Social media is the most popular online activity, so it makes perfect sense for businesses to want to tap into that audience to try and increase sales. Right now, more than 90 percent of businesses use social media in one form or another.
But, simply opening an account or sending out some tweets is not enough to make social media platforms a viable and profitable part of a marketing strategy. By avoiding some basic missteps, many businesses have the ability to increase ROI and create more opportunities from social media accounts.
#1. Not having a strategy
Less than 20 percent of businesses say that their social media strategy is mature. Social media users are inundated with information and messages every second of the day. Businesses that don’t have a social media marketing strategy won’t ever cut through the clutter and deliver an effective message to their target audience.
Creating a strategy includes having distinct and measurable goals, developing a clear social media policy, thinking through a brand’s social media voice, and planning out a content calendar with end goals in mind. Without a clear strategy, businesses could create the best content on the web, but receive little to no engagement.
#2. Not integrating with other digital assets
Social media works best when integrated with other digital marketing efforts. One mistake many businesses make is to leave their social media accounts on islands. Not only should the accounts be linked together through profiles, but they should also be directly tied to websites, emails and paid search advertising campaigns. Not connecting these accounts reduces the amount of reach each asset has separately.
#3. Not using images
Images on twitter cause tweets to take up more space on the feed and help drive engagement. Tweets that include an image have 200 percent more engagement than tweets without images. While an image may not be appropriate for every tweet, businesses should include one whenever possible to help draw attention to their message.
#4. Not taking advantage of hashtags
Hashtags are a great way for businesses to insert themselves into conversations and trending topics that make sense, while also doubling engagement.
For example, businesses can use the hashtag #throwbackthursday, or #TBT, to cash in on one of social media’s longest lasting regular Thursday conversations. For this hashtag, it makes sense to post an old image or ad, because it flows with the conversation. Using a new ad or product image would stand out and seem promotional. Using strategically chosen hashtags can help businesses find their target audience, reach non-followers in large numbers and help grow a brand’s influence.
#5. Not using a consistent voice
A business’ Twitter account should be used for business, not personal anecdotes. While unique, funny and chatty messages can make a Twitter account seem more “human,” getting into arguments, insulting other brands or using it to advance the unrelated interests of executives pushes the platform off-message and can create backlash.
Brands shouldn’t have their Twitter account act and sound like a robot either. Repeatedly sending out the same messages can create ill will from consumers as well. The key is to find a happy middle ground where the brand’s voice is consistent, caring and human at the same time.
#6. Not utilizing images or using the wrong size image
Visual stimulation helps drive engagement on social networks. In fact, 40 percent of people respond better to visual information than plain text according to Zabisco. On average, photos get 50 percent more impressions than any other post type on Facebook, while also gathering more likes and comments according to a study by Roost.
To optimize images on Facebook, businesses should make sure to use the correct image size, which varies depending on where the image is going to be used. For the average post, that means uploading a 1,200 x 1,200 pixel image, while Facebook ads have different guidelines businesses should follow to drive the most potential engagement.
#7. Not removing the URL from a post
When you put a link in a Facebook update, the social networking site automatically creates a clickable image that also works as a link. Because of this, businesses don’t need to include the URL in the post. While having the extra link doesn’t hurt anything, it does show to some users that the business doesn’t understand the capabilities and features of Facebook, so it’s best to delete the extra URL.
#8. Not interacting with followers
Social media is meant to be interactive and consumers expect a certain amount of responsiveness from businesses on Facebook. Responding to posts, thanking consumers for commenting and addressing complaints helps consumers feel more connected to the brand.
Businesses should have a strategy in place to respond to commenters, both negative and positive, and how to use the social media platform as a part of a crisis management strategy. Not every comment needs a response, but responding to followers helps build camaraderie and trust between brands and consumers, which can affect future sales and word of mouth marketing.
#9. Not using the platform at all
Google Plus may be the most underutilized social media platform today. It is directly integrated with Google search results, making profiles an integral part of any digital marketing or search engine optimization strategy.
#10. Not utilizing circles or communities
Circles on Google Plus allow businesses to segment followers into groups and address each segment separately with unique content. If circles aren’t utilized, each piece of content goes to every single follower.
To increase conversion rates and engagement, instead of pushing content to everyone, businesses should create content that appeals to specific audiences and then post that content to the applicable circles and communities.
#11. Not including descriptions or prices
Pinning images to Pinterest is simply not enough if businesses want to use the social media site to drive traffic and increase sales. Despite easy access, many businesses are forgoing the use of rich pins, which include a thorough description of the item and the price.
Descriptions should use terms that people search for and be as descriptive as possible and including the price entices pinners to click the link. In fact, a study from Shopify found that rich pins with prices get 36 percent more likes and repins than regular pins.
#12. Not using active images
Pinterest is all about visual stimulation, but many businesses are using static and uninspiring images to portray products. Instead, businesses should use colorful images that show the products in action. For example, instead of a picture of a sweater on a table, use an image of someone wearing the sweater doing something fun. Curalate looked at a half million
Pinterest images and found that factors like color, white space and even the inclusion of faces make a difference in terms of engagement.
#13. Not linking to product page
Businesses should strive to make it as easy as possible for shoppers to go from browsing Pinterest to buying a product. To do that, businesses should link directly to product pages instead of home pages or other non-related content. The more links and moves a consumer has to make before buying a product, the less likely they are to make a final purchase.
#14. Not using hashtags effectively
There is no limit to the number of hashtags a business can attach to a post and for some that freedom has led to an overuse of this normally effective outreach tool.
Hashtags allow people to filter through the millions of posts every day, and it’s very tempting for businesses to try and wedge their way into conversations where they don’t organically belong by using hashtags. But, just like traditional marketing outlets such as email, traditional mail and phone calls, spam can turn off consumers. Instead, businesses should only use hashtags that directly apply to the post or the company.
#15. Not providing content users demand
Many businesses decide to use Instagram as another way to push static ads that could be posted on any other platform. However, Instagram is best used when businesses give consumers a behind-the-scenes look at what is going on and give insight into the personality of the brand.
Instead of posting a touched up photo destined for the pages of a magazine, businesses should use Instagram to send out a picture of the photo shoot, the models laughing, the chefs cooking, or the crew eating some pizza around a big table. Businesses can stay on message and keep a consistent digital voice while still allowing followers to feel personally connected, which in turn fosters more sharing and increased followers.
Wrapping it up
Brands should strive to create their own social media voice, while also attempting to optimize their social media efforts by avoiding the common pitfalls listed above. Social media has the ability to be an effective and cost controlled method for reaching out to potential consumers, engaging with current fans and helping increase sales.
Just like any other marketing strategy, social media efforts should be continually monitored and updated for full effect.
Guest author: Heather Smith is the director of social media for ZOG Digital, an independent digital marketing company based out of Scottsdale, Arizona. You can visit them at www.zogdigital.com or follow them on Twitter @ZOGDigital.