’s social media accounts and my personal social media accounts are two different things.” Feel better? I feel better. While spur of the moment selfies might work on your personal Instagram account, there’s a good chance they won’t click with your brand’s audience. If you find your brand’s account falling into that gray area between personal and business, it’s okay! There are plenty of ways to course correct. Take Instagram, for example. The memory-sharing platform recently introduced Archive, a feature that allows Instagram users to remove a post from their public feed without deleting the content for good. Brands might consider archiving posts that are no longer reflective of their social media strategy, or are simply poor quality.

Conclusion

This summer we invited small business owners and entrepreneurs to the ISL office for a series of knowledge sharing workshops designed to help them optimize their digital marketing efforts for success. Together with fellow content strategist Lauren Zoltick, I presented “Mastering Social Media,” which uncovered the who, what, where, when, and why of small business social media strategy. Business owners left with an understanding of social media best practices including how to understand their audience, develop a brand voice, and maximize content reach. The list of 10 mistakes scrapes the surface in terms of proactive solutions, but our deck, which you can find here, dives deep into how you can further improve your social media presence. I encourage you check it out. Past that, hit me up with any questions: kim@isl.co.