Social media is the most volatile and unpredictable marketing channel we’ve ever seen. Each network is constantly being innovated, redesigned, or updated. It's also one of the most powerful tools marketers can have in their arsenal -- if you know how to use it right.
The best and brightest minds in social media perfected and refined their skills by getting their hands dirty in social media. Whether they failed hard or succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, their first-hand experiences taught them invaluable lessons. Having been on the front lines of social media marketing for the better part of a decade myself, I’ve had plenty of failures and successes that completely blind-sided me.
And I want to save you save you from the stress that accompanies some of those surprises. To help you avoid some common, and not so common, mistakes on social media, I put together this list revealing some of the hidden reasons why your social media efforts might not be working out exactly as you hoped.
1) You’ve Assumed Your Audience Is All the Same
While we may have incredible insight into our audience, we’ll never be able to make everyone happy at the same time. While marketing to the majority, you could lose sight of the impact the minority can have. Not pleasing every person in your audience is okay, but you still need to treat a one-to-one conversation with a follower like a real-life conversation. Social media software (like HubSpot's Social Inbox) can make it easier to monitor and respond to relevant conversations with strangers, leads, and customers in your social media community.
2) You Aren't Paying Attention to the World Around You
Breaking news may drastically affect how your content impacts your audience. Letting current events and product launches sneak up on you can make your marketing feel all out of wack. One news story could present a significant opportunity for your social strategy -- so staying up on the latest trends is essential.
3) It’s Not as Easy as It Looks
Social media is a full-time job -- marketers who try to take it on as one of the many tasks on their to-do list might be surprised that they're struggling to tread water. If you want to really generate and nurture leads through social media, do your brand a favor and find a smart, dedicated social media manager who knows how to use social media to form real relationships with your audience members.
4) The Same Piece of Content Isn’t Successful on Every Platform
The best content creators in the world know that each medium requires a different approach; the same is true for social media. The copy you used for that incredibly successful tweet might not strike home with your Facebook audience, or your wildly successful Facebook meme could be completely ignored, or even despised, on other social networks. If you can provide engaging, relevant content to the right audience, on the right platform, at the right time, you'll have hit the social media marketing jackpot!
5) You’re More Clever Than You Thought
Sometimes a simple observation or just a unique choice of words is enough to set the social web off with uncontrollable laughter. Harnessing those clever thoughts, and your following might thank you for it.
6) You're Extrapolating Data Outliers to Guide Your Strategy
Just because you had one post do really well -- or totally flop -- doesn’t mean that you should shift your entire strategy to mirror said post. Look at the data to find consistent trends instead of acting on a whim.
7) You Find and Share Awesome Content
As Steve Jobs said, creativity is just connecting things. You know that if you find something brilliant online that your fans would love -- but maybe hasn't gone mainstream yet -- you should share it with them. Even heavy content publishers need to be curating content from around the web -- and you regularly introduce your audience to great content. If you aren't quite so awesome at quickly finding those hidden gems just yet, I recommend using tools like Flipboard, Lumi, and Feedly to follow and organize other people's content.
8) Your Brand Isn’t Human Enough
Social media is always about human-to-human interaction. When brands fail to develop a personality and human interests they tend to be ignored. And if you can develop a human brand, it will be much easier to form genuine relationships with your leads and customers on social media.
9) Your Timing Isn't Quite Right
Humans are creatures of habit and tend to incorporate social media into their routine. This means that your audience will have certain times that they’re active and other times when they’re not. Use services like Tweriod to get a good idea of when your followers are most active, and don’t ignore the incredible data you have available in your social media marketing tools to find trends around post timing.
10) You Underestimate the Power of Design
Almost all social media channels have moved toward embracing visual content -- both in the interface of the network itself and in the content shared. Successful visuals should be sized for the network you’re sharing them on and should also mirror a design style that matches your audience’s tastes. For example, a brand like Dollar Shave Club isn’t going to design content based on modern art styles and with detailed typography.
11) You Aren't Asking for What You Want
Including a simple phrase like “choose your favorite” can make a HUGE difference when you’re looking for a specific action. Clear, low commitment calls-to-action will make more people in your audience engage with your content.
12) Someone Really Influential Liked What You Had to Say
It’s unrealistic to hope for everything you post to go viral, but if the right person discovers your content, your traffic and leads could skyrocket. Obviously some of your posts will have more effort and resources behind their success than others, but that doesn’t mean someone with a huge audience won’t find something you shared and fall in love. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to turn an average tweet into your most successful tweet.
13) You Don't Create Original Content
When I first started in social media, brands were just sharing anything they could find. They were all surprised when they found out that their bottom line barely moved -- their audience was engaged with the content they shared, but not with the brand itself. Use your social media tools to monitor relevant conversations and find out what your audience likes. Once you have that data, it will be much easier to start blogging to build up original content on your site.
14) You Achieved the Wrong Goal
Post can be designed to address different goals. Sometimes a post designed to start a discussion will get you a lot of mindless engagement, or visa versa (likes, favorites, etc). While a lot of variables factor in to your posts' successes, it might come down to the fact that you didn’t create content to achieve the right goal.
15) Technology's Acting Up Again
Social networks have bugs and issues, (cue Twitter’s Fail Whale) and some days your profiles or social tools won’t work the way they’re supposed to. I’ve had 30+ scheduled tweets fail to send and 4 hour chunks of time where I couldn’t post to a Facebook page. A day of nothing is enough to drive any social media manager crazy, but try to breathe and just tell yourself that everything will be OK.
16) Crazy Fan on the Rampage
Don’t ever assume that any post is safe from the legendary crazy fan. This person may have just had a bad experience with your brand or they might just be having a bad day, but the only thing you need to know is that they’ve dedicated a significant amount of their time to telling the world how unhappy they are with you. This may not make a post completely flop, but it's important to know how to quell a full-blown crisis from happening.
17) Spelling and Grammar Blunders
Even the best writers have days where the keyboard becomes their enemy. While your brain may be telling you that you typed exactly what you meant to type, your audience will see it differently. Read over your posts before you hit the magic button -- or better yet, have someone else read it for you.
18) The Press Is Talking About You
Occasionally your brand will receive good and/or bad press. Sometimes the publisher or team members may forget to give you the heads up. Now you have to drop everything you were doing and react. Of course, making sense of the madness when the press releases a story is made much easier if you have the right social media monitoring tool.
19) It’s Just One of Those Days
It’s entirely possible that there will be days where the majority of your audience happens to be busier than usual. Hope that those days don’t line up with your campaigns or best content and do your best to accept it for what it is.
What other surprising lessons has social media thrown your way? Share your stories with us in the comments!
Image credit: ssoosay
Eric Siu is the Chief Operating Officer at Single Grain, a digital marketing agency based in San Francisco. He previously ran growth at online education startup Treehouse.