14 Social Media Mistakes to Avoid in 2014

February 26th, 2014 by Search Influence Alumni

We’ve all seen them… misfired tweets, Facebook fails, and huge national brands that just don’t get it. Last year we recapped the 12 worst social media mistakes of 2012, but brands just keep making the same errors over and over again. For 2014 we’re going to be proactive. Here are 14 mistakes to avoid this year, so that your brand isn’t ridiculed by friends, fans, followers, or the general public:

1) Avoid relating ANY holiday to your brand:

Unless you are a major fireworks distributor or 1-800-Flowers, holidays are NOT about you. Don’t force it. Even if you think your message fits in flawlessly with the holiday, chances are someone will take offense. Don’t believe me? Google MLK Day Social Media for proof.

2) Not understanding your company’s image

Banking giant J.P. Morgan decided to host a Twitter Q&A session utilizing the hashtag #AskJPM in November. Although they received thousands of amazing questions such as, “As a young sociopath, how can I succeed in Finance? #AskJPM” and “What’s it like working with Mexican drug cartels? Do they tip? #AskJPM”, the company quickly realized that Twitter was not the appropriate medium for a company discussion.

3) Using trending hashtags without first checking their meaning

Utilizing hashtags is a great way to get more eyes on your tweets, but don’t hijack trending tags without first researching the message behind them. Baked goods company Entenmann’s faced backlash after utilizing a trending hashtag without realizing that #notguilty referred to the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial.

4) Getting too political

This one practically speaks for itself. No one wants to hear outspoken thoughts about gay marriage, political candidates, or religion from a brand. Italian pasta company Barilla came under fire last year after stating that they would not feature gay families in any ads. After thousands of people tweeted at them with the hashtag #boicottabarilla, they finally issued a semi-apology (in Italian) from their brand account. The lesson here? Don’t get your brand involved in political affairs, and respond quickly if you find your company in a similar situation. Most users prefer their pasta without a side of prejudice.

5) Creating fake controversies

Real time marketing is a hot buzzword, but faking a crisis is not the way to achieve success. Brands like Chipotle and JC Penney have faked problems on their own social media networks to achieve attention. Effective real time social media campaigns react to events as they happen, not create unnecessary controversy.

6) Responding generically to complaints

If your company does something to upset a large amount of fans, you should not reply to them all with the same generic message. Either issue a blanket public apology to all of your fans, or personalize each response.

7) Not responding to negative feedback or customer questions

Not responding at all to complaints is also a bad policy. A study from Maritz Research and evolve24 found that over 50% of respondents expected a reply from a company regarding public complaints on Twitter. Deleting or ignoring complaints is not the way to approach social media management. Furthermore, if you engage with an unhappy customer, you should not stop answering them after one tweet.

8) Beginning tweets with “@” or “.@”

It might seem like beginning tweets with an “@” is Twitter 101, but tons of brands still make this mistake all the time. If you begin a tweet with a user’s handle, only that user and their followers can see it. Some companies have taken the lazy approach to combatting this problem, by adding a period before the @ symbol. Don’t do this! It looks sloppy, and if you’re getting paid to write tweets, you should be thinking about ways to word your response differently.

9) Using #too #many #hashtags #on #Instagram

This one is fairly self explanatory. Hashtags can lead to natural discovery, or can be utilized to chime in on a trend or theme (such as #TBT). Using too many hashtags in one post not only looks silly, but makes it extremely difficult to read.

10) Posting photos on Pinterest that don’t link back to your site

Pinterest can be a great platform for both small and large businesses to get their products noticed. However, pinning products without a link back to your site is a waste of everyone’s time! You want to eliminate any hassle or additional steps in the sales funnel so that someone who finds your amazing product can buy it on the spot. Pin directly from your website and see your sales soar.

11) Leaving the URL in your Facebook post

Facebook’s link preview feature is a great way to show off your links in a visually appealing and enticing way that encourages customers to click through. However, once that preview generates, delete the original link! This will clarify your posts, and allow readers to easily figure out where you want them to click.

12) Avoid using click bait to get users to read your posts

Which websites are exploiting Upworthy-style click bait to get viewers to read and share? The answer may surprise you.

13) Cross posting content from Facebook to Twitter (and vice versa)

Some companies save time by cross posting their Facebook posts to Twitter. Although this is occasionally fine, many Facebook posts are simply too long for Twitter’s 140 characters. These are shortened by including a fb.com link in the post, which defeats the purpose of the tweet. Tailor your message for each specific social media channel.

And finally…

14) Handing the keys to your channels to someone who isn’t responsible

This should go without saying, but the vast majority of brand social media fails are due to someone accidentally tweeting or posting from the wrong account. This is not a job for an unpaid intern. Make sure that whoever is running your brand’s accounts is trustworthy and reliable.