Social media for brands & businesses. It’s a joy, isn’t it?
I’ve seen everyone from business owners and people who are new to the field who just need some guidance to people who walk around calling themselves ‘experts’ get it so wrong and I know I’ve talked in the past about mistakes people are making on social but I think its time for a refresher course.
I get it, doing it yourself is NOT easy and not everyone can have an Arby’s, Moon Pie or Wendy’s level social media team but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to just keep making blatant fails that could easily have been avoided just by reading one or two articles – or just LOOKING at what you’re doing from the perspective of a customer or follower. These are very simple, common sense things that so many people get wrong again and again so now we’re going to go over them.
Note: I was going to call this post ‘What You NOT Finna Do On Social’ but I realized that would come off as a bit aggressive so I changed that but while you read this, just imagine that’s what I called it anyway…because it’s true:
5. Follow A Bunch of Bots Or Fake & Junk Accounts
Did you ever see a brand or a person on Twitter with a count like ‘Followers: 8k, Following: 105k’ and go, ‘Wait a minute. Why is this brand following so many damn people? There can’t possibly be this many accounts out there relevant to this brand.’ and then you go and click on their followers and you see they are literally following everyone under the sun for no good reason?
They’re following random dudes that nobody’s ever heard of with like one follower, accounts with no photos, accounts with no profile filled out, businesses that are completely irrelevant to their industry, businesses that are relevant to their industry but haven’t used their account in like six years, half-naked people/bots who only tweet links to adult websites, spam bots accounts that literally say ‘follow me for 150k twitter followers!’ and other ridiculous things like that.
What would your impression of this brand become once seeing this?
If you’re like most people, it would immediately plummet. Crash and burn.
The social media team has no clue what it’s doing or it just doesn’t care and, by extension, this business doesn’t give a single you know what about what it looks like online.
Look, social media – even though this is going to sound counterintuitive – is NOT a popularity contest. It is an advertising and communications channel.
You (probably) are not a Kardashian. You don’t need to follow five million people. You don’t need to follow every rando that follows you. You don’t need to follow every single customer that follows you. This doesn’t make you ‘cool’ or unique or increase your views or anything else that you might think it’s doing. It just makes you look bad when you start following a bunch of nobodies. There’s a really good article that gives a summary of what to look for when deciding whether or not to follow an account. I strongly advise you to check it out.
Here are a few rules of thumb from the Smokehouse:
- Is this person or business respected in my industry?
- Does this person or business tweet quality content and updates on a regular basis?
- Is this person or business an influencer or journalist in my field?
- What would I think as a customer if I saw a business following this account?
If they don’t meet these criteria, DON’T FOLLOW THEM.
I don’t care who they are, how much they engage with you or anything else. Your reputation is too important to stroke somebody’s ego. You want to follow them? Do it from your personal account if it makes you feel better or something but don’t do it on your brand account.
Sometimes it’s cool to follow a few unrelated accounts like the Merriam-Webster dictionary, IFLS, or other wildly popular, funny or interesting sites but you don’t want to make it a habit. Unless it’s part of your brand identity, do that on your personal account, not your brand.
So you’ll want to check on a weekly or monthly basis for bots, fake accounts and other nonsense that you might follow. Sprout Social and other tools have a ‘discovery’ tool you can use to identify and unfollow the junk easily.
Also, if you are for whatever reason, using one of those automated follower bots where if someone follows or retweets you and it automatically follows that account DISCONNECT IT NOW. You’ll get SO MUCH TRASH if you don’t.
Moreover, you need to routinely investigate how many junk accounts are following you and clean up what you can by blocking them or you’re going to end up with broken data.
Can you imagine how bad you’re skewing your data by these junk accounts following you? What do I mean? Well imagine you have 20 people following you, ten of which are bots or inactive accounts. You send a message out and realistically, there are ten people that never could click or engage with your post so, best case scenario and all ten of the remainder does engage with your post, you’re still only showing a 50% engagement rate even though it was really 100% of your actual, active human audience. See how this can really mess you up at scale? Imagine if 70%, 80% or 90% of your followers are inactive or spam accounts? Even your best performing posts will look like garbage.
