10 Social Media Mistakes You May Be Making (Because I Did)

There’s no real guidebook for a perfect social media marketing career – or at least I haven’t found one yet. There’s no quiz you can take to make sure you’re covering all your bases, engaging your audience, timing everything perfectly and — on top of it all — delivering amazing ROI.

In fact, the most effective way I’ve discovered to really improve at my job is to royally screw it up once in a while and learn from the mistakes. In the interest of adding to our collective wisdom, here are 10 of the biggest mistakes I’ve made so far – and my tips to help you avoid the same fate.

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Image via Shutterstock

1. Reading Too Much

OK, this first one is probably a little controversial. How could reading about what’s going on in the industry possibly be a bad thing?

I’ve come to believe that spending too much time in the echo chamber is bad for your social media strategy and, more importantly, your creativity.

Read too many blog posts and you run out of time to do anything else — not to mention that it starts to seem like all your good ideas are derivative, everyone knows more than you, and everything that can possibly be written already has been.

2. Creating Too Little

Reading too much also directly contributes to what might be the worst mistake on this list: creating too little.

A recent interview on Squawk with the very smart AJ Kohn really made me think. He said:

“Reading a lot doesn’t make you an authority – understanding a lot might, to a degree – but communicating your experiential learning is what really makes the difference.”

Anyone can read a lot. Building your own place in this industry as a thought leader comes from explaining what you’ve learned and building your own thoughts on top of it – whether that comes in the form of writing, presentations, videos or other kinds of content.

3. Thinking “Everyone’s Seen That”

Guess what? Most people aren’t on social media networks 24/7. It’s our job to dissect every viral video and new meme as it happens, but your audience might actually be out, you know, having a life.

It’s important to remember that we’re the outliers here, and that our unique position allows us to be great curators for our audience. Who’s the George Takei of your industry? Why isn’t it you/your brand?

4. Forgetting To Be Present

The real-time nature of social media means that it really never stops. I’ve answered Twitter queries on Christmas and responded to Facebook posts at family gatherings, and that’s fine – it comes with the territory.

But, social media is insidious at pulling you in further. Suddenly, there’s no moment that seems special enough to just live instead of to document, no conversation important enough that you can’t just take a quick peek at your phone during it.

And, in the same way that the photos we take at concerts pale in comparison to the real thing, a life lived on social media isn’t quite the same as actually living.

5. Chasing “Engagement”

There’s really nothing I can say about this that the brilliant Condescending Corporate Brand Page doesn’t say better in this image.


Chasing irrelevant, empty “engagement” for no good reason is a fool’s errand in the most literal sense of the phrase.

6. Taking My Community For Granted

I work with a whip-smart, funny and truly interesting community. I bet you do, too.

That’s not to say that it can’t be challenging. But, during the moments when your audience doesn’t take the bait on that perfect Facebook post or is peppering you with questions you don’t have time for, it helps to remember how lucky we are to be doing this in the first place. We’re engaging with smart people, learning daily, building real relationships – and getting paid for it.

7. Measuring Nothing

If you read enough about how social media ROI is impossible, incomplete and the wrong question to ask, it’s tempting to throw up your hands and give up. I did that for a while. It’s a bad idea.

True, social media ROI may be an elusive beast, but that doesn’t give us license to sit back and do nothing. Insights don’t happen without measurement. Confidence doesn’t happen without measurement. Promotions don’t happen without measurement!

Define social media’s worth for your business and measure it — even if it’s difficult or you can’t find a tool to do it for you.

8. Measuring The Wrong Things

The only thing worse than measuring nothing is measuring the wrong things. When you do that, you’re just wasting time! That said, I’ve definitely done some time focusing on “locker room metrics” that had no impact on anyone’s bottom line.

It’s natural to start there, but eventually we all have to learn to measure what matters, not what’s easiest.

9. Being a Tool Hoarder

Until you’re sure what to measure, no tool can save you. But, it doesn’t seem that way at first. I remember turning to each new tool, thinking that it would finally be the quick-fix, silver-bullet answer to my ROI questions.

Once you accept that tools are only as good as their operator, you’ll achieve the right mindset to use them correctly – as a supplement to your critical thinking, not a replacement for it.

10. Forgetting To Have Fun

If you’ve worked in social media for any length of time, you’ve probably had to justify your job to people who think you just play on Facebook and Twitter all day. So you trot out your custom Google Analytics dashboard or start talking about KPIs and the sales funnel. All of that stuff is great – crucial, even – but it’s possible to get so focused on defending social media as a “real job” that you risk sucking all the fun out of it.

It’s important for brands to remember that when it comes to social media, we’re visitors whom our audience has invited into their circle. Social media is where they share personal stories and photos. Where they connect with friends. Where they go to relax and have fun. If we’re going to crash the party, shouldn’t we bring champagne instead of sales charts?

Now: What Are Yours?

Those are some of my biggest social media mess-ups (so far). Can you identify with them? How do your social media goofs compare? Tell me about them in the comments.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing Column


About The Author: is a content crafter at Buffer. She has been an editor and writer at publications including Allure, Time Out New York, Playboy and The Tennessean. She speaks frequently on social media marketing and community management topics.

