Many Companies have rushed into Social Media with no real understanding of how it works, what sites will work best for their business and are blissfully unaware of the potential damage they can do to their brand on such a big stage. So what are the biggest mistakes companies make using social media? Here is my not-so-sweet-sixteen: 1. No Consistency Many businesses start off like a speeding train with their social media efforts. Only to find out that they cannot sustain the volume of activity and engagement. Don’t start something you can’t finish or don’t intend to do well. If you decide to blog, make a decision to do it on a consistent basis. Not randomly. And the more often, the better. Be consistent, present and responsive. Or don’t do it all. 2. Listen to me! Sell Sell Sell Many businesses forget that they are dealing with real human beings. With hopes and dreams and pet peeves. People relate to each other through two-way conversation, both online and in person. Ever met someone who monopolises the conversation? I have. And I tend to walk the other way when I see them coming. These shiny new social media tools are not loud speakers. Talking about yourself won’t make others talk about you. Don’t shout offers and deals and me, me, me. Take your sales hat off and think like a human being. Invest in getting to know your customers better than your competition does. Listen. Be curious, and interested and engaged. Tell stories and share knowledge. Most of all, ask yourself how you can provide meaning and value. How can you be helpful? How can you support your best friends and biggest fans? How can you lift them up? It’s about people. 3. No Plan Lots of businesses, especially small businesses don’t take time to build a proper strategy for social media or even do any planning or set any goals. Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail. 4. It’s Not the Holy Grail So many businesses believe “social media” is the solution to all their problems. It’s not, but coupled with other forms of marketing it can be very useful. Think of the word social media as “word of mouth marketing”. (Other tools that work alongside your social media strategy are – Your Website, SEO, Digital PR, Database marketing….even your telephone, email and face to face communication). 5. Time Many companies give up on their social media efforts just before they were about to succeed. It can take time to see a return on your social media efforts. Time – to get a loyal number of readers for you blog, Time – to build up a significant number of likes on your Facebook page, Time- for followers to start to trust and engage with you on Facebook and Twitter etc. So be prepared to give more than you get back initially and you will end up getting back far more than you put in. 6. Testing Many companies rush into social media and never properly assess which Social Media sites are best for their business. There is no point being on Plaxo or LinkedIn if your customers (current and potential) are not there. Also, many companies make the mistake of posting great content on the right site at the wrong time. So test different times of the day with your posts and see what days and times get the best level of engagement. 7. Mixed Messages Many companies make the mistake of acting differently on different social media sites. Eg. Being overly stuffy on LinkedIn and super casual on Facebook. This can confuse your customer and potentially damage your brand. 8. Seplling Yes I did that on purpose…Spelling! Many companies become careless when using social media. Very often we see big companies publishing updates on Facebook or even articles riddled with spelling errors. This can look very unprofessional. Make sure you have all updates and posts spell checked and/or properly proof read. 9. Measure Many businesses have no clue whether their social media efforts are working for them or not. They have not put anything in place to track or measure the impact of their tweets, facebook posts etc. 10. Knock Knock A recent study in the UK found that 42% of customers expected a response to a query left on Facebook or Twitter within 60 minutes. Many companies are too slow in responding to their customers on Social Media sites and some fail to respond at all. 11. Getting Shirty What happens when someone complains about our product or service online? That is a real nightmare and worry for most businesses. However it may in fact be better or someone to complain about us to our face, rather than behind our back. I have seen many companies making the mistake of getting defensive and starting a visible argument online. This is extremely damaging and in fact very often draws people over to the conversation as your bad press spreads virally. So if a complaint happens online acknowledge it and take the conversation off line ASAP. 12. Permanent Ink Companies occasionally make the mistake of saying something they shouldn’t. This is a bad error in a meeting, but can be a disaster if done online. Remember everything we write on our Social Media sites are public and may even be searchable forever. 13. Ownership A common mistake that many companies make is that they get a staff member to set up the company’s Facebook page or LinkedIn Group. If the account is set up by that individual’s personal details they can own the rights to that page and not the company. I heard of a company who recently paid an ex employee thousands of Euro to regain ownership of the company LinkedIn group. So ensure all accounts are set up using company emails and make your staff administrators of those accounts. 14. Believing everyone sees your content Sometimes companies assume just because they have posted something up on Facebook their customers have seen it. This is a dangerous and ill advised assumption. 15. Believing no one sees your content When we put information out in the public domain we must be aware that we are not in control of who sees our content. We think no one is listening or watching, but chances are we are wrong. 16. Get your facts Right Companies have been caught out in the past by making up false statistics and facts online. This is a bad idea in a business meeting, but even more reckless online. What common mistakes do you see companies making? And what advice would you give?