Big Social Media Mistakes Even Big Companies Make



We have reached a point in marketing where social media is no longer in its infancy. We’re also at a point where large companies employ huge teams of people (consisting of in-house and agency stakeholders) and put vast sums of money toward strategy, execution, and measurement of social.

And yet, these same companies still make big mistakes when it comes to social.

The Goals of Social Media

Social media is often looked at as a “channel” for marketing, similar to e-mail or a website, but in both of those cases, there is no implied intimacy. A message is being sent one way, from the producer to the target, and there is no expectation that the producer will hear back.

Social media, at its heart, is about people connecting to one other and sharing pieces of themselves. Social media is more like hand selling, where the seller and potential buyer are in close proximity, and in order to close the sale, the seller must get the buyer on their side.

With this important distinction in mind, it’s important to guide all of your strategy toward the mind of your end consumer. Are you providing value in exchange for the time you’re asking that customer to spend interacting with you?

There are some cardinal sins even big brands commit that you can stop doing today and reap the rewards of better, more meaningful engagement:

The Totally Pointless Post

Everyone has seen branded posts, usually featuring a product shot, that ask a question, like: “How are YOU enjoying [product name] today?” Granted, there are certain super fans who will always turn up for these types of posts. But let me ask you when the last time was that you passed a post office and dropped in to tell them that you just mailed a letter?

That’s because it’s not a natural connection you would make with another person. Essentially, you’ve just sent a text message to your girlfriend asking her if she was thinking of you. It’s weird and needy, and not in the spirit of social media.

Asking stupid questions or playing ridiculously simple games (a silhouette of your product with the caption “Guess what this is?” is an example of this type of terrible post).

The Poorly Hidden Focus Group

There are times you ABSOLUTELY should leverage your audience to get their feedback, and some brands do this brilliantly (e.g., Lay’s “Do Us A Flavour” campaign – actual products were made from consumer suggestions and votes).

This social media crime actually occurs when there is a more pointed question that the brand needs answered, or someone needs to drop into a slide for a presentation so, a propos of nothing, they post a question to Facebook like this:

“STUDENTS: Are you planning to go on vacation in the next 6 months? How much are you going to spend?”

If you received an unsolicited phone call and the person on the other end of the line asked that question, how fast would you hang up?

This type of post isn’t just a bad idea because it’s so different from your normal type of posts, it’s because it’s intrusive and the motivations are so obvious. If you want to know this information, conduct a survey or use Facebook quizzes to get the information you need.

The Everybody Loves Us

There is nothing more exciting for a company than to hear someone say: “I love what you’re doing!” But if you’ve ever been to a dinner party with a narcissist, you know that hearing how well-liked someone is from that person themselves is off-putting.

When you retweet or share compliments with no commentary, it is annoying to your followers. Thank those fans individually, and move on.

The “Can You Hear Me Now?”

There is a strategic reason to publish slight variations on an update in your social channels, and it’s usually to accompany something for a campaign: voting, contest entries, or advertising an event. But when it comes to topical updates, reposting is just obnoxious.

Everyone has that one friend who tells the same joke to new people he or she meets, and the new person always laughs, but you just cringe. This is the same outcome on social. If you remind me 6 times in one day that you were in The New York Times or on a billboard on Hollywood Blvd., not only do I not care, I’m now actively tuning you out. This is where “unsubscribes” come from. (On Twitter, unsubscribes are binary: a person either follows you or they don’t, but on Facebook, a user may still “Like” you, but they have unsubscribed to your updates, and it is highly unlikely they will ever return.) Be mindful that your updates could hit a user all at once and look like spam, and that’s never the right foot to start off a relationship.

The Preaching to the Choir

Everyone has seen these updates show up in their feed. An offshoot of reposting compliments, this is when a brand simply posts about how awesome they think they are, or how well they think their company can fit into your lives. This is the quintessential “not on social” blunder. Referencing something you love about your brand is great for push advertising: magazine ads, billboards, etc. Have you ever been on a date with a person who starts every sentence with “I’m the type of person who…”? That is exactly how tolerable talking about how much you love your brand is to your fans.

The “What Criticism?”

Removing negative feedback is a cardinal sin because it goes against the values of social media: transparency, two-way communications, and real-world interaction. I have seen this happen on many professional social media accounts.

Removing negative comments or complaints about your product is dangerous because it implies you need to control the message, and that your customers aren’t really of any importance to you. What’s worse is that you can upset the original complainant so much that they escalate their issue, and you could have an absolute communications crisis on your hands.

It’s better to immediately reach out to the person to ask for more information, or to deliver an initial response. Then, try to take their situation to a private communication channel until you know how best to deal with their situation, or identify someone in your organization who you can introduce the customer to.

Consider the benefit of receiving and dealing with complaints: that one person who commented may have discovered a critical flaw in your product, and knowing this, you might be able to save your company from a bigger crisis.

The Account that Wasn’t There

It’s important to have a big enough social media team to be able to consistently cover all your social media channels. It’s not enough to have an intern check in twice a day and update your accounts through a third-party tool. If your professional account is a ghost town, it’s going to raise suspicions as to why you’re there, and how successful you actually are. What’s more is that you won’t be catching conversations and questions from fans and followers, which will in turn build your engagement and fan/follower numbers. It’s true that social media isn’t a financial investment in the way that TV ads are, but it is a time investment, and you need to make sure someone’s minding the store.

Social media is new enough that we’re still learning every day, but old enough to see that some of the original tactics don’t work anymore. It’s time to review your own policies and make sure your brand isn’t guilt of any social media sins.


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