Posted April 22, 2010 2:00 pm by with 17 comments

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By Sheila Beal

If your brand, business or company seeks to harness the benefits of social media, you need to be aware of some pitfalls to avoid.

While social media can do wonders to help raise awareness and improve the sales of a business, if it’s not done well, it can also come back to haunt you. I’ve gone from being a raving fan of a business to being unlikely to ever patronize that business again, based on their poor social media skills.

Now, I’m not telling you that to make you scared to dip your toes in the social media pool. I’m only telling you this because I want you to be aware of some social media basic skills that can make or break your efforts.

You may have heard the analogy that social media networks are like cocktail parties. So, let’s use that cocktail party environment to illustrate some social media pitfalls to avoid:

Scenario 1:

Let’s say you are at a party and there’s a woman that goes on and on talking about her accomplishments and how great she is and how great other people think she is. That’s going to get old, very quickly. Parties are meant to be pleasant gatherings where people exchange information –  social media is also meant to help people share information. So in social media, don’t spend all your time talking about yourself. That’s not social, it’s boring.

Scenario 2:

You saunter up to the punchbowl when you happen to see the owner of your favorite restaurant. You get up the nerve to talk to the owner. You walk over, say hello and that you love their restaurant and visit it at least once a week. The restaurant owner looks at you and walks away.  You would think that owner was a jerk, wouldn’t you? Well, the same thing happens in social media all the time. If a customer or potential client takes the time to try to interact with you, don’t ignore it. Listen, engage, and be polite just as you would in real life. If you are on twitter check your @ folder and respond.

Scenario 3:

You’re introduced to the manager of a new drycleaners in town. You’d be interested in checking them out, so you ask them what hours they are open. The manager just ignores you and grabs some more hors d’oeuvres.  You would think that this manager was a jerkface and doesn’t want your business. This same situation happens all the time in social media. Followers and fans ask questions on twitter and facebook. Take the time to attempt to answer their question. If you can’t answer it, tell them you don’t know but will get back to them. Otherwise, your fans and followers will begin to think you don’t want their business. Make a habit of checking to see what facebookers are saying on your wall or twitter users are asking you via your @ folder.  Then, respond to them.

Scenario 4:

You grab some appetizers and look for an empty seat at table. You sit next to a fellow and notice from his name tag that he’s from a local company that’s new in town. As you start chatting with this guy, you quickly realize he’s a moron and knows very little about his company’s products.  You begin to wonder — if this is the guy that this company has sent to represent them, is the rest of the company full of morons, too? This same scenario happens in social media. Make sure that the person who runs your social media has a good understanding of your company’s products and services.

What jerk behavior have you seen at a social media “cocktail party?”

About Sheila Beal

Sheila Beal is an award-winning travel blogger. She’s also the wife of Marketing Pilgrim’s Andy Beal, but she hopes you won’t hold that against her. Planning a vacation to Hawaii? She can help!

  • Good thing Andy has you around to keep him straight. Great post!

    Also, anytime the word moron is a link in a post then you have a winner.
    .-= Frank Reed´s last blog ..Business Blogging to Support Sales Efforts =-.

  • I tend to clean my facebook feed of businesses that don’t do the little things – like spelling, properly inserting links and just making something look sharp.

    Kind of goes with the moron part. Maybe this can be the guy who has had too much to drink at the party?

    great post.

  • “Jerk face” – it’s got a special ring about it. I might use that in one of my posts.
    .-= Wynne´s last blog ..Logitech USB Desktop Microphone is Great for Recording =-.

  • Good, solid advice for any business. The image of a party-goer prattling about how great she is so compelling, and yet some companies still can’t break the habit.

    My only disagreement would be point #4. You shouldn’t have one person who “runs your social media,” in my opinion. You might have one person who provides training, strategic direction, etc., but companies that encourage all employees to represent the company online are more likely to forge connections with customers.
    .-= Scott Hepburn´s last blog ..Tweeta20 for Thompson Child and Family Focus =-.

  • My take on your issues here is that if you don’t have the time to do social media properly, don’t do it. The not responding problems are very similar to the company with a blog on their web site that hasn’t been updated for 6 months – does more harm than good.

    Keep up the good work.
    .-= Paul´s last blog ..US & Australian growth forecasts raised by IMF =-.

    • Paul – I agree. It’s very frustrating to have a method to communicate to a company via social media and get nothing back but crickets because either no one cares or no one has check their blog, facebook page and twitter account in weeks or months.

      Which makes me wonder, how long should it take for a company to respond to a question via social media? I would say if I don’t hear anything back within a day or two, with the exception of weekends, I’d start to wonder if they care.
      .-= Sheila Beal´s last blog ..Protect Hawaii’s Environment with a Double Duty Beach Bag =-.

  • OMG, the image/photo next to #4 made me spit out my coffee laughing. Seriously though, there’s some good stuff here! Likening social media behavior to a cocktail party is so appropriate! Thanks for a good laugh and some great information.
    .-= kate @ sweet cricket stationery´s last blog ..How I Find Instant Work Happiness! =-.

  • Hello Sheila

    I love this analogy – especially the “moron” link, brilliant. Engagement, answering and helping, being informative, sharing, you have it all covered off – fair play!

    I would agree with the comment Paul made also. If you don’t have time to do it well, don’t bother at all. The damage it can do far outweighs the benefits.

    Thanks for sharing.
    .-= Barney Austen´s last blog ..The critical tool for business success =-.

    • Hello Barney- thanks for your comment!

      I agree with your point about damage. I’ve honestly been turned off of businesses/brands that I previous liked, but in social media, they come across as either snobs, jerks, or idiots. Probably one of the most frequently missed opportunities that the social media bozo’s do is not saying ‘thank you’. How simple is that? And how little does it cost to say thanks? Yet, so many miss the opportunity.
      .-= Sheila Beal´s last blog ..Hawaii Vacation Deals & News: May 5, 2010 =-.

  • You nailed it with all the scenario’s, especially 1 and 2 I see ALL the time. GREAT POST. -Char

    • Thank you, Charlotte. As you said, some of these scenarios happen ALL the time — thus the inspiration for this post. 🙂

      On the other hand, when businesses are using social media with some manners, they really stand out and make a good impression.
      .-= Sheila Beal´s last blog ..Hawaii Vacation Deals & News: May 5, 2010 =-.

  • Interesting post. I literally enjoyed reading the stuff you have written. I agree with you that social media is full of jerks. Some of them are arrogant to respond, some are too busy to reply and some aren’t that savvy to answer every question about their company/product. Social media is a place where you can directly interact with customers or targeted audience and increase your profits but if you aren’t well prepared then most probably you are going to lose a considerable amount of customers and people who are interested in your company.