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4 Ways NOT to Use Social Media: Big Brands Making Simple Mistakes

21st July 2010
GWS Team

So far, the GWS Media blog has been primarily concerned with pointing out how social media can help businesses, as well as offering tips for getting started, and using services like Twitter and Facebook most effectively.

We have tried to emphasise the need to establish a coherent strategy for whatever platform your business is using and above all to engage, to become part of a conversation.

While we would like to carry on focusing on the positive – the benefits, the success stories, the companies that are using Social Media most effectively – it is important to consider the negative as well, to understand what not to do.

So, with that in mind, here are GWS’ top 4 ways NOT to use Social Media:


1. Don’t forget that what you write on Twitter and Facebook is in the public domain

This might seem obvious, but there are so many public mishaps which imply otherwise: from politicians tweeting out of turn (in Europe too!) to employees forgetting that their boss can actually see what they write, that we think its worth re-stating the obvious.

Of course what you write on Facebook and Twitter should be natural and conversational - don’t swing too far in the other direction, so that your output is purely stiff business talk and jargon - but there are still some boundaries to considered. Remember, even if you encounter a full on Social Media Disaster - like Dominos Pizza did - there are ways to reverse the damage done.

Related to this is the other important maxim that the customer is still always right online - as Nestle’s recent blunder on Facebook shows, you can find this out to your very public cost.


2. Don’t engage in any behavior that could be perceived as spamming

Comments or updates that don’t read like a real person has written them completely go against the conversational tone of social media.

If you see an article online that is relevant to your company, adding something to the comment box below it is a great way to engage with relevant content, and gain a link to your website (if you have a registered profile).

You might even gain an interesting connection if the person who wrote it likes your comment.

Simply putting in a link to your website with no other comment is the kind of behavior that will get your comment removed or your profile blocked (don’t forget, Twitter users are able to report spammers, through applications like Hootsuite).

Another version of this error is abusing hashtags on Twitter, a mistake interiors company Habitat has already managed.

Hashtags can be a great way to get your tweets noticed if they are relevant to a trending topic, but no one is going to be impressed if they are searching for mentions of #iPhone and your tweets about your fabulous plumbing services come up instead.


3. Don’t create a Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn profile and then leave it empty

Any form of Social Media takes commitment.

A key part of your company’s strategy has to be how communication and engagement is going to be generated.

Empty profiles leave the message that you aren’t really interested in communicating, that your marketing strategy is just for show – basically that you don’t care, possibly the worst message a business can give out to clients.

So when you register with Facebook or Twitter, make sure you that your staff can carry on the commitment (they'll need some time weekly if not daily); that you have interesting things to share; and that you feel confident about writing content which others want to engage with.

This may mean thinking hard about which social media platform is best for you and not getting involved with all of them at once. If you aren't sure, read our series of beginners' guides.


4. Don’t over-promote.

As in life, a stream of promotional babble is a huge turn-off online.

Approaching Twitter / Facebook / a blog as your own personal marketing feed is the first way to annoy any followers you might have gained.

Remember the 80/20 equation we mentioned previously?

There’s nothing wrong with promoting yourself occasionally, as long as you dilute it with plenty of other relevant and interesting interactions.

As Skittles found out to their cost, however, assuming that other people will be fascinated by your self-promotion can really backfire.



These are the four cardinal sins GWS have identified which break the basic commandments of Social Media

By steering clear of these and following the advice elsewhere on our blog, we think you’ll be able to engage with business peers and clients in a relaxed and natural, but productive manner.

We have found authentic behaviour really is the key to building successful word-of-mouth about your business.


Do you have any more that you would add? Any more horror stories to share?

Please get in touch via the comments, or contact GWS in Bristol direct for a free consultation to help your business make the most of the internet’s potential without making the errors above!

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