Don’t do as I do, do as I say: Learn from my top social media mistakes

I think it goes without saying that when something is your area of expertise, that doesn’t mean you have it all sorted. So, with some trepidation, I will admit I’ve made my share of social media mistakes.

Although I work on strategy for startups and SMEs across content, social media, SEO and marketing, I’m sure that my own set up lacks a few of the ingredients I talk to clients about. I might be working with people to make and execute their strategies but I’m not always working on mine as much as I should be.

Before I get started I’d also like to point out here that I’m not detailing my mistakes in that slightly jokey way that people sometimes do. You know the self-talk – ‘oh yeah, I’m so bad at XYZ’ – that kind of thing. These are areas that my business lacks and I’m working to do something about them.

I loved this article from Convince and Convert about how they made themselves their own best client. This is what I want to work towards and achieve, running my business the way I would for a client. It’s just that while this is a work in progress it also makes a catchy blog title and a good way to show you where you might want to focus when thinking about your own business.

My Social Media Mistakes

My advice here is clear – don’t do what I am doing right now, do what I’m telling my clients to do as they are seeing real results from working with a defined strategy to reach their goals. Here are my top mistakes and what to do instead.

Mistake 1: I don’t have a clear strategy or goals

One of my main problems is this: I don’t have my own strategy or goals for what I’m trying to achieve with my content and social. Not knowing what I want to achieve from being on social, or how I want my content to connect with people, things are a bit disjointed.

I enjoy using all my channels and post to them regularly. However, with no real overview of why I’m doing this, it’s hard to get them to join up with my work or the development of my business.

Goals and strategy go hand in hand. Goals are what you want to achieve and strategy is going to get you there. Both sound big, and can sound a bit scary, but they don’t need to be. What you are really asking is; what do you want to achieve from your content or social media and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?

This might be tied into other areas of your business. Your content might be connecting with more people in your industry to raise your profile with a goal of being a influencer in your chosen field. Or you might see your social as one part of an overall marketing strategy.

Goals can change. I often work with clients who want to start by getting everything in order. Their goal is simply to get to a stage where their content, website and social reflects the successful business they already have. After that they set goals again to take them to the next milestone, and then the next.

Mistake 2: I’m not sure who my audience is and whether I’m posting in the right place to find them

Since I started working as a freelancer it has become pretty clear that my market is startups and small businesses. However, that’s a pretty broad category.

Within the section of ‘every startup and small business’ there are many ways that I could define my audience better in order to make sure my content connects with them online.

Why is this important? If you are a food and lifestyle blog, taking wonderful flat lay pictures of your latest bake, there’s little point in posting that to LinkedIn. Your professional audience on LinkedIn are going to want to know how you grow and maintain your engaged community and the skills you’ve learnt from it but your well-staged photo is going to play out much better on Instagram.

By defining your audience, you know who you are looking for, and by extension where to find them. In the example I just used you’ve got two different audiences, followers on Instagram and connections on LinkedIn, who are looking for different things. You might have both of these things, which is great, it’