It’s the time of year when many places have new people working in social media management, whether interns for colleges or other accounts or new hires ready to roll in this field. Which is exciting. And yet. I look at my Twitter ticker or Facebook feed and see so many people making simple mistakes that make me weep a little. So here are five common mistakes in social media you’ll want to avoid to make it all easier.
Watch your @. If you are replying to another Twitter account, an @ is entirely appropriate. If you’re trying to promote something and start with an @, you’re restricting your audience to only those following both accounts. If you want this message to reach your full audience, the answer is simple: Don’t start with an @! If you work in social media, you should be clever enough to know how to reword it.
Avoid the horse latitudes. Different studies say different things about when is the best time to post in social media, but what generally matters most is the content. After all, our most popular Facebook post ever went up on a Friday evening, which many self-styled “social media gurus” would advise against. That said, you should examine when your target market is active and when it’s not. When I see accounts post things appealing to students at 4:30 a.m., that doesn’t seem very wise. Lazy Sunday afternoons are also not the ideal time to try to engage a wide conversation with a general (not necessarily inspiring) question. And if there’s a much-tweeted event (Super Bowl™, award shows, “Walking Dead” season finale, etc.), any tweets — especially off topic — will drown in the flood.
Don’t be a robot. A friend of mine who just assumed greater social media responsibility announced she was unhooking the auto-feed that blasted her school’s Facebook and Twitter accounts simultaneously. And there was much rejoicing. A tweet that is awkwardly cut off in the middle and sports a Facebook link is essentially saying: “I really don’t care about Twitter.” Twitter and Facebook are two distinctly different media with different strengths and different audiences. You don’t run a TV ad on the radio or vice versa. Your social media outlets — while they should be integrated — also should have their own lives. If you can’t find 15 seconds to post something separately in Twitter and Facebook, you really don’t care about your audience.
Have conversations. Social media is not a bullhorn; it’s a conversation. Or a series of conversations. If your Facebook account is just your news releases with hardly any comments or likes, or if your Twitter account is just your posts with no @s or RTs, then it’s not very social. Also, when you post, don’t throw out lame marketing taglines. Sound like a human (see above), as if you were having a conversation with friends. Because even if you’re working social media for a brand, you ARE having a conversation with friends.
Know which account you’re in. Yes, at some point or another, we’ve probably posted something from the wrong account in haste. This is usually harmless, like when I answered a question last week from @TimNekritz via Tweetdeck forgetting to switch over to @sunyoswego. But there’s always the famous “#gettngslizzerd” example where a Red Cross employee accidentally posted about drinking exploits under the official account. To their credit, the Red Cross responded magnificently so the story had a happy ending. In terms of mobile posting, I make sure my personal Twitter account and any professional accounts are on different apps so I don’t have to worry about signing in or out. Whatever method you use, check what you’re doing so you don’t become a social media case study.
All that said, if you’re new to the field of social media management: Congratulations! It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s very fulfilling to help others and make connections. And know that there’s a massive support group of others working in this area on Twitter and elsewhere always willing to help with advice and feedback. After all, social media is about humans being social and helpful, and it really is a great job and community.