The social media mistakes you need to avoid

Social media is a very powerful tool for your small business, but it can be easy to get wrong. Rick Jesse of Startup Stickers reveals the silly mistakes you should avoid.

When you’re building a small business brand there is nothing more powerful – and cost-effective – than social media.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can take your small local company around the world in a few clicks. One minute you could be sitting at your laptop in Chester and the next you could have a global fan base of millions.

There are many social media experts talking about monetising your audience or finding influencers to grow your sales. This article will explore the common mistakes small business brands make along with how you can fix them.

Inconsistent branding

One of the errors I see regularly is the use of different logos across social media platforms, sometimes with different fonts, colours and orientation.

You’ve heard the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. This is also true when it comes to branding. A logo is a representation of everything your company does – it can sum up a customer’s experiences of your brand in a millisecond in their mind.

Being consistent with your logo and other branding elements means customers can easily find you and you appear to be a stable, trustworthy business to your audience. If you are inconsistent with your visual brand, what messages might it be sending to them?

On a positive note, branding is one of the easiest and quickest things you can do to improve your business. Within the space of 15 minutes, you could have all your social media channels looking consistent. You might not want to pay thousands to an agency for a brilliant design; just be sure that you’re consistent with whatever branding you do have.

A logo should easily identify and convey what you are and what you do

Inconsistent usernames

This is a much trickier subject and requires thought and possibly some technical help, depending on your expertise.

Usernames or handles (the name which follows the @ symbol) are a unique identifier of your account on a social media platform. The key thing is to standardise them across all platforms. These usernames allow you to tag or mention someone on a platform and are a great way of seeing who or what your audience is talking about.

Having the same username across all platforms means your customers/fans always know where to find you. And it makes it a whole load easier to market with one single username instead of having to list all of your variations.

This one can be tricky though. Other people may already have the username that you want and you might not be able to get the social media companies to give you the username. If you have the desire and the legal firepower you can pursue cases like this further. However, as a small business, you probably have other things to focus that cash on.

You could add a prefix like ‘get’ or ‘buy’ for example @getyourbrand or @buyyourbrand. Or use a suffix like ‘app’ or the product you’re offering, for example, @yourbrandapp and @yourbrandgym or another relevant variation. The key is you must be consistent across all platforms.

See also:

Patrick Llewellyn on the importance of small business branding

Off-brand content

Some people feel the need to fill their feed with anything and everything.

It is true that you do need to post regular content to keep your audience engaged. However, the focus should be ‘relevant content’. Cat gifs might be cute, but unless you are actually selling cat toys, it might not be a great idea to fill your posts with them. Yes, there will always be cat lovers in your mix, but there may also be people who are sick of cats.

So the key here is to actually know your audience. You will have a sense of the type of people who are going to buy your product/service, but it is easier than you think to get more relevant content.

You can do this in one afternoon by following the people who follow you, seeing what they post about, what they care about and what their values are. Posting images that are of an excessively luxurious nature to an audience of ecologically-minded customers is probably not a good brand fit.

Check out your direct competition and see what they’re posting too. Look at their wording and their imagery, especially if they have a bigger marketing budget than you. Using competitors content to give you new ideas is OK, but you should never pinch content.

Being too sales-y

Some of the big brands miss this one, they post sales pitch or offer after offer. They offer nothing else of value to the customer, so in most cases, people just unfollow those kinds of brands.

In the current era of social media, niche brands win by being much more human and relatable. The social media person in your team is probably the same person speaking to customers, doing the invoices and doing the shipping. Use those insights in your content. Your social media channels should be filled with content that brings your customers that little bit closer to you. You can give them a look behind the curtain with posts that add value or tell the story about you and your product.

Taking the last two points together we should apply ‘moderation in all things’. Create a great mix of images, text posts, blog posts, product shots, sales content, ‘behind the scenes’ photos and, if you want, the occasional cat gif.

See also:

Five reasons social media is crucial for your PR strategy

Top social media tips for small businesses

How a social media platform can enhance affiliate marketing

No or poor interaction

I’m sure you have seen this, when you tweet someone or message them and you don’t get an answer, or when you do get a reply you wish you hadn’t.

Some brands use their social media accounts as a customer support line, while others use it as a sales platform. And others use it as a blog. Whatever you are doing, bear in mind that some customers/followers may want to use social media differently than you plan. So if the only person monitoring your social media on your team is a PR person, dealing with a technical issue on a product might be tricky.

It is always best to have processes in place for these kinds of situations. Have someone on hand who can guide customers through any issues or complaints.

How does a business use Facebook effectively for its marketing aims?

Liking and commenting on other people’s content is also part of the process of engaging with your customers. When you see someone who is followed by a million people and who follows a dozen, you can be sure they are not going to care about you. However, is that the message you want to give out as a small business brand? Even if you do not wish to follow some of your fans at the very least interacting with them with a like, comment or mention all bring good will.

These are easy mistakes to make, but thankfully they are also easy to correct.

Just one afternoon could get your social media platforms consistent while one further afternoon could map out all the content types you need in your own business. Social media can seem onerous at some points, but once you have your foundations in place it becomes a whole lot easier – some might even say it’s fun.

Rick Jesse is the founder of Startup Stickers.

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.

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