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.
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.