How to Not Suck at Social Media Marketing

by David Greenspan
on November 25, 2015

I have a confession to make, a confession that’s going to shock and astound you, dear reader. It’s one of my greatest embarrassment (he says, as he sighs wearily into a cup of tea). It’s the source of quite some insecurity and it’s about time I came clean –

I suck at social media.

Damn that felt good to say. I’m going repeat it once more for good measure and to get the sweet, sweet dopamine release that comes from honesty –

I suck at social media.

Okay, I suck at social media…so what? Why does that matter? Also, if I suck at social media so much, why do I own an agency that maintains a strong focus on social media marketing?

Ah, life’s tough questions.

Look, I spend hours each day on Facebook & Instagram. I’ve been known to send a Snap or two. I even tried to become Vinefamous (yes, one word) with a series of ill-fated knocks at vape culture (first lesson: be nice or shut up).

Let’s see if we can’t get to the bottom of my troubles and, in the process, learn you all some tips and tricks about how not to suck yourselves.

Some Embarrassing Stats

I’m not alone in sucking at social. In fact, you’re probably reading this because you too struggle to successfully market on social media.

Whether you’ve failed at Facebook, tiptoed around Twitter, been injured on Instagram, or faced some other alliteration heavy example, the point remains – a lot of people suck at social media.

I didn’t want to pull you into my shame spiral…it just sort of happened. Apologies all around, but now that we’re here, well, let’s look at some numbers:

  • 53% of social media marketers don’t measure their success (Awareness, Inc. via Hubspot)

How can you expect to do anything but fail when you don’t measure success?

measuring social media success analytically
measure, measure, measure…& measure some more
  • Only about 20% of consumer complaints on brand social pages generate responses from the offending brand. What’s more, the average response time is over 11 hours (eMarketer)

How can you earn customer loyalty, let alone brand evangelism, if you don’t reply to your customers?

  • Around 25% of people in a Hubspot study expect your brand to respond to their comment within an hour

I repeat “How can you earn customer loyalty, let alone brand evangelism, if you don’t reply to your customers?”

  • In the same survey, 19% of consumers said they’re willing to unfollow your brand if you use too many hashtags or if you post some off-the-wall ones

Go easy with the hashtags guys. Seriously.

I could go on, but you get the point. Besides who wants to look at statistics all day? You want to see some fails, right? You want to see some juicy missteps and outright bellyflops, right?

I thought so.

Epic Social Fails Made by Yours Truly

We’ve all been there. It doesn’t matter if you’re using social media personally or if you’re a business using it to grow your brand – we’ve all been there.

My first real social screw up came when I was working with a friend on her event promotion Facebook page.

It was focused around art, music, and poetry events. Have I ever mentioned I’m a huge poetry nerd? For proof, see the below picture –

quit my job write poetry
if you replace write poetry with write copy then I’m living the dream

Anyway, it was fall. The seasons were changing (the small amount they change in Florida). It was getting…less sweltering. It was September. It was September 11th, actually.

I knew I should post something to commemorate the day, but I didn’t know what. I settled on a rap song that was, well, not the right piece of media to post.

I hit publish, got up from my computer (this was before iPhones were as ubiquitous as they are today), and forgot about the whole thing…until I got an irate call from my friend a few hours later. She wasn’t a fan of what I’d posted. I can’t say I blame her. It wasn’t appropriate.

this is how embarrassed i was
this is basically what I looked like after that one

My biggest mistake, by far my biggest mistake, on social happened when I was managing a popular addiction recovery account. I’m not going to name names, but if you’re in the recovery sphere you probably know who they are.

Anyway, I was managing their Facebook page, writing content, building links, and doing PR. It was a lot.

I wrote an article about crystal meth. It went live on their site and I posted it to Facebook. Now, generally speaking, I like to add new images for the Facebook featured image. I didn’t this time.

Know the featured image I used for the article? A large piece of very high-grade meth.

That’s right, I posted what could be – and quickly was – called drug porn to an addiction recovery support page. To say things didn’t go positively’s an understatement.

this is what i looked like after another mistake
& this is what I looked like after another one (but with hair)

Not only did I damage their brand, I almost lost my job. Thankfully, the organization forgave me. They saw I was a haphazard twenty-something who screwed up and not a malicious spammer. I wouldn’t have blamed them for breaking our contract right there though.

I Might Not Suck at Social After All

Here’s the thing – I’ve had some great successes on social media.

I’m by no means a wunderkind. I fail quite frequently at my own efforts and for clients. I’ve been known to run off halfcocked and post some truly offensive and stupid stuff…but I keep trying.

