Seven social media sins every small business owner should avoid

Anna Roberts & Phil Kendall

Apr 2017 ⋅ 7 min read


Managing your business' social media channels can be a full-time job in itself.

With so many platforms to choose from, each with their own formats, feature sets and analytics data, it can be difficult to know which to take advantage of and how best to use them.

Even when you think you've got a handle on things, it can be easy to fall into bad habits — the kind that could be harming, rather than helping, your business — when trying to maximise the potential of your social media output.

Today on the RotaCloud blog, we're taking a look at seven of the worst social media sins around, as well as offering some advice on how not to fall into them.

It's time to confess — how many of these are you guilty of?


1: Cross-posting


Cross-posting, wherein you link two or more social media accounts so that posts to one automatically go out on another, is the hallmark of an amateur social media manager.

That, or one who lacks the time to manage their accounts properly.

On the surface of it, automatically sharing a Facebook post on Twitter or an Instagram photo on Facebook seems harmless enough. After all, an informative status update or a cool photo doesn't become less so when shared in more than one location, right?

But think about it this way: you wouldn't expect to see the exact same TV programmes on both BBC One and Channel 5. Similarly, a regular Radio 4 listener wouldn't tune in to Radio 1 expecting to hear the same presenters and discussions.

Social media platforms, and the demographics that use them, differ wildly from one another.

Putting aside the fact that cross-posting gives the impression that the person behind them simply can't be bothered, the majority of cross-posts look out of place on at least one of the sites on which they appear.

Each platform's users expect specific types of content, served to them in specific ways — usually dictated by the platform's rules for character limits, image dimensions, playback time for videos, and use of hashtags and links.

Don't limit your posts' impact by sharing cookie-cutter content across multiple platforms. Curate content for the places you want to use it, taking into account each platform's guidelines, and try to have a specific platform in mind before starting work.

2: Bad spelling & grammar


Attitudes towards spelling, grammar and punctuation tend to be a little more relaxed on social media. Due to its anytime, anywhere nature, people are more willing to forgive their friends the odd typo or dangling participle in a tweet or status update.

If you're a business owner, however, the old rules still apply.

You wouldn't let an advert go out with a spelling mistake on it, and you'd be well within your rights to drop a marketing agency that created substandard copy on your business' behalf.

Every post you share on social media platforms needs to be drafted and proofread before sharing. Is it grammatically correct? Are there any typos? Does the post get the message across in a manner that's both concise and in tune with your company's message?

For many people, posts on social media will be their first point of contact with your business. No matter how skilled you are in your area of expertise, spelling mistakes in your posts will lead potential customers to wonder if you're similarly careless in your work.

It might not be a fair assumption to make, but it happens.

Don't leave the job of social media management to someone who doesn't know the difference between 'everyday' and 'every day' or how to wield an apostrophe.

3: Lack of personality


If you were presented with a lineup of 10 anonymous Facebook posts, nine of which were made by your competitors and one that was written by your social media manager, would you be able to identify your own?

If the answer is 'no', then you're guilty of one of the biggest social media sins there is: a lack of personality.

You've worked hard to create a brand that stands out from the crowd. Your social media presence should be just as unique.

Before you start creating content for your social media channels, you need to decide the kind of voice you want to have.

Will you be playful or straight-laced in your updates? How will you brand the pictures and videos you share? Can people easily track content back to you and find their way to your website through it?

It's vital that everyone involved in your social posts is on the same page with regard to tone and style — and that your team use the exact same voice when representing your business online.

4: Relentless self-promotion


You share six, seven posts a day, and every single one of them is about yourself.

There's nothing wrong with selling your brand online — the whole point of getting your business on social media was to help raise its profile and convert users into customers.

But there are few things more annoying for followers than being constantly sold to.

By clicking that 'Like' or 'Follow' button on your page, your followers have agreed to let your business' posts into their newsfeeds. Don't abuse that trust by bombarding your followers with constant sales pitches.

If you do, your followers will eventually do one of three things:

  1. Unfollow you completely.
  2. Hide your posts in their newsfeed.
  3. Become 'blind' to your posts, making a habit of scrolling straight past them.

Consider mixing up your output by occasionally sharing useful posts from within your industry. Or perhaps hire a copywriter to manage a company blog and write about subject that will be of interest your followers.

Remember: if someone has already elected to follow you online, there's a good chance that they're already a customer, or are at least interested in your business. Keep them informed, but don't go for the hard sell with every post.

5: Hijacking hashtags


When there are thousands of people talking about the same person or event online, it can be tempting to try to get in on the action, knocking up a quick tweet, post or Instagram pic using the same hashtag.

Social media users will spot a hashtag hijack a mile off, however, and will respond vocally if they deem it to be inappropriate.

American fashion brand Kenneth Cole and home furnishings company Habitat are just two big names that have paid the price in the past for attempting to ride a trending hashtag to boost their sales.

Few business today would dare to be quite as brazen, but there are still plenty that try to muscle in on tags popularised by others — often when they're already late to the party and end up embarrassing themselves as a result.

Don't be afraid to use hashtags in your social media posts. Done properly, they can help you reach whole new groups of people who might not normally encounter your brand online.

Just be aware that, while a tasteless and shoehorned use of a hashtag may get your posts in front of more people, very few of them will be looking on your business favourably.

6: Excessive Tagging


A particularly irksome method that unscrupulous social media managers employ to force people to look at their posts is to tag them by username.

There are few things worse in the social media world than receiving a notification that you've been tagged in a tweet, post or photo, only to discover that it had nothing to do with you.

Forcing people to look at your posts by tagging them is the online equivalent of crying wolf — do it enough times and you're going to get yourself ignored.

Tag only when you have genuine reason to do so — like if the person or company you're tagging is directly affected by what you're sharing, or if they're present in a photo.

Anything else is just obnoxious and likely to lose you followers.

7: Ignoring messages and replies


Speaking of ignoring people...

The final social media sin on our list today is one that's committed by a worrying number of small businesses: failing to respond to posts and replies from followers.

It's not necessary to 'Like' every single response you get to your posts, and the last thing you should do is use the same canned reply even time. But leaving questions unanswered will not only frustrate doing the person doing the asking, but sends a terrible message to everyone else who sees the question hanging.

Customers expect to be able to connect with the businesses they follow on social media just as easily as they do with their friends. If someone reaches out to you, make it your business to respond as quickly as possible.

It's called social media for a reason...

In Closing

It's easy to fall into bad social media habits when you're busy trying to run a business.

Rather than seeing social media as an helpful add-on to your marketing strategy, however, it should be considered an integral part of your overall marketing strategy.

The impressions business make online are likely to have a lasting impact on potential customers, so time and money should be spent setting out an exhaustive social media strategy.

It's not necessary to use every social media platform there is, but those you do make use of should be approached intelligently, with content created with each platform's strengths and limitations in mind.

Social media is a great way to reach new customers — try make sure your first impression is a good one.

Need help sprucing up your social media output? Check out our article, 9 Signs Your Social Media Strategy Needs Updating, for tips on how to build an online presence to be proud of.