Detox your social media

Everyone is going on about how cheap and easy it is. So, how could you fail? Well, as with anything – there’s lots of opinion on what works and what doesn’t.

With it being a ‘social’ medium, there really are as many opinions on Dos and Don’ts as there are people to have them. But, there do seem to be some emerging norms as to things that are a definite no-no.

It’s important to recognise that people can un-follow or un-like, just as quickly as they clicked on in the first place. And, if you irritate them, don’t doubt that this is exactly what they’ll be doing. Furthermore, in this socially connected world where word of mouth matters more than ever, a simple ‘un-follow’ might just mask that person whose ready to scupper your chances of a sale when asked what they think of your company.

Three toxic marketing practices to avoid… in social media.

I find it really useful to equate social media engagement with how I’d behave at a networking event. If you wouldn’t do it in a room of your peers, don’t do it in social media. It’s a great rule of thumb, but if I were to pick out three real nasties to avoid, they would be:

1. Me, me, me

You know that person at a party who hijacks every story to say how they did just that – but bigger and better. They’re really annoying aren’t they? Well, the social media stream that only ever talks about themselves, and more specifically blows their own trumpet all day long, is just like that. The kinds of things that have this effect in social media are:

Retweeting (RT) a compliment that someone has paid you. Now, I’ve been guilty of this one in the past. I thought it was like putting a case study on your website. But, it’s not. Especially when done from an individual rather than a company profile. It’s like standing at a networking event and quoting someone saying something nice about you. Imagine it… “well, so-and-so thinks I’m brilliant” – it just doesn’t sit right does it? It would be really uncomfortable in person, which is why it also doesn’t work in social media. Directing people to useful case studies, where testimonials are also displayed is a much better way of doing this.

Another version of me-me-me is only ever linking your own material. Of course, it is important to get your great content out there. But, if all you ever do is tell people about your own blogs, etc. you come across as a little shallow. Make sure you also pass on things you’ve read and seen from other people that your audience will find useful. Sharing great content is a cornerstone of good social media practice.

And, the last I’d highlight is making everything a sales pitch. Again, in a networking context… if every conversation included you trying to sell your products and services, you’d soon find yourself standing in a group of one. It’s much more effective to be genuinely interested and helpful. You do this by asking questions, posting content that answers questions and provides insights. This leads onto a sales conversation later, and probably in a different context.

2. Are you a machine?

Automation tools can be really useful. You can schedule a number of tweets and status updates to make sure that your timeline is current. You can ping a reply to people who follow you. There are all sorts of tools to make managing social media that bit easier. But, take care. There’s a clue in the name that tells you why you shouldn’t over do this. It’s social media. That means two-way dialogue and a bit of real banter, between real people, is a must. If your whole social media activity is mechanised, you’ll miss out on this all-important human touch.

Another example of this is when you use too many hashtags, and acronyms in your updates. It’s unnatural. More than two hashtags in a Tweet, for example, looks like you’re more interested in the tool or technique than you are in the people you’re talking to.

3. Too much information

When you’re using social media for marketing your small business, there’s a balance to strike between showing a bit of personality, and overstepping the line on familiarity. I really don’t need to know what my business connections ate for breakfast, or what they thought of the hotel toilets they just visited. Again, think about what you’d feel comfortable talking about in person. You may well ask about someone’s family, their hobbies, or their recent holiday – but, I’m guessing you’d steer clear of asking about their bodily functions. The same is true in social media. I’d suggest that you don’t say or ask things that would make your followers’ toes curl in embarrassment.

There are plenty more social media faux pas to fall foul of, but these three definitely capture a core tenet of what makes it a success. That is, being real.

Bryony Thomas us the author of Watertight Marketing (Panoma Press £14.99) – an entrepreneur’s step-by-step guide to putting a marketing operation in place that delivers long-term sales results.