Six Social Media Strategy Errors

In some form or another, I’ve been at this online community building thing for almost 20 years. I started as a developer in 1996 building forums and bulletin boards for corporate America. Today I primarily use photography and video to build brands in tech and entertainment.

While change is constant in technology, one thing that hasn’t changed in all this time are the mistakes companies and organizations make when trying to build their own online communities. This list of six big errors in social media could have been created 10 years ago but it's just as relevant today as it would have been back then. Are you guilty of any of these?

1. Confusing social media strategy with digital marketing

Since Facebook owns the majority of martin share in social networking, many companies don’t pay any attention to the 2nd and 3rd tier social networks. Sure, we play on twitter, instagram and Youtube, but the vast majority of companies who budget for social media in their marketing & communications budgets pay no attention to any networks other than the top four. You compound that with the corporate marketers who equate social media with digital marketing and you have a recipe for disaster.

Social media is a subset of digital marketing. Digital marketing is much broader, encompassing online advertising, email marketing, pay-per-click (PPC), search engine optimization (SEO) and many other disciplines. Confuse these two and you will find yourself with a wholly insufficient digital marketing strategy.

2. Using social networks incorrectly

Too many companies STILL try to use social media to sell when its most effective role is for recommendations. I tell clients that social media is not a direct conversion channel. You can use social media to gently push a product or service but the sale happens outside social media.

Nevertheless, clients try to sell through social networks, the numbers don’t work out and they get frustrated.

The relationship between social media and sales is rapidly evolving and it is certainly possible that in the future social media might become a direct sales tool. We’re just not there yet. What we can do though is generate relevant traffic related to e-commerce in the form of referrals and testimonials from fans and customers.

While social media can support your sales efforts, it’s more accurately a public relations channel, not a direct sales channel.

3. Not understanding how consumers use social networks

Many companies do not understand the context in which users engage on social media sites. They also don’t understand that the context changes from one site to another.

People are in social networks to stay in touch with friends or to network with peers. They want to be informed and share their lives with family, friends and peers. When it comes to wanting to be informed, they are fine with learning about brands, products, services, events, etc. However, the users are more receptive to a message when it’s informative or entertaining and or when it is delivered by a person who they know is independent of the brand.

If you work for a company or organization that is struggling with your online presence, think about how you interact on social networks. Think about what you pay attention to and what you ignore. This context is similar to the context which your organization operates. You need to consider how to effectively integrate your brand into this world.

The bottom line, you must join online conversations with prospects who, in most cases, are not looking for you to impose your presence in their online lives.

4. Disconnect between social media goals and the enterprise’s objectives

Having read the first three items in this list, you can imagine that poor strategic definition is one of the underlying problems.

I have met countless prospects who are interested in starting a social media program who have no budget for any other marketing to support this business. To confuse social media with your overall marketing strategy guarantees you will not reach the expected results. The direct use of social media as a tool for sales, as opposed to a tool for your PR channel is also an issue. You are better off maximizing engagement on your social platforms (likes, RTs, accumulating engaged fans, comments, etc.). Disconnect these items from your web and business objectives. This is not to say you should have goals and that the goals should support the overall strategy. Just that they need to be decoupled from direct sales.

Social media strategies have to be integrated in the digital marketing strategies. They must contribute to the overall strategy without a direct cause and effect.

5. Being reactive vs proactive

Too many companies only react to what they see, but do not try to anticipate what might happen by using tools for social listening. This approach is ineffective for two reasons. 

Many people only contact brands when they have a negative reaction to a product and service. As the social media brand representative you are forced to spend a majority of your time apologizing, fixing and being defensive instead of creativing a positive persona for your brand. 

Another large group of users contact with brands comes when they already have made a purchasing decision or already own the product. While you want to connect with and nurture these relationships, in these situations your ability to positively impact your brand’s marketshare is minimized since the consumer’s decision has already been made.

People online are hungry to be fed entertainment and information. You need to bring appetizing content to feed that hunger!

6. Misunderstanding social media measurement and analytics  

Many companies still do not measure their social media campaigns correctly. It is rare to find a direct, measurable correlation between an organic action on social media and an individual sale. Since organizations do not properly define the objectives for social media they inadvertently focus on the wrong metrics (i.e. sales vs engagement).

Teams don’t collect much of the data from the activity on social networks (URLs with tracking code on content, shares, engagement, publications in social networks, etc.). If they have mobile apps, they don’t collect data from their mobile consumers. To be fair, this can get very expensive, very quickly. However there are methods that can be used to duct-tape together a picture of what actions on different networks affect your brand in positive and negative ways. 

Data sources needed to make decisions are not integrated, correlated and reconciled. In addition to the data we collect from social networks, we should take into account the web analytics from our CRM (Wordpress, google analytics, etc), other traffic sources such as paid advertising and email marketing programs.

I can list more, but you get the idea here. Without the necessary data, decisions which are made by marketing teams will be off the mark and ineffective, bringing the entire discipline of social media marketing into question.


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giovanni gallucci

Dallas, Texas, USA