By now you’re probably sick to death of hearing that social media is a vital element to a business’s digital marketing mix and how social media marketing and SEO have become irreparably intertwined.

So let’s put that discussion to one side for a change and focus on five of the most common ways that companies mismanage social.

If you believe your company has it all under control then hooray for you, but I encourage you to read on to ensure you don’t fall foul of any of these potential pitfalls.

  1. Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder
It’s more like out of sight out of mind when it comes to social.

Above all else, a lack of presence is the recurring theme I encounter in conversation with new and prospective clients.

This occurrence becomes more prevalent as you delve into the more obscure niche business sectors where one may assume (incorrectly) that social conversation is non-existent or sounds more like a whisper.

But it’s these oft ignored areas where some of the best marketing opportunities exist.

If I had a penny for every time I heard “but there’s no social activity in our industry” I’d have close to 20p and enough to buy myself a lollipop.

Your potential customers are active somewhere on social media and it’s about identifying these appropriate channels, developing a presence and then participating in the conversation.

A good place to start is by connecting with industry/thought leaders in your sector and even, dare I say it, competitors!

This could be anything from a governmental legislative agency that oversees your industry, right through to the hippest fashion blogger who’s every scarf choice influences a generation.

Examine the companies, individuals and their connections and see where it makes sense for you to reach out and introduce yourself. You’d be amazed at how quickly this strategy snowballs.

A word to the wise.

Don’t do this activity at home on a Friday night after a few glasses of your favourite tipple.

The goal is not to get 1000 followers as quickly as possible. Relevance is the name of the game and results in a longer lasting relationship when formed appropriately.

And there’s no shame in checking up on what the competition is doing especially if they are doing it well.

The key is to review their activity “mirror” the successful elements and then improve upon them when you develop your own strategy.

And guess what…..

If you ARE lucky enough to be the first company to the social table in your industry and your competitors really aren’t active on social, then you have the enviable opportunity of first engagement and establishing a foothold in the marketplace.

Want to become the first blacksmiths on Shetland to establish a presence on Twitter and connect with the farm owners on the island? Seems like a no brainer to me!

That’s not to say that you need to rush away and establish a presence on every single social network that sprouts up.

Research the ones that are most applicable to your business and the ones that you can comfortably manage within your resources.

Better to do Facebook and Twitter exceptionally than a whole host of platforms carelessly.

  1. Abandoned Profiles
The second most popular reason for failing socially is lack of activity. Either through apathy or more often than not, lack of resource.

This is the client who, likely at the instruction of their previous SEO agency, set-up Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google + and if you’re lucky Pinterest and a You Tube Channel only to let them lay dormant for years with no activity since the first post on the day they were created.

It could be argued that this client is even more culpable than those who are absent.

  1. Ignoring Comments
Here’s the reason that a neglected social profile is so damaging. Firstly it portrays a lazy corporate culture to any potential customer who stumbles upon your profile page.

Secondly, and even more worrying, is the possibility that your inactive Facebook profile page has seen some queries from potential customers go unanswered.

Just to keep banging on the engagement drum, a recent survey uncovered a mind boggling stat showing that more consumers would recommend a brand that provides a quick but ineffective social response than would recommend a brand that provides a slow but effective social solution.

So, taking the time to answer queries and comments whenever possible is a great decision even if you can’t always provide the answer customers might want.

Quite often they’ll just appreciate your honesty and the fact that you took the time to empathise with their situation in a prompt manner.

Obviously social is a huge undertaking so it’s vital to ensure you have the strategy and personnel in place to support your company’s goals.

So if you don’t have the team either talk to the experts or wait until you can allocate the required resource.

Don’t try to run before you can walk.

  1. It’s all Me, Me, Me
Congratulations you’ve researched your marketplace, allocated/engaged the appropriate resources and established a beautifully designed presence on the appropriate platforms.

Now the hard work really begins.

What to do once you’re there.

Whatever you do, don’t fall into the bad habit of using social media purely as an avenue to promote your products and services.

That’s what your website is for!

One sure fire way to get blackballed is to bombard users’ news feeds with promo after promo detailing your new product or a limited time 5% discount.

Of course this information should be shared through these channels, but it should be strategically sprinkled in amongst some “humanised” posts.

I’ve lost count on how often I visit a company’s social stream only to see every post being their latest blog published at the same time every Friday. Ok, it is activity but it barely qualifies.

Social presents a unique opportunity to engage with your audience on a more personal level so sharing funny tailored images (we all love a good meme) or company perspective on a relevant current news item all helps to develop a rapport with your followers.

For example, one particular study suggests that photo posts on Facebook receive 39% greater interaction rates than standard text.

In case you didn’t know, people love something for free, so anytime you can add your expert knowledge to a conversation with your customer base it should be considered.

They get a quick-fire solution to a problem and you get the glory of helping out your consumers on a forum where the entire world is watching.

You can’t beat that.

  1. Auto-Pilot
There are some fantastic tools out there that can help you manage your social workload, Hoot Suite being a particular favourite of mine.

These sites provide a great platform to view your social sites in one easy-to-navigate user interface.

They enable you to conveniently participate on the appropriate platforms as well as alerting you to any comments your profiles receive from consumers.

The dangerous temptation is to automate your social posting to an extent that it eliminates natural interaction.

It’s all well and good to schedule a post to go out at midnight UK time if you want to target a certain demographic that’s active on Twitter in California in the late afternoon, but setting all your profile activity on “cruise control” can be damaging.

Heaven forbid some news breaks over the weekend and suddenly your scheduled Sunday afternoon post either becomes redundant or even worse now appears insensitive.

That’s why social requires careful attention and on occasion may require activity at all hours of the day and night.

It goes with the territory and companies should be prepared for all eventualities.

It needn’t always be a public relations “fire-fight” though.

One of the most opportune social media campaigns was implemented by the cookie company Oreo.

Upon the lights going out during the Super Bowl in 2013 they quickly sprang into action drafting and posting a social message that went viral.

Thousands of tweets and likes later, it was being widely recognised that “Oreo won the Super Bowl blackout.”

Probably sold a few more biscuits, too.

I hope you now feel a little better prepared for your voyage.

Ready to navigate the wild seas of social with confidence, equipped to embrace the challenges that await, at peace with the fact that success in social media doesn’t happen overnight and requires more than a mere after thought.

By Donald Macgregor, Head of Digital Marketing at MediaCo