How can you make data driven decisions with junk data?
4. Reply To Brand Posts With Your Personal Account
So you made a post on Facebook or LinkedIn as a brand account, for example, let’s say as ‘Bob’s House of Nails’. Let’s say you’re advertising a sale where you buy a hammer and get two boxes of nails free. A potential customer replies and asks ‘What brand of hammer do I need to buy?’ and, your social media guy, under his personal LinkedIn account entitled, ‘Ricky Steve Williams: Social Guru and DM Ninja’ answers ‘Thanks! You need to buy a Craftsman Hammer.”
You might go ‘Well, what’s the problem? He answered the question politely with the correct information, didn’t he? I see no issue here.’
Ah, my friend, there are a few major issues here from a customer experience & service point of view. Let’s break them down from the point of view of the customer:
- Great. The company apparently completely ignored my question. I feel very valued now. Thanks for nothing.
- Well, I did have a few follow-up questions but the company couldn’t even be bothered to help with my first one so forget it.
- A Craftsman hammer? Is that right or is that guy just guessing? I’m still no better off now than I was before I asked.
- WHO TF IS RICKY STEVE WILLIAMS AND WHY IS HE SPEAKING FOR THIS COMPANY?
That’s right, Bob’s House of Nails, YOU know who Ricky Steve Williams is but nobody else does. They don’t know that he’s either on the payroll or someone you contract out to. To a potential customer, it could just be some random guy who really likes to answer questions about nails.
Hell, it’s 2018, he could be a troll giving the wrong information on purpose because they think it’s funny for all they know.
Look, in social media, other visitors are going to reply to customer questions. This is something you want but what you do not want is for that to be the only answer. You want an official, branded answer under the same account name that you posted your ad on in the first place.
I can hear some of you out there now, “But customer service always gives their own name when they assist a customer!”
Yes, that’s true but you know what, here’s how it’s different:
- Usually, people are contacting the customer service team via direct messages to the official brand account and getting replies there, not from some random dude.
- When customer service reps reply in public threads, they usually use a branded business account, they don’t just jump on in with their own personal accounts.
Taking that one step further, here’s a fail that I see small business owners do literally every other day of the week.
DO NOT advertise sales, products or anything else using your personal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or another social account.
That’s right. DON’T DO THAT.
There’s nothing wrong with posting those on your business account and then sharing those posts to your personal accounts but what you DON’T want to do is use your personal channels for business ads.
It crushes your business’ branding and honestly, if you’re like most people, your social media friends are people you met randomly online that might not know you have a small business. Therefore, nobody knows why the hell their pal Billy is trying to sell them a T-shirt. Is Billy suddenly a spammer? Did he get hacked? Is that even legit?
It’s just not a good look. Don’t do it.
Unless you’re in certain industries (like selling digital marketing services, for example) where your name IS your brand, you want your brand name to be popular, not yours.
3. Use Fifty Thousand Ridiculous Hashtags In The Same Post
Here’s another one I see small business owners do constantly that needs to stop: overusing hashtags to the point of ‘OMG WILL YOU JUST STOP!!’
This is mostly done on Facebook (where hashtags do a thing but, real talk, when’s the last time you searched a hashtag or keyword on Facebook?) but I’ve also seen this on LinkedIn of all places as well. Also, it’s done on Facebook by people who just crosspost Instagram posts to Facebook, which you really shouldn’t do either.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
“This week, buy one shirt get one half off at T-Shirt Trap!
#Tshirt #Shirt #Fashion #Clothes #Special #Promotion #FiftyPercentOff #BackToSchool #Sale #Mall #HalfOff #Store #VeteranOwned #SmallBusiness #MensClothes #WomensClothes #Style #Accessories #Gear”
And in some cases, it just goes on and on and on and on and UGH.
Stop this tacky nonsense.
How does this even seem like a good idea?
You don’t need five billion hashtags. You just don’t – not even on Instagram.
Also: SOME OF Y’ALL REALLY NEED TO THINK ABOUT WHAT HASHTAGS YOU USE BEFORE YOU USE THEM.
Here’s a quick example of what I mean because I don’t want to get too much into the weeds with this but I’ve seen this happen with my own two eyes and I know for a fact the second example was not the business owner’s intent with the use of this hashtag:
#BlackOwned or #MinorityOwned – Ok, this is alright because there are movements out there to support minority-owned businesses.
#WhiteOwned – Congrats! Your site is now going to be found by racists that have a problem spending their money at minority-owned businesses. Enjoy that sweet, sweet hate money.
See what I mean?
THINK before you post.
Then you have the people who just make up stuff like:
#SuperDuperUberSaleOneDayOnlyMyStore and #GigglyThursdayFeeling
THOSE AREN’T EVEN THINGS!
Nobody is searching those hashtags and you’re not going to start a Giggly Thursday trend movement so all you did was waste space. Unless you’re running some kind of contest where you need people to use that to enter or something, those are a waste of time. Hashtags are used to organize posts by topic so whats the point if literally no one is searching that topic?
Need to know what hashtags people are using? Use a tool. There are a lot of free ones out there to help you.
2. Overload Your Publishing Calendar
This is simple so this entry is just short and sweet:
If you scheduled a post on Facebook for 3pm on Wednesday, DON’T SCHEDULE ANOTHER FACEBOOK POST FOR 3:15PM THAT SAME DAY.
Why would you step on your own post like that? Let it live! Give people a chance to read that one before you go and kick it with another one. Granted, the Facebook newsfeeds and timeline algorithm aren’t chronological anymore but if it’s literally just one post after another in rapid-fire succession, at a certain point you have to stop and ask yourself what are you doing with your (social media) life.
If you’re doing this, more than likely, you’re sending out stuff just to send out stuff. It’s more or less impossible to make that sweet 10X content that’s worth putting out that fast. Also, if you’re doing this, what happens when someone needs to put a short-notice post out? Which overloaded, nonsense post do you cut? Which product manager are you going to make angry by not running their post to put up the rush job?
See what I mean?
1. Repost The Same Garbage Content Again and Again
Let’s talk about ‘evergreen’ content for a second.
Are you sure what you think is evergreen content really is? Are you sure that content is timeless, quality and useful for readers and not just junk you rescheduled because you were too lazy to look for a new article?
You’d better check again.
About seven times out of ten, what you call ‘evergreen’ is what the rest of the world calls ‘trash’. Even if the content is quality and really evergreen, how many times are you going to put out the same article? At what point do your followers go, “Well, its Wednesday, here comes that same old article…again.”
Come on, do better.
If you’re scheduling your social content posts (not like scheduled ads for sales but actual articles) out five or six months or farther in advance, you’re putting out irrelevant garbage. How do I know? Because one of three things will come into play:
- There’s a good chance your article won’t still be relevant by then
- There will probably be a more recent or updated article about the same topic
- You should probably put a more current article in that recycled content slot
Social media is about being current – not just filling up a publishing calendar, grabbing your boss and going ‘I’M DONE FOR THE YEAR!’ and disappearing until next December to do the same thing again. We all know it’s super easy with tools like Sprout Social to just keep on clicking that ‘schedule’ button and watching the calendar fill up and then go play video games because ‘we’re done!’ but social media is NOT ‘set it and forget it’. It just isn’t and if that’s your strategy, you’re going to lose.
You’re boring your readers, you’re going to lose followers and worst of all, potential customers.
The Bottom Line
There’s a lot to learn in terms of social media and there’s a lot of questionable advice out there online about what you should post, how often and on what channels. Before you post anything, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this post useful right now or at the time this will post?
- Is there anything more relevant that could go in this slot?
- Have my customers already seen me post this like five times this month?
- Am I putting ‘breathing room’ between my posts?
- Am I making sure that I’m not just posting for the sake of posting and I actually have something of value to say?
- Are these hashtags even things people use and do I have more than three?
- If I was a customer or follower of my brand, would I care about this post? Why or why not?
Do this – especially the last one – from an honest and impartial perspective and you usually won’t go wrong.