Social media might be fertile ground for marketing, but it can also be a space packed with potential pitfalls. Opening an account and starting to post on social media is so easy a child could do it – all you have to do is sign up, and platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest become great soapboxes for companies. With some investment, however small, posts can acquire greater visibility – and with a good, creative idea, a campaign could easily go viral.

However, slipping up is just as easy.

Don’t despair: the web experts at US agency ISL have drawn up a list of the most common social media errors committed by small companies. Let’s take a look at what they are and how to avoid them.

  1. Incoherence

The biggest mistake is to lack coherence across different channels and social networks. Coherence isn’t about publishing the same content everywhere, but ensuring uniformity in terms of the tone and substance of the message. The most important thing is to give the impression that a company is speaking with one voice.

  1. Failure to set out a strategy

Acting randomly doesn’t help when it comes to achieving marketing objectives. It’s important that the first thing you do is establish your target audience, communication style, the topics you want to discuss and the hashtags you need to use to boost visibility.

  1. No objectives or KPIs

Objectives are the goals you strive to achieve using your strategy and therefore it’s vital that you clearly define these, whether they focus on awareness (the notoriety of the brand), engagement (views, comments, shares) or direct responses (registrations, purchases or other actions). Key performance indicators are necessary to measure how close you are to achieving those objectives.

  1. Ignoring the numbers

Knowledge is power in the data era. However, many companies fail to collect and analyse data, despite social networks offering free reporting and insight tools.

  1. Failure to respond to comments

Would you go back to a store where you’ve been ignored by the staff? An important part of public relations is reading and – if necessary – replying to comments. It might be tempting to delete negative ones, but that’s actually a counter-productive approach that will only exacerbate discontent. You’re better off responding with proposals on how to solve issues.

  1. Waiting to be found

Being present on social media is not the same as being active. Hashtags are a powerful tool – but they’re often used incorrectly. Avoid both overly generic and overly complicated tags and instead focus on being relevant. This will make it easier for users to find you by searching for key words. It might seem obvious, but a hashtag including the name of your company is always useful.

  1. Failure to differentiate content

Users use different social networks for different purposes, so companies should reflect that. Images are king on Instagram, while Twitter is all about live commentary and Facebook has more space for discussion, updates and fan promotions – and so on!

  1. Excessive product promotion

Focusing too much on the commercial side of things doesn’t reconcile with the spirit of social media. Instead of boasting about your success and describing your products or services, in order to boost engagement your best bet is to tailor the message to fit the client or take users behind the scenes of the company, illustrating the kind of work you do internally.

  1. And insufficient product promotion!

Avoiding an overly commercial approach doesn’t mean you should cut out all reference to your company, logo and products. They need to be present but not invasive.

  1. Using the company page as if it were your personal profile

The page of a company or freelance professional is not the personal profile of whoever is responsible for managing it. It’s unlikely that potential clients are going to care about selfies or private conversations, unless building up that kind of persona is an integral part of your business.

While it’s true that making mistakes is the best way to learn, it’s also clear that social media mistakes can have big consequences for the reputation of a company. So, your best bet is to learn from other people’s mistakes rather than falling into the same traps yourself!