Top Social Media Mistakes, According to the Experts

Heed their advice and avoid these pitfalls at all costs

by Baochi Nguyen |

Nearly 90% of U.S. companies are using social media, according to eMarketer. Clearly, we’ve come a long way since the days when businesses debated if they should be participating in social media. Now, it’s about how businesses are using social and whether those efforts are effective.

There is no dearth of advice on best-practices in social media. For marketers, this generous supply of tips can be overwhelming and even contradictory. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many brands on social networks make mistakes that result in low community following, sub-par engagement levels, and customer alienation.

So, how to sort through all the noise and hone in on the most valuable social media best practices? The solution: focus on advice from the folks who have long established leadership and expertise in social media.  We asked ten social media strategists whom we follow to identify the top mistakes they see businesses making on social networks.

Are you guilty of the social media mistakes below?

Mistake: No social media plan


The top mistake most businesses make is they don’t come up with a realistic social media plan: what they’re going to say in their posts, and their tone, who will manage it, how frequently they’ll post. Social media, like all aspects of your business, should have a good ROI (return on investment), but if you don’t know what your goals are and what resources you’re going to devote to it, there’s no way to measure success.


Rhonda Abrams (@RhondaAbrams), CEO at The Planning ShopUSA Today Columnist, and Author of Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies

Mistake: Not socializing the business internally and/or externally

Britopian Blog

For the last few years, I have been talking about the need for companies to start thinking about socializing their business. But the question I often get is “why?” Why is it important for my business to deploy internal communities, tear down silos, coordinate go-to-market plans or get my butt out of my cubicle and have a conversation with my colleagues in public relations? These are all good questions.

I look at social business strategy as an enabler.

Now, I am a marketing guy by trade so many of the challenges I help my clients with are the ones that help them improve the way they communicate externally and internally. Sometimes it’s about operationalizing their content marketing strategy. Other times, it’s about building processes and workflows that can help scale social media globally. And many times, it’s fixing disjointed content and community management practices.

In other words, in order to fix all this chaos, you need to have an effective social business strategy that enables better content, smarter marketing and more effective customer relationships.

Michael Brito (@britopian), SVP of Social Business Strategy at Edelman and Author of Smart Business, Social Business

Mistake: Having no content strategy or the wrong content strategy


You must have enough interesting, relevant and valuable content in your stream every day that is interesting, relevant and valuable to your audience. Not enough or the wrong content will miss the mark on actions, comments and relationship building. Content leads to conversations, conversations build relationships and relationships drive ROI.

Robert M. Caruso (@fondalo), CEO of BundlePost


Mistake: Not understanding that social media requires hard work


The biggest mistake most companies make is expecting social media to be the easy button. We all want to find that one big, fast solution that drives tons of revenue and fixes all our worries, but nothing is — not advertising, not a new phone system, not a new sales director, not social media. Anything you participate in as a business takes thought, planning, work, measurement, adjustment, rework and the likes to be successful. But they call can be successful if you go at it like work! Stop looking for the easy button. It doesn’t exist. Do the work.

Jason Falls (@JasonFalls), Founder of Social Media Explorer and Author of No Bullshit Social Media

Mistake: Not investing in owned assets

Jason Keath

The biggest mistake for many is not investing in owned assets enough. A strong email list, a blog or content website, and richer media assets (video, infographics, etc) are all essential elements of a well rounded social media presence for any business. The branding, SEO, and integration benefits are endless. Good examples include the Whole Foods recipe site and Disney’s many blogs.

Many of the questions we get from the Social Fresh community revolve around not seeing an ROI. I find many of these businesses are stuck in a social network silo, investing in Facebook tabs only or Twitter conversations only. Focus on your owned assets and smart strategies that connect your social network activity back to your owned assets. These are the connections that will help you get from Tweets to accomplishing your business goals.

Jason Keath (@jasonkeath), CEO and Founder of Social Fresh

Mistake: Talking about themselves more than 20% of the time

Nichole Kelly

Companies and individuals need to share great stuff from others at least 80% of the time so they can EARN the right to talk about themselves without turning their audience off. Just because you have a Twitter channel doesn’t give you permission to fill my stream with YOUR latest blog post, sale, deal or promo. That and using the phrase, “just a little self promotion.” Inherently, that statement negates any value I would’ve gotten from the content, but hey, thanks for the spam warning so I know to ignore you!

Nichole Kelly (@Nichole_Kelly), CEO of Social Media Explorer and Author of How To Measure Social Media

Mistake: Using social media as a broadcasting tool and not a conversation starter

Marcy Massura

This applies to brands and individuals ….when all you are doing is promoting and not connecting you are nothing more than the annoying loud-mouth at the party trying to sell everyone insurance.

Over diversification. There is no law that says in order to do social well you have to be on EVERY SINGLE PLATFORM. Time to focus. Once you really understand what you want out of your social experience and you really understand how each platform performs…align those and go long.

Marcy Massura (@marcymassura), Digital Manager and Strategist at Weber Shandwick

Mistake: Forgetting the human element


Somehow when they enter the digital space, people forget that behind every little avatar is a real person — an amazing person — who deserves to be acknowleged and respected. We’ve created this digital divide that gets in the way. Treat people the way you would treat them in real life. Be human. Make friends. Be kind. And remember that whatever you say, no matter how casually you say it, becomes part of your image and your brand.

Mark Schaefer (@markwschaefer), Executive Director at Schaefer Marketing Solutions, Professor at Rutgers University, and Author of Return on Influence

Mistake: Ignoring comments on Facebook fan pages


It blows my mind that brands with big budgets will allocate money to social media campaigns, creating all the fancy assets, putting the metrics in place, getting teams involved in the roll out, etc, etc…. only to omit the all-important component of proper community management. (In some cases, that may mean 24/7 support).

Social media marketing and measurement firm Socialbakers created a new standard of customer care called “Socially Devoted.” The firm found that brands are ignoring 70% of fan comments. When brands do respond it typically takes them a full 24 hours on average; yet brands should be aiming to respond within 10 – 30 minutes! (Tip: always @ tag the commenter in the thread so they get a notification of your response). The faster your response time, the happier you will keep your fans – these are your customers and prospects. And that’s money in the bank!

Mari Smith (@MariSmith), Social Media Thought Leader, Author  of The New Relationship Marketing & Co-Author of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day


Mistake: Using LinkedIn as a resume service, not leveraging Twitter DMs


LinkedIn is not simply a floating resume. You can present your expertise even in small ways, including sharing articles relevant to your job, company, or industry, and including a few insightful comments. It keeps you top of mind, and you can appear higher in LinkedIn search results (the social networks are search engines in their own right).

Sending public tweets that should really be direct messages (DMs). Please understand the difference between the two, and even if you think that no one will see the public conversation between the two of you because of Twitter’s change in distributing @ replies, anyone can still read the tweets by switching to your Timeline view. However, using the DM function of Twitter can actually replace text messaging, and can be a great resource.

Jake Wengroff (@jakewengroff), Founder of JXB1 and Social Business Expert

Have you fallen prey to any of these mistakes? What other social media mistakes have you seen companies make? Join the conversation, leave a comment.

About the Author

Baochi Nguyen

Baochi Nguyen is CEO of Social Canny, a digital marketing and social strategy agency. A fifteen-year veteran of the Internet industry, Baochi's expertise spans product marketing, marketing communications, PR, events, mobile technologies, social media and analytics. She has worked at large enterprises like Alcatel/Lucent, as well as startups such as Boingo Wireless and RingCentral. Baochi's leadership in social marketing and CRM has earned recognition in Mashable, Entrepreneur Magazine, and various book publications including The Now Revolution by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund. As a communicator and technophile, Baochi aims to convey technology's uses and benefits in ways that are accessible and easy to understand by consumer and business users. Baochi holds Bachelor and Master's degrees from Stanford University, CA.