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  • Terri-Ann Richards-Cormier

    Great content! Another mistake I think a lot of brands make, especially locally – is not being up to date on what is happening within their own community. I think the best use of social media locally, is to share community events, news that compliments either your brands mission or their not-for-profit efforts. Showing support of other complimentary small businesses and organizations is a great way to share the ‘love’ and cross promote.

  • RavenCourtney

    Great point! Sharing content from your community and likeminded organizations is an excellent idea – and you’re right, I definitely would like to see more brands doing it.

  • Kaitlin Hawkins

    I especially love point #3. I’ve often fallen for this in the past, missing serious opportunities within my communities to share something new simply because I thought everyone was aware of it. Wrong! (And even if your followers have seen the news/info before, it’s your chance to bring it to new light or with a new perspective.)

    I think a big mistake that people make it over-sharing information. Not all social media communities are created equal – while I want to see a billion updates from the brands I follow in Twitter, I certainly don’t want to see that same kind of activity on Facebook or even Google+. You have to learn what information is relevant on which platform and then repackage it accordingly. And if that means that not everything you share on Twitter gets shared on your other social profiles, so be it.

  • http://flavors.me/40deuce 40deuce

    Love this post! Thanks Courtney!

    Sheldon, community manager for Marketwired

  • RavenCourtney

    Thanks; I’m so glad to hear that!

  • RavenCourtney

    Definitely true. I’ve seen brands that treat all social networks as interchangeable when in reality they each have their own etiquette and rhythms. It’s really important to be a good citizen of each!

  • Textbroker

    Nice post! I’d add in “Foot in Mouth disease.” We’ve all seen the outrage that an off-color tweet or promotion can have. These things don’t come from amateurs, either, so you have to be careful in what you say and when. Sometimes your witty reply accidentally divulges something confidential, and then you’re in hot water. Also, what’s funny to you might not be funny to your community. I use the grandma test – if I wouldn’t say it in front of Grandma (or a strict teacher for those of you with feisty grandmothers), then I shouldn’t say it on social either.

  • http://www.TheWritersSocial.com/ The Writers Social

    Great article, it opened my eyes to some great ideas and things to watch out for. I shared your article on my site for my readers.

  • RavenCourtney

    That’s a good test for all of us – brands AND individuals. Wish more people would apply it!

  • RavenCourtney

    Thanks; glad it was useful.

  • http://www.redstarcreative.co.uk/ Andy Kinsey

    great post, simple mistakes that many people make. especially the “im not tracking anything” type mentality

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    It’s so hard to walk away from social media! Yes, social networks don’t operate on a 9-5 schedule but you can’t get so sucked in that you completely lose track of everything else going on. Check in, check out, come back later.

  • RavenCourtney

    Perhaps the hardest lesson of all of these to learn. I know I’m still working on it.

  • RavenCourtney

    Thanks; glad you liked it!

  • http://blog.clayburngriffin.com/ Clayburn Griffin

    It’s disappointing the word “strategy” appears nowhere in this. This is the biggest flaw of people doing social media these days. No strategy. That’s why things like #5 and #7/#8 happen.

  • RavenCourtney

    I’m sure there are plenty more social media mistakes to go around. ;) Maybe someone else can pick up the mantle and add to this list.

  • disqus_W4KjfaOksA

    Good post, Courtney. However I don’t agree with mistake # 1: Reading too much. To be honest, I think not reading enough is the biggest mistake people make. Why? Because social media is only truly effective if people pay attention to other people . There is nothing more annoying than a business that seems to think that they are all that matters.

  • RavenCourtney

    You’re absolutely allowed to disagree – I don’t expect everyone to have made all the same mistakes I have. Some people probably do need to read more, but the solution for me was to focus on just the sites that were bringing me the most value and dump some of my excess feeds.

    However, I DO agree that paying attention to others is what makes social media successful. However you get there!

  • apfwebs

    Agree. But for me, I have to do it by (for example, on Twitter) limiting the number I follow to the number I really intend to read, then make a point of reading. For my pea brain, limits are important to avoid information overload.

  • Fourtopper

    Man, do I fall victim to 1 and 2 a lot. Creating content to spread on social media is definitely more valuable, but you can’t discount making important connections on Twitter and LinkedIn.

  • sittinglazily

    I think #10 is the biggest one because so many companies are scared to death of offending anybody so their communications read like a bland HR drafted press release. It’s important to have fun, make jokes, and show off a personality. The rest of social media success IMO really boils down to having at least a thimbleful of empathy. You have to post quality content that others will value enough to want to share. There are companies out there that mistake the cause for the effect and rather than creating good content – try and go to shortcuts and use things like the companies listed at http://www.buyfacebookfansreviews.com to essentially try and buy fans. I don’t think that social media works like that. If you have some empathy, you’ll use that to figure out what your potential customers want to see and you’ll prosper for that.

  • RavenCourtney

    Great point! It’s all about achieving balance, which will look a little different for each person.

  • Karlosb

    having fun is key for me, especially if you have a fun brand. The social media team are always justifying themselves to us and I keep telling them there is no need! I think ensuring you user the same handler/name is important as well (not always the easiest thing to do if your brand name is a regular word) because people are much more clued up on social media now and will often look for your company on different platforms.

  • http://www.wisestep.com/ WiseStep

    Great piece. These are several rather common mistakes that I’ve seen made on social media, especially talking about themselves too much. No one wants to hear you chatter about yourself all day long – engage your following, ask questions and get them interacting with you!!


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