Most Common Social Media Mistakes

You know what you’re supposed to do in social media. You’ve read the guides, the blog posts, the articles. But here’s a list of what you don’t want to do. They’re the common social media mistakes that others have made so you don’t have to.

Got a pen?

Creating profiles everywhere: You may want to claim your username everywhere, but you don’t want to set up shop on every community on the Web. Instead, research the various sites and locate the ones that will give you the most bang for your buck. Not everyone should be on Twitter. Find out where your users are, where they’re interacting most, and where you’d be most welcome. Then, set up shop there. This will help you focus your efforts and prevent you from suffering from the dreaded Social Media Account Overload (SMAO). You don’t want to dilute your efforts by trying to be active on too many sites.  You want to pick and choose to find the sites most beneficial to you.

Not completing your profile: Once you decide which sites you’re going to engage in, you need to commit and genuinely become part of that network. That means being a good member of the community and completely filling out your user profile. Doing so helps you attract like-minded members but it also shows people that you’re here to stay.  Help gain some easy trust points by customizing your profile – add a photo, share your hobbies, fill out your description, etc — to let everyone know you’re not going anywhere. Tell and show people who you are. Yes, social media is where your customers are, but you have to give them a reason to want to engage with you.  Put yourself out there in order to benefit from real conversations down the road.

Fake friending: Tell me when this starts to sound familiar: You hear that Twitter is an important social media site. So you go, create an account, and then immediately start friending (or, in this case, following) everyone you can find and everyone who friends or follows you first. Don’t do that! It’s a complete waste of time and will dilute your efforts. Go for quality over quantity in your relationships. Seek out the people who will be most vocal about you. Then, go out of your way for them. Help them. Connect with them. Build real relationships. That is how social media becomes powerful. Fake friends aren’t going to click your links, they won’t visit your site, and they won’t buy your products. They actually won’t do anything for you.  It’s okay to be choosy with your online relationships. You wouldn’t walk into a coffee shop and immediately ask everyone to be your best friend. Don’t do it online either.

Selling to everyone, immediately: Direct marketing can work in social media, but you need to create the relationships before you try and call on them. It’s the same offline, yet sometimes we forget. If you immediately walk into social media and start selling, no one is going to listen. You’re going to be ruled a spammer and you’ll not only receive a negative response, but you run the risk of permanently damaging your brand. You can’t afford to do that. Take some time to learn about the community, to meet the people, and then only offer your product when it makes sense.

Using the same strategy on every site: Facebook is not MySpace. Twitter is not WordPress. Linkedin is not Naymz. And they’re all different from Friendfeed. Every social networking site is different and you need to create a different strategy for each site you decide to engage in — one that is customized to that site’s specific rules and code of conduct. Trying to run a one-size-fits-all approach will limit your ability to be successful anywhere.

Not measuring it: If you’re not going to come up with ways to measure your social media efforts, don’t jump in. Before you get into social media, know why you’re there and what you plan to get out of it. What are you looking for? Increased buzz over a product? Better brand awareness? Blog subscribers? Traffic? How are you going to measure these goals? Whatever your metrics are, make sure you’ve identified them before you throw money into programs you’re not tracking. Otherwise you’re fishing in the dark.

Above are some of the biggest social media mistakes I’ve seen. Any good ones you’ve seen “other” people make? 😉


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

43 Reactions
  1. Well said

  2. I’m definitely guilty of a few of these. Great points to think about and consider before going social media crazy without a plan!

  3. Hi Lisa, I think it’s great advice about claiming your username everywhere (when it’s your personal name or your brand name). That prevents others from squatting on or profiting from your brand.

    But after you’ve done that, it’s so true not to dilute your efforts by trying to be active everywhere. That’s especially true because a lot of the smaller social media sites cater to niche interests — and they may have nothing whatsoever to do with YOUR niche.

    – Anita

  4. Hello Lisa,

    This is a great list. I would add that I don’t think friending is an all or nothing deal (either fake or real) while I don’t go into a coffee shop and ask everyone in there to be my best friend, I do often chat with strangers that are waiting in line next to me, even if there is a good chance I’ll never see them again. I think it is definitely important to value relationships and work on them in social media but I also think that you sometimes have more in common with people then you might think and dismissing them because they don’t seem interesting or related at first may be dismissing an opportunity. Just my 2 cents.



  5. Signing up everywhere can be a big mistake, unless IT IS your purpose for being online, if you work in Social Media blogging, reporting or writing you need to understand all of the networks work, which ones do what, and so on. Or, if you’re like me and your mission is a journey to be “a global bridge” and connect to a myriad of users all over the world then you want to be “on” in all spots!

  6. I remember you have mentioned a service site in order to the a long list of community and network sites. What’s the name of that site? 😉

    I will use the “The Social Technographics Profile Of Customers” when I am setting up different online presence for my new client. My gut feeling is to start with a Facebook fan page for products & companies, Twitter account for the umbrella organization and FriendFeed that gather the different streams into one, and a blog.

  7. Good reminders.

    Love the “Social Media Account Overload (SMAO)”.

    Thanks Anita for sharing the link on Twitter.

  8. I like the fact that you mentioned measuring your efforts. I think this helps you fine tune your activities and improve the experience for you and your business.

