How to Avoid 6 Common Social Media Marketing Mistakes

Social media powerhouses from GE to Facebook share their secrets to creating effective social media marketing campaigns and avoiding the most common mistakes

What is it that distinguishes a really good social media campaign from a just “okay” endeavor?  Can a small- or medium-sized business have a Samsung selfie moment?  What are many social media marketers at businesses of all sizes doing wrong?  Two industry experts—Linda Boff, executive director, global digital marketing at GE and Brett Wein, director at Facebook, flag common social media marketing mistakes committed by novices and experts alike. 

Linda Boff of GE


1.     Copy with caution

Although it’s tempting to copy the best practices of others, effective social media marketing isn’t that simple.  What works for one brand may not work for another, and borrowing the wrong tactic may leave your communication disjointed and disingenuous.  It’s important to create your own strong brand persona and stick to it.  Boff notes that failing to do so is one of the biggest mistakes brands make. Instead, too many are “trying to emulate another brand that has done something successfully.”

Every post, tweet or Vine should be created with your identity in mind and adhere to clearly documented social media communication guidelines.  (You have those, right?  Here are some steps to get you started.)   “A lot of attention goes to events like the Samsung selfie or the Oreo tweet, both of which worked really well for those brands, but every brand is different.  You have to discover your own essence and let that guide how you talk about yourself, where you talk about yourself and, really, just who you are a brand,” she advises.

2.     Use the right KPIs and measure them effectively

According to Social Media Examiner, 83 percent of marketers report that social media is important for their business, yet 52 percent cite difficulties in accurately measuring ROI as their biggest source of frustration in social marketing, according to Adobe.  (Check out additional useful marketing stats here.)

Wein’s clients at Facebook use core business metrics to measure campaign success.  “The days of looking at what I call social metrics—things like engagement, likes, fans or followers—are over.  Today is about business metrics: Are we driving sales? Are we driving brand affinity and purchase intent?   If you’re the owner of a company, big or small, you care about one thing.  You care about what your marketing is doing for your brand or for your sales,” he says.

How can you evaluate success if you haven’t pinpointed clear goals and parameters for measuring them?  Ensure you have proper analytic tools in place, even when you’re assessing upper-funnel objectives such as raising brand awareness.

3.     Don’t fixate on the whole “going viral” thing

Every brand dreams of creating a social media moment that takes on a life of its own.  That possibility is part of what makes social media marketing so attractive.  Every piece of new content creates a chance for viral success.  But can virality even be predicted?  Companies like Buffer and Upworthy certainly seem to have it down to a science, but they also benefit from scale and vast resources.  Do follow their tips for writing strong headlines and building effective distribution channels, but don’t sacrifice your identity in an attempt to reach the masses.

“I think it’s almost impossible to predict what will go viral,” says Boff, noting that not even Samsung could have predicted the success of that selfie.  “I think we all write the stories in retrospect.  We’ve gotten pretty skilled at telling the post mortem story as though it could have been well understood ahead of time, but I think it is almost impossible to understand.  The consumer journey is harder than ever to understand because it is so non-linear.  You can prepare for serendipity, and we do. We deliberately set out to have our content in a wide variety of places where we think people who share our passion for technology will be spending their time, knowing this increases the likelihood of them discovering and sharing our content.  You prepare to be serendipitous, but you also have to pick the four-leaf clover.  You’ve got to get lucky, too.”

4.     Be prepared to pay

A common rookie mistake made by marketers is framing social media as a free marketing tactic.  Yes, it’s free to the users, but to take advantage of its potential, marketers should prepare to invest—not just time, but money.

Brett Wein of Facebook

“A lot of people look at social media companies like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest and think, ‘we are going to communicate for free.’  In reality you can, but you need to pay to take advantage of these platforms’ ability to find a target audience at scale.  If you are just relying on the organic nature of Facebook, Twitter or any of the other companies, you are missing out on a huge audience of people who may be interested in what you have to say,” advises Wein.

Investing in a paid social strategy allows you to bring your content to a new audience – those who have not yet realized that they’re interested in hearing from you.

5.     See everything as social

“I think we are going to see less of a divide between traditional media and social media, and more of a blend that’s focused on good media and good creative that resonates with people,” predicts Wein, explaining that these days, all media is striving to provoke two-way conversation—a goal typically reserved for social initiatives in the past.  Now there’s a surge in integrated campaigns and a rise in social tie-ins.  Don’t operate your social networks in a silo or you’ll risk missing opportunities for innovative, cross-platform campaigns.

Like what you read?  Want to learn more from the world’s most esteemed digital thought leaders and rub shoulders with distinguished attendees from Mastercard, IBM, Rebelmouse, GE, Facebook, & Linkedin?  Linda Boff and Brett Wein are both speakers at the upcoming Westchester Digital Summit, named one of the “must attend marketing events for leaders in 2014” by Forbes.  Register today.  Space is limited.     

By, Jacqueline Lisk  @JLisk1

Content creation & strategy expert; believer that brand journalism can be high-quality journalism