Used right, social media in its various incarnations is arguably the most powerful and robust marketing tool of the modern age. Brands have the opportunity to speak to millions of consumers at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising media such as print and radio with the added – and significant – benefit of being able to decide exactly who they target with laser precision.social media photo

But while social media can be a potent ally, even the slightest misstep can be a brand’s death knell from an online reputation point of view. History is full of examples of brands making poor decisions online and doing irreparable damage to their credibility in the process.

Don’t allow your brand to be next week’s headline on the Cracked.com homepage. Rather take heed of these common mistakes and make a concerted effort to avoid them!

  1. Being unresponsive

Because social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are open to public scrutiny, many consumers turn to these channels to vent their frustration about negative experiences with a brand’s product or service. In many instances, posting to the brand’s page is quicker and easier than sending an email to an unmonitored email address, and the pressure of being in the public eye makes queries and complaints difficult to ignore.

Which is exactly why you shouldn’t ignore them.

By not responding to customer posts on your page, you are doing two things:

  1. Sending the message that you don’t care about your customers, and
  2. Making your brand look guilty.

Even if you did screw up, rather own up to it and let the customer know that he is being heard and you’ll do whatever you can to set things right. In the majority of cases, simply letting the irate customer blow off steam is enough to ameliorate the situation.

And whatever you do, unless a post is deliberately abusive or degrading, do not delete negative comments from your page!

Besides, if you are able to turn the customer’s experience from a negative into a positive, it’s entirely possible that he’ll become an ambassador for your brand.

  1. Posting sporadically

posting photoBuilding a loyal social media following requires consistency. Posting once every couple of weeks simply isn’t sufficient to keep your audience engaged, and eventually they will just end up leaving your page or unfollowing your account.

Have your communications specialist or content manager draw up a social media calendar and plot content for at least a month with a minimum of one post a day. Include images and video content for maximum reach and engagement.

  1. Trying to cash in on tragedy

I mean, come on. Do brands actually do this? They sure do! Here are some cringe-worthy examples.

There is absolutely no good reason to go this insensitive and tone-deaf route. While it’s perfectly okay for a brand to post or Tweet their condolences after a tragic event, this communication should be completely removed from marketing efforts and come from a place of genuine compassion.

  1. Gratuitous hashtag usage

It’s difficult to deny the fact that hashtags have become overused to the point of being downright annoying. They’re okay for latching onto trending topics and getting noticed, but they’ve been usurped by individuals who clearly have no sense of self-control.

Use one or two at the most if it’s really relevant to what you’re posting about (“Hey! It’s #NationalPancakeDay P.S. buy our shoes” is an example of how not to do hashtags), but don’t clutter up the entire message by overdosing on the thing. It’s just not #cool.

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Photo by danielmoyle

  1. Promoting the brand without adding value to your audience

Look, I get it. Brands go onto social media with the express intent of reaching more potential customers and selling more of whatever it is they sell. That’s kind of the point.

But if every post is a desperate sales pitch, you’re just turning your company page into an infomercial feed. Rather provide useful content, things that your audience can actually use. Offer useful tips on a subject relevant to your business, or give away coupons that can be redeemed at your store. You can even create an eBook and make it available as a free download.

  1. Not having a defined or consistent brand tone of voice

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You’ve probably heard the term “brand persona” being used in marketing circles.

Basically, a brand persona is a personification of your brand, a conceptualization of the traits that the brand might possess if it were a real person, the logic being that consumers like to feel that they are dealing with an actual human being.

If your content is formal and serious the one day and whimsical and light-hearted the next, it’s likely to create an incongruous experience for your audience.

Fundamental to developing your brand persona is a proper definition of your intended audience. A brand tone that speaks primarily to teenagers will most likely differ from one whose target market is outdoor fanatics in their thirties.

Spend some time imagining what a typical member of your audience might look like. Are they male or female or a mix of both? What is the average age? What activities do they enjoy? What level of education have they completed?

Once you have established what your audience looks like, you can start working on what tone of voice would most suit the intended recipients of your marketing communications.

Posted by Charl Mijnhardt

Charl Mijnhardt is an established freelance writer with a special interest in wellness and mental health. He is also an experienced technical writer with many years' experience writing for the security industry. He currently lives in South Africa with his wife, Nastasia, and his cat, Gizmo. Hire him to write engaging copy for your website, blog, e-book, newsletter or marketing communications.

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