Keep business social media working for you – not against you

Every company needs a social media account yet everyday the media reports another rude tweet or racist Facebook post. For both employees and business owners alike, finding the balance between being sociable, chatty and engaging and not putting your foot in your mouth can be hard. As social media and marketing experts, our team have worked with companies of all sizes, from brand-new kitchen table startups to hundred-year-old multinationals. Here are a few of the most common mistakes we see.

1. Trying to be all over every network

It might feel like you have to be on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Tumblr and a few more, but that’s not true. Feel free to grab yourself a handle on every site, but don’t activate accounts you don’t have time to handle. This is particularly true if you’re a startup working on your SEO – dormant accounts won’t do you any favours and you need to prioritize how you spend your time. Ditch any accounts that aren’t working for you today.

2. Abandoned accounts

You don’t have to be on Twitter all day – and in fact it’s better not to be – but you should check in to see what people are saying about you and to you. Ideally, check in to each of your social networks at least once a day on work days.

3. Only tweeting when you want something

Social media is becoming less and less about broadcast messages and more about conversations. If you only use your account to make announcements, you’re likely to lose followers and drop in algorithm rankings.

4. Ignoring questions and comments

If you see something that needs a response from you, such as a direct question, respond straight away. It’s fine to post a truthful delaying message – for example, if you get asked a question you think is reasonable to answer but don’t have the information to hand, say so.

5. Ignoring hard questions or criticism

It’s easy enough to say “Thanks!!!!” when someone tweets that they love your product but it’s harder to sensibly deal with someone saying they hate it and demanding to know why you made it so badly. We recommend our clients create an engagement policy and post it on their website – at a minimum, decide you won’t respond to or will delete messages that are abusive or contain swearing; that you won’t post detailed customer information on a public space (even if the customer starts it); and then add company specific ones, such as you can only deal with returns if they email a specific address; that you only reply during office hours; whatever. If someone goes out of bounds, you can just reply with a link to your policy.

6. Not following through

If you said you’d come back with information, come back with information. If you said the competition drawing would be on Friday or you’d give away the moon on a stick on Monday, do it. Failure to follow through is unlikely to land you on the front page of the tabloids but it will aggravate your followers.

7. Getting too personal

Social media feels so social that it can be hard to remember you’re still at work. This is particularly problematic for startups and small businesses where the person behind the Twitter account may be the whole company. SEO is critical for startups, however, and your social media account will come up in the results. Try to keep your tone professional.

8. Saying racist, sexist, sexual or otherwise inappropriate stuff

The blanket rule is: don’t express an opinion unless you’re proud to hold it. That includes retweeting and resharing other content. This is a particular problem for larger businesses as individuals may have opinions that the company as a whole – or their management or legal team – don’t agree with.

9. Don’t do anything illegal

We shouldn’t need to say this but apparently not everyone has got the memo. Don’t break the law on your social media account (for example, by sharing customer data); don’t make negative comments about individuals or companies (slander or libel); don’t encourage or support hate speech (it’s just wrong as well as being against the law); don’t – even if you’re joking – make threats against an individual or business. This isn’t an exhaustive list of course…

10. Don’t be a prat!

This golden rule sums up the previous 9. Work hard to be someone you’d want to follow – someone who is concerned about SEO for their startup or marketing their multinational, yes, but also someone who is polite, thoughtful, kind, generous with their time and reshares, alert, responsive, ethical and socially responsible. It seems like a lot to ask, but we’re sure you’re all those things already so letting your personality shine online shouldn’t be too hard!

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