Social media marketing has made starting a business today easier than it was twenty years ago. Back then, as a business owner, you would need to come up with a good deal of capital and/or time just to invest in marketing activities that would spread your message far enough and often enough to get the attention of potential customers.
Now, it doesn’t takes as much money and certainly a lot less time to begin marketing a new business. However, it’s not fool-proof. Here are 10 common mistakes to avoid when building a new business using social media.
1. Focusing on numbers rather than ideal, targeted fans.
Despite the fact that the most ideal form of business is repeat business, too many small business owners focus on reaching as many people as possible with social media rather than on those who are most likely to buy their services. This lack of focus often leads to desperate tactics designed to inflate the popularity of a business by increasing fan counts superficially, instead of real prospects.
Buying fans or simply gathering followers who are not in your ideal target market is a waste of time. It is far better to build a small fan base of people who will not only buy your product or service, but will talk about it and interact with you. This will make your social media experience more profitable as well as much more enjoyable.
2. Underestimating the amount of time required to build a loyal social media following.
Social media marketing is not a quick, 5 minute task. It takes time to build awareness, build a following, and then subsequently, to get your fans and followers to engage with you via your various channels. If you underestimate the amount of time it takes, you may end up spending too much time on social networks, or worse, too little time.
It is worth it to either allocate a significant portion of your time to social media, or to hire someone in-house (even temporarily) who can spend a lot of time nurturing and growing your presence online.
3. Not having clear roles or goals for social media in the business.
This is perhaps one of the biggest and most detrimental mistakes any business can make regarding social media. Not having clear roles or goals for social media marketing can lead to activity that doesn’t benefit the business or increase the bottom line.
Social media is about more than just being social online. Many businesses have grown from the ground up using specialized marketing and advertising techniques, but it’s crucial to realize that they are well-planned, well-funded, and measured along the way to ensure that they are actually accomplishing goals.
Take time to think about what you want to gain from social media activity. Use the goal to identify the tasks and milestones you will need to accomplish along the way. This will ensure that your social media activity makes sense for your business.
4. Neglecting the power of business to business referrals.
Many businesses become active in social media sites only to meet and greet prospective customers; however, neglecting the power of the business-to-business referral is a mistake. Making friends with other business owners via social networking could put you in contact with an already identified circle of target customers. Most businesses are open to developing mutually beneficial relationships online; it is worth reaching out to other businesses on social networks and establishing a referral network that would put your business in front of their fan base, and vice versa.
5. Focusing too heavily on one social network.
While you should definitely spend time on the network that feels most comfortable to you, it’s also very important to develop a presence where your fans are, and that might be on another site. Get to know all of the sites, and give yourself enough time on each of them to clearly identify which networks are the most worthwhile for your particular business and personality type.
Remember, not all of your customers are going to use all of the networks. Increase your reach so that you can be where they are.
6. Underestimating the power of blogging as a central part of social media.
Blogging is a central part of social media. You can do much more with the combination of blogging and social networking than you can with social networking alone. Use a blog as the hub of your activity, and then use the various social media channels as spokes, reaching out to your fans where they are and leading them back to your home base (your blog). You can also control and steer the conversation about your product much better when it is centralized on your blog, so allow your fans and followers the opportunity to communicate with you via comments.
7. Spending too much or too little money on social media marketing activities.
A common misconception about social media is that it is a free way to get the word out about your business. That may or may not be true, and even if it were 100% true, it’s not always wise to approach it with that mentality. Businesses that invest in things like contests, scholarships, and advertising via social networking often see a return that’s far greater than those who refuse to invest any money at all.
Likewise, spending too much money is also unwise. Before you spend any money, do some competitive analysis on social media campaigns that have worked in the past for other companies. If you are creative, you can find a way to make even the smallest amount of money go very far in terms of ROI with social media.
8. Outsourcing tasks that should be handled internally.
Not all social media marketing can be outsourced easily. Sometimes, it really is better to get familiar with the platforms so that you can personally engage your fans and followers. Not only is this a wise long-term strategy, but it is better for your customers all around.
There are going to be questions that only you can handle, and there are going to be times when it is simply most efficient and cost-effective for you to make real-time status updates yourself. However, some tasks, such as the physical development of your social media accounts and pages, can be outsourced with no impact on your ability to meet your fans and followers needs.
9. Limiting the role of social media only to marketing.
One trend that’s becoming more and more common among businesses using social media is the use of the networks to do more than just market to new customers. Many businesses are now using social media to take orders, respond to inquiries, and even for full-scale customer service issues.
Using social media for more than just marketing significantly increases social media awareness, so the benefit is extensive. The only downside of this is that customers who do not use social media still need a way to place orders, contact customer service, etc. So be sure to use social media wisely in this manner (e.g., don’t require it, only add it as an option).
10. Expecting too much out of social media marketing.
At the end of the day, it’s important to keep your goals and resources in perspective. If you have very little money or very little time to invest in social media marketing activities, it’s unreasonable to demand a huge return on investment. So often, you will reap what you sow when it comes to social media.
Keeping in mind that it takes time (and usually some money) to get something tangible out of social media marketing, manage your expectations. While it’s important to measure effectiveness, don’t do that too soon. Too often, small businesses quit while they are really ahead, just because they haven’t been able to manage expectations well. Go into it with some goals, but keep in mind what you have to work with in terms of time and money and always be sure you are not asking for more than you can reasonably expect.