  9. I would have to say, I was one of those social media abusers. I got caught up in following everybody and tweeting stuff that people just probably didn’t want. Then I realize I should make these people my friends and give things to them that I would want to get. thanks for the article.

  10. interesting points.. but I guess in the beginning when people are just experimenting its cool. err and then learn

  11. @Martin

    “I remember you have mentioned a service site in order to the a long list of community and network sites. What’s the name of that site?” does this.



  12. Catch Search Marketing

    I think a good place to start for most businesses is on Facebook and Twitter. Yes, def. build out a solid profile, and in Twitter’s case build out a nice background.

    Here is what I advice small business to do.
    1) Create the account build out info
    2) Print flyers / business cards reminding customers to follow them or join them
    3) On the flyers / cards remind customers of promotions that you run on occasion, or at random.
    4) Annouce these promotions once your friend base / followers are built up.
    5) Compare this data with previous sales for messurement.
    6) If profitable, begin using more aggressive techniques to build a friend base, and follow base.

    Repeat measure, etc.

  13. Hi Lisa,

    I love the point you make — “Fake friends aren’t going to click your links, they won’t visit your site, and they won’t buy your products. They actually won’t do anything for you. It’s okay to be choosy with your online relationships.”

    People who are still trying to get their “social media feet” underneath them need to know that it’s OKAY to be selective and let go of the guilt. The way to do that is to get clear about your goals for using that particular medium and conduct yourself accordingly.

    Lisa, you’ve hit the big mistakes. Where you mention “Not Completing Your Profile” (mistake #2), I’ve noticed a number of small businesses on Twitter who “forget” to include their website URL in their profile. It happens!


  14. Fabulous article. I especially love having goals. In my world (therapy and marriage education) these folks hear the buzz but have no idea how to Twitter or use Facebook. But to your point, it’s less about learning (which isn’t that hard), but WHY? Are you stalking potential troubled clients hoping to get them into your therapy chair or class? Yuck!

    I’ve been very suprised at how Twitter is a heavy “business to business” platform. That said, I learn a lot from other businesses and the networking actually expands my customer base (because they work with my prospective customers.)

  15. Great overview and reminders. I do marketing and biz dev consulting and one thing I see over and over again is small biz (especially) that’s never spent much time/money on formal marketing (advertising, event sponsorship, direct mail) thinking that social media marketing will answer all of their marketing needs at low cost.

    You still need to understand marketing, you need to know what you’ve done in the past that’s been successful (or hasn’t) and you need to understand that social media is just another marketing tool, it’s not the “Holy Grail” of marketing. You still need to understand what your goals are, develop strategies to achieve the goal, and develop a methodology for measuring the results. Marketing 101!

  16. These are common mistakes made in the social media world. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and LinkedIn all have different users and you have to decide which ones will benefit you the most. Also, like you stated completing a profile, being an active participant and using a different method for each site are important to making your social media name succeed.

  17. Hi Anita, I’m keeping this list close at hand!

    Here’s one for you and I’d like your opinion.

    I’ve heard people comment on how they use their Twitter, LI, and Facebook contacts as their “list” to market to. The “new list” if you will.

    Instead, I think a “list” is that group of people who make a conscious decision to opt-in to my site and receive my newsletter, promotions, etc. They are more qualified and I have their permission to market to them.

    While I do promote to my social media contacts from time to time, I believe it’s more important to focus on building a relationship so they want to take that next step and opt-in.

    I’ve been on the receiving end of people treating social media contacts as a list, and the promotions can get really annoying.

    Thanks for the great post!

  18. Josh,

    Thanks for link! I am interested to learn more about your packaging business, especially for the food service sector.

  19. Social media can be a very powerful in our online business but we need you use it correctly and properly and used it to our own advantage. Social media sites build relationships even when you are half a globe away. Thanks for this information.

  20. Hi Lisa,

    Sorry to be late to the party. I wanted to add one more mistake that people make: assuming intimacy. People often think that because they have friended or followed someone, that person is now their friend. But it’s really akin to a first date; you may have some demographic data, but what do you really know about him (or her)?

    The more people understand this, the better they can take steps to make real connections.

  21. Great post and you are so right. I think so many people get caught up in the sheer amount of networking sites (thinking more is better) and then it becomes a time consuming, low quality effort that just drains them.

    It is hard enough to keep up with the few that you need to be very active on, but that is what it takes to be productive and an active participant in that particular community. That is where it begins to really pay off.

    Thanks for a great post! Great idea on what NOT to do!

  22. Hey great thought!

    I completely agree with the “Selling to everyone, immediately” point. Even on professional networks, I feel there is too much of selling going on rather than exchange of ideas and thoughts.

    This should change.



  23. Great post on what not to do in Social Media.

    I agree completely about finding the sites your target audience is on and creating profiles there. We have found that for most of our clients profiles on 3 to 5 max sites are ideal to start with. This allows for better management and targeted connections.

  24. Amazing post. I loved your every step. specially in the step”do not use same tips” for all social site. That is what you told is 100% benefit.

  25. Great tips, content is still so important, whether you’re using social media or whatever online marketing.

  26. Thanks for the wonderful tips. Keep up the good work!