What’s that great Samuel Beckett quote? “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

No matter how many times I fall short of a particular KPI, no matter how many times I butcher a campaign, I come up with something else and keep trying. And that’s the secret to my embarrassing confession from above.

Although I may suck at social media & marketing via all social’s glorious channels – I’ve still achieved some great success for myself and for my clients. When you combine that with the rest of the creative talent here at TM34? We’re doing something right.

this guy has no idea what hes doing on social media
I might have failed before…but look at this guy! Blogger & Skype aren’t social media. He has NO idea what he’s doing

And that’s why you’re here, right? To learn how to do something right on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the rest?

Maybe you’re a small business owner looking to take your local store to the next level. Maybe you’re an intrepid convert to the world of digital marketing looking to learn the ropes. Maybe you’re a veteran who got sucked in by the headline. Maybe you’re none of the above.

It doesn’t matter who you are ’cause my point remains the same – we can learn from our failures, from the failures of others, from our successes, and from the successes of others.

Read on to learn four of my hardest won lessons.

Be Authentic

What’s worse than someone attempting and failing to seem cool on social media? A brand attempting and failing to seem cool on social media.

I’m not kidding – there’s nothing worse than watching a company flail around on Facebook or Twitter. There’s nothing worse than watching them sponsor posts or promote tweets and get a cumulative total of…four interactions.

You know why this happens? It isn’t that some people “get” social and some don’t (although, to be sure, some people are better at social than others). It’s because the company in question isn’t being authentic.

There’s a reason behind the scenes photos blow up on Instagram. There’s a reason people want transparency from brands they follow.

That’s how we, as consumers, get to know the company. It’s how we form an emotional connection with them.

be authentic when social media marketing

The name of the game’s authenticity. If you can’t do it, well, don’t bother with any social media.

The question then becomes how to access the authenticity of your brand. While this might sound hard, it’s actually a lot easier than most people think.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s the story behind my brand?
  • How’d we get started?
  • What values (business and personal) do we hold close to heart?
  • What social movements align with those values?
  • What do we do that other companies don’t?
  • What do we want our voice to be?

There are about 99 billion more questions, but these will get ya started. Answer them truthfully and you’re well on your way to finding brand authenticity.

Choose Your Channels Wisely

Know what being on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and every other hip, new social channel accomplishes?

A lot of noise. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less.

Sounds like a waste of time. Why not pick and choose your platforms carefully? Why not treat social media marketing like the art form it is? Why not take what I like to call the scalpel approach?

Operate with a scalpel rather than a shotgun. Make every post count. Practice content marketing…not content vomiting.

If it makes sense to be on four social networks then be on four. If it makes sense to be on one then be on one. If it makes sense to be one none – and make no mistake, this is sometimes the case – then be on none.

The most important thing’s that your social efforts make sense.

Do they gain you customers, inspire loyalty and retention in the customers you already have, or build your brand? How does being on Facebook benefit you and your actual or potential customers? If you can’t think of an answer – don’t be on it.

Simple, right?

Build Your Audience Before Going Promotional

This one seems like a no brainer…but you’d be surprised. Don’t post only promotional content.

Got it?

Social media is about being social. It’s about using your brand to engage in a larger conversation. It’s about listening and responding to your followers. It’s about posting content that’s entertaining or helpful to your audience.

You know what it’s not about? Tweeting 20 times each day about your new marketing automation software or whatever it is you’re slinging.

Yes, it’s about positioning your brand in a certain way to achieve positive results (brand building, site visits, sales, email signups, etc.), but that never comes at the expense of your audience.

Be Positive or Shut Up

This one isn’t so much a tip as a reminder.

Look, I’m a cynical person by nature. I can’t help it. That’s just how my mind works. You know what I never, ever, ever, ever (ever) do though? Post negative content for a brand I’m managing.

That’s common sense. You know what else I never do? Respond negatively to customer comments or messages.

be nice when marketing on social media
play nice or go home

Again, common sense right? Wrong.

I’ve seen brands respond negatively to customer feedback on quite a few occasions. If you’re guilty of this cardinal sin, remember one very important thing – every time you post something negative on social media under a company account…a kitten dies.

Don’t kill kittens! Why would you do that? Are you some kind of monster?

The Point…

Thank you, dear readers, for joining me on this journey. We started with me dealing with some serious social self-loathing. We’ve ended talking about kittens being killed.

This hasn’t been an easy journey, I know, but it’s been helpful. You now know what not to do on social media and, more importantly, what to do.

Go out there and start posting phenomenal content. Start interacting with customers and inspiring them to be better. Start fulfilling the contract you sign every time someone follows your brand.

What contract, you ask? Simple – I’m only going to post [insert hilarious meme here] if it helps my audience.

Sound good? Good. See ya on social media, friends.

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