There are a lot of so-called “social media experts” out there. Dishing out advice, sometimes based on limited experiences, and sometimes based on nothing at all. Even the true social media experts sometimes share some misguided advice based on their beliefs and experiences. So with all this bad advice floating around the web, how do you distinguish between what you should -- and shouldn't -- believe?
Have no fear! We’re here to share some of the worst pieces of social media advice we've seen to debunk all those misguided "best practices" and steer you in the right direction toward social media marketing truth and justice.
30 Terrible Pieces of Social Media Advice to Ignore
1) You need to be on every single social network.
Especially if you have limited time and resources, don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to maintain an active presence on every single social media site. Research and learn about the makeup of the audience that populates each social network so you can figure out where you should focus. If your audience isn't there, don't waste your time. And as new social networks pop up (as they do all the time), feel free to experiment with them, but be ready to let them go if they don’t work for you, and let your analytics be your guide. At HubSpot, we’ve tried pretty much every social network that’s popped up, but some have fallen by the wayside, and we’ve focused our efforts on the networks that continue to generate results for our marketing. Not sure where to start? LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are safe bets. They have huge audiences that span many demographics and industries.
2) Focus on Facebook ...
... or LinkedIn ... or Twitter ... or social network XYZ. Yes, you should want to focus your social media marketing efforts, but at the same time, no single social media site is the Holy Grail. Experiment with a few sites, determine where your audience hangs out, and focus on the few that are the best fit for your company.
3) You don’t need email.
The day Oprah signed up for Twitter and user registration skyrocketed, we didn’t all cancel our email accounts. I’ve been using Twitter for 5 years, Facebook and LinkedIn for even longer, and I live in my email. Social media didn't make email marketing extinct; it just added another integrated channel to make email even stronger. Remember: One of the first steps in signing up for a social media account is usually to provide your email address. And communicating via social media, in some cases, is the same as communicating via email. For example, a LinkedIn Group message gets emailed to the group members via LinkedIn. On top of that, many people still prefer email for communications, or prefer different types of content via email vs. social posts.
4) Social media is the new SEO.
If we’re talking buzz words, then yes, social media is the new SEO. But social media, in terms of function and strategy, does not replace SEO. In fact, it's just another case of two marketing strategies working better when they're together. Social media posts now show in search results, social media engagement influences search rankings, and SEO can drive more people to your social profiles and posts. Once again, social media is an additional channel -- not one that replaces existing efforts like SEO. Billions of searches are conducted every single day, and you don’t want to miss out on that traffic.
5) You can automate all of your updates.
Social media can be time consuming, so the automation of your updates is, of course, appealing. But the tough reality of social media is that it's all about people talking with people, and people can easily see through crap. Especially automated crap. Automating all your updates (and believe me, people can tell) screams "I don’t care about actually being here. Just come read my content." While it's okay to automate some content publishing (for example, your latest blog articles), you still need to support that with real conversations and interactions with your network.
6) Send an auto DM to all your new followers.
Whether you want to thank them, tell them to visit your website, or anything else, please please please don’t send an auto direct message (DM) to every new follower you get. Auto DMs are incredibly impersonal and perceived as spam by most. Sending auto DMs not only seems inconsiderate, but it also makes you look like a complete newbie who doesn’t understand social media etiquette.
7) Include popular hashtags in your tweets to get more exposure.
There was a time when hashtags were used as a great way to organize tweets. In fact, it’s still great for specific campaigns or events so a group of attendees or participants can share and monitor content related to that campaign/event. But when it comes to topic-related hashtags (e.g. #marketing #boston), people don’t really monitor those hashtags, so your organized content is not reaching a new audience. Using such general hashtags makes you look, once again, like a Twitter newbie who's trying to game the system. It's also commonly referred to as "hashtag hijacking." Today, hashtags have also become a way to make a comment about the rest of the tweet. For example: "Had to wait for AN HOUR to get my iPhone 5 today. #1stworldproblems"
8) Your prospects aren’t using social media, so you don’t need to be there.
First of all, your prospects are using social media. According to Pew Research Center, 69% of adults use social media. Do you think none of your prospects are included in that majority? If the stats aren't enough to convince you, try out any social network's advertising targeting platforms (you can often go through the targeting process without launching an ad and spending money) to see how many people on each site actually fit into your target market. On top of that, there are reasons to get involved in social media aside from communicating with potential or current customers or expanding the reach of your content. For example, you can connect with influencers and reporters who may be looking for an expert in your industry to interview for an upcoming story.
9) The more you publish, and the more sites you’re on, the better.
Simply having a presence on multiple sites and spraying your content as much as possible won't work. Yes, more content is better because it gives you more valuable social media fodder, but you need to make sure all that content is high quality; otherwise, people will see straight through the crap. Unfortunately, people are getting overwhelmed with more and more content. This means the bar for remarkable content is starting to rise, and to be successful, you need to make sure your content reaches that high bar.
