Nearly every small business has a social media presence, but they don't all know how to use it well. And that, my friends, means missed opportunities and the potential for driving customers away.
Don't know what you're doing wrong? Here are some warning signs Business Insider published, courtesy of Simply Zesty, a European marketing agency that specializes in online PR and social media.
1. Asking for shares or retweets: It's needy, it offers no engagement and doesn't do anything for your cause -- the online equivalent, Simply Zesty says, "of going up to a bunch of strangers, screaming 'be my friend!' and expecting them to enthusiastically oblige."
2. Overcompensating for inactivity: If your small business doesn't have someone dedicated to managing your social media presence, it's easy to drop off the radar for a few days. While inactivity isn't good, many small business owners respond by overcompensating...potentially worse.
Here's why: Fewer people than you think will unfollow you because you're inactive. In fact, you're more likely to get unfollowed if you clog up followers' feeds with triple the normal amount of tweets and updates, just to make up for your missed opportunities over the last few days. That faux pas is more noticeable.
3. Ignoring requests: If someone asks for help or makes a query, respond as soon as possible. If it's too taxing to answer them as they come, allocate a window of time to respond to these inquiries. The longer you leave them untouched, the less likely you'll be to respond.
4. Using distorted images: Sites need to be more visually appealing than ever, and cover photos and images are critical for solidifying your brand and audience. Learn what the different dimensions are for cover photos on social sites, such as Google+ and Facebook. (For some Simply Zesty tips, go here.)
Also, Facebook has grown more lenient on the rules about cover photos and promotional material, so if you're running a campaign, you may be able to fit some in, Simply Zesty says. More on those rules here.
5. Like and share competitions: If you haven't heard, like and share competitions are against Facebook rules. So if you run them, you won't win fans among many agencies or other businesses.
This also ties in with asking for shares or retweets. These competitions aren't engaging with followers or getting people hooked on your content. "You're just asking people to hit a button...and expecting them to continue following you after that," Simply Zesty says.
Also worth noting, a high follower count and disproportionate engagement actually means your content will be pushed further down the pecking order. So it's worth doing it right in the first place.
6. Hastag overload: Though they're a great way to curate information, give context and categorize content to reach a particular audience, hashtags also can be easily abused.
When using hashtags, a good rule of thumb is two to four per post -- two for Twitter and up to four for Instagram, where an image might appeal to a wider demographic.
|From Simply Zesty for Business Insider|
Determine where you get your most shares and where they're most beneficial to you; focus your efforts there. If you're getting better interactions on Facebook and Twitter, maybe ditch the widgets for MySpace, Foursquare, Stumbleupon, Add This, etc.
8. Syncing cross-posts: There are times you'll want to post content on more than one platform. When the occasion arises, do it manually. "Using a service like Tweetdeck to cross post tweets onto Facebook not only looks lazy, but it stands out like a sore thumb since it's so visually unappealing," Simply Zesty says.
9. Indiscriminate links within posts: When posting an article or video on your page, most sites will include a thumbnail with more details. Along with the thumbnail, Facebook includes the headline of the article and a link to it. So delete the link you initially pasted in the text.
There is an exception. Images have a greater chance of being interacted with, Simply Zesty says, so posting an image to catch attention could be effective. Images, however, aren't clickable, so providing an unobtrusive link is a good idea. (Use bitly.com or a similar service.) Just make sure you've got only one link in the text of the post.
10. Auto direct-messaging: It's tempting but try to avoid creating auto direct-messaging on Twitter to greet new followers or highlight something you're trying to plug. It's impersonal and it misses the point of what Twitter and social media, in general, are about: connecting on a personal level with people who wouldn't meet under normal circumstances. "Automating messages and sending them straight after someone hits the follow button is just spammy no matter how you slice it," says Simply Zesty.