10) Use a tool that autopublishes your posts to all social networks at once ... to save time.
We've talked about how automating all your social media updates is never a good idea, but we also said it's okay to automate some of your content sharing. But there's an exception to that rule, because you should never publish one message and send it out to all your different social networks at once. Yes, it will save you some time, but it’s also a terrible practice. Not only does this look automated, but you should also consider that different social media sites favor different types and frequencies of content. For example, images do fantastically well on Facebook. And you can post much more frequently to Twitter than to Facebook than to LinkedIn. Furthermore, you likely have people who are following you in all three of these networks. How obvious will it look that you're automating your efforts if they see the same message posted to all three social networks at exactly the same time? With these key differences, you simply can’t autopublish the same post to all sites at the same time and remain effective.
11) You can outsource your social media.
Social media is a way for you to communicate with your audience, which means it not only needs to be your voice, but the content of the conversations you’re having need to also be based on your expertise in the industry. Not just anyone can talk about the challenges and trends your customers face, especially if you’re in a niche industry. In fact, we've seen instances of social media outsourcing (combined with automation, not less!) go terribly wrong for some businesses. If you're considering outsourcing your social media marketing, check out this post first.
12) An intern can manage it all for you.
Who’s even less qualified to talk about your industry than an outsourced social media consultant? A college student with no real-world work experience. Now, that’s not to say that all interns are unqualified for such a job. In fact, our internship program at HubSpot has found and nurtured some amazing talent that we’ve brought on to the team full time to manage our social media presence. The point we're trying to make here is that social media is not just some throw-away marketing strategy; it’s a public face of the company. Would you let that same intern do an interview on behalf of your company for a TV spot?
13) Don’t get personal.
Social media gives you the opportunity to share a bit more personality than your website may allow. In fact, personality is often what gets you noticed in social media. After all, “People don’t fall in love with hex colors and logos -- they fall in love with people,” as branding strategist Erika Napoletano (@RedHeadWriting) shared. Show the personality behind your brand and people to make your social media marketing more lovable so people naturally want to connect and engage with you.
14) Don’t let your employees use social media.
First of all, it’s useless to try to keep your employees from using social media. Even if you block social media sites on their computers, they’ve got their smartphones. Move your office to a dungeon with terrible cell reception, and your employees can still go home and get on those sites in their spare time. Forbid any use of your company name in social media, and they’ll just create fake profiles that don’t mention you. All that does is hurt your relationship with your employees -- it shows you don’t trust them -- and you actually give up a great asset. Your employees are your company, and they each have their own personal networks of friends and followers that can expand the reach of your content, messaging, and business in general. So instead of trying to crack down on social media use, give your employees guidelines for smart use. At HubSpot, our simple policy is “use good judgment.”
15) Don’t respond to negative comments to protect your brand.
If someone has said something negative about your brand, it’s out there -- visible to that person’s network or anyone searching for information about your company. And by not responding to negative comments, a small comment can spiral out of control for lack of attention. Admit mistakes when you need to, and share how you’re going to address any issues. A simple response can actually turn an angry detractor into an appreciative promoter of your business. For more on how to approach negativity in social media, check out our article, "How to Deal With Negative Nancy's Comments in Social Media."
16) Respond to every negative comment.
Appropriately, the last piece of advice in the article we referenced above is to "pick your battles." Beware of negative comments that are simply meant to get a rise out of you. Beware of people simply trying to capitalize on your visibility by getting you to respond to their comment, or trolls who just want to cause trouble. Know when it's appropriate to step back instead of adding fuel to the fire.
17) Disable comments altogether to avoid negative comments ... or delete negative comments.
Disabling comments is both anti-social and unwise. People will say what they’re going to say, whether you let them do it on your Facebook Page or they have to use their own Facebook Timeline as their platform. And by allowing people to comment on your own turf, you can manage the conversation, monitor comments, and respond to people appropriately. In fact, responding can help change people’s minds and opinions about your company. Beware of deleting negative comments, too. Doing so can bring on a slew of many more negative comments about the original issue ... and the fact that you deleted their comment. It will also make you look like you're not transparent (a characteristic central to social media success), and it may even cause people to hate your marketing.
18) If you make a mistake, you can delete the post to fix the problem.
Once again, once a comment is out there, it’s out there -- whether it's your prospect's, your customer’s, or your own. There's no stopping people from taking screenshots and sharing them with their connections even if you delete the comment later. So think about what you say before you say it. And admit to any mistakes you make.
19) You need to have a social media policy.
Social media policies waste time policing what is okay or not okay to publish in a single channel. But it’s impossible to anticipate every single scenario in social media, and on top of that, you don’t want to end up slowing down your publishing frequency, since speed counts on social media more than in other channel. So instead of a full-fledged social media policy, put together some guidelines that are easy for your employees to remember and keep in mind as they make their own decisions about what to publish in social media. As we mentioned in number 14, at HubSpot, our policy is simply to “use good judgment.”
20) Social media is completely free.
While, yes, there is usually no cost to sign up for a social network, you can’t stop there if you want to achieve true social media marketing success. You need to actually use the site, publish content, and engage with your followers. All of that takes people’s time, which isn't free. So to be effective in social media, you'll need to invest in human resources. Furthermore, the businesses that are truly effective in social media are also paying for marketing analytics software so they can measure the ROI of their social media marketing and improve upon their strategies and tactics. To be effective in social media, you will need to invest in people resources.
21) All you need is social media.
Social media does not replace other marketing strategies. Rather, social media is a new channel for your marketing efforts and works best in conjunction with other channels. (Remember when we talked about it in relation to email marketing in number 3?) You can’t attract followers in social media without content, say, from your blog. You can’t convert followers into leads without landing pages and compelling offers. And those are just a couple pieces of the marketing mix -- check out some more critical marketing pairings here.
22) You can’t measure social media.
When you approach social media -- just as when you approach any channel or tactic -- you should know what your goal is. Is it new leads? Is it to increase the reach of your content? Is it to reduce customer support calls? Whatever your goal, measure the progress toward that goal. Measure how many leads came from social media. Measure how many visits to your blog came from social media. Measure the number of customer support phone calls against your social media activity. Figure out your metrics, and track them. Still struggling? This article should help.
23) Fan/follower growth is the most important metric.
Sure, fans and followers are nice, but they don’t actually pay you money or keep you in business. Instead, think about what matters most to your business -- leads, customers, etc. -- and focus on that as your top priority metric. Not to say that fans and followers aren’t important. They may be a piece in the puzzle that gets you to where you want to be. Just make sure you're focusing on the end goal.
24) Engagement is the most important metric.
Same as above. Engagement is not only a non-paying metric, it’s also a fuzzy metric that can be interpreted in many different ways. Yes, engagement is important as it relates to understanding what content resonates with your audience, or what attracts more people to your website. But like fan/follower count, engagement is just a piece in the puzzle that leads to an actual business metric like revenue.
25) You should only publish messages about your company.
Here's the thing: If you’re only publishing messages about your company -- your recent awards, upcoming events, latest product releases -- I really don’t care to listen to you. What I do care about are my problems, my challenges, and my interests, so that’s what you should write about. Think how you can be valuable to give people a reason to follow and engage with you.
26) You should post X updates per day.
This unfortunately comes from a misinterpretation of HubSpot's own data. HubSpot Social Media Scientist Dan Zarrella published data around the optimum frequency and number of posts for each social media site, and some readers took that to mean they had to publish 22 tweets per day. But this data shows results in aggregate, based on frequency and timing of posts from a large number of accounts. So test the timing and frequency of your social media updates with your own audience, because that’s what you should care about -- the results with your specific audience.
27) Once you get your Facebook/Twitter/Blog account set up, social media is super easy!
Setting up an account is like buying the ticket to a networking event. You still have to go and talk to people to get any value out of it. You'll never get results from social media marketing if you won't put in the time and effort needed to make it successful.
28) You don’t need a strategy for social media.
While you do need to be an agile social media marketer to be prepared for the unexpected, it's also important to go in with a strategy. More specifically, you should know your goals in regard to your social media efforts -- and how you’re going to work to achieve them. Do you have the content you need to support publishing? Do you know who you want to engage with and how? Have a plan in mind, identify what supporting materials you need, and know how you’re going to measure it on a regular basis.
29) You should have separate social media accounts for every division of your company.
I’m not sure where people are getting this idea -- it must be from huge brands that have multiple Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. (Did you know that, according to Altimeter, the average large company has 178 corporate-owned social media accounts? Crazy, right?) But when I get this question (if a company should have separate accounts for each of its divisions), it’s always coming from a marketer at a small business with a couple target markets and currently no social media presence. In this situation, you really don’t want to split your efforts (and your social reach!), especially if you have limited resources and are just getting started with social media. Instead, focus your efforts on building up a single account on each chosen social network so you get closer to seeing results faster. When it comes to addressing multiple divisions or target markets, include a mix of content -- perhaps have each division contribute that content -- to attract all relevant audiences.
30) You can’t simply ask people to comment, follow, or retweet you.
It may seem too forward to come out and ask someone to take an action in social media, but it actually works. And you don’t get a terrible reaction because what you’re doing is taking someone who already is reading your content, tweets, blog articles, etc. and saying, "Hey, if you like this, why not share it with someone else?" A simple call-to-action like “please retweet” can go a long way to generate more social activity. In fact, our research has shown that including "please retweet" actually leads to 4x more retweets!
Have you heard any other terrible social media advice? Share it in the comments as fair warning to your fellow social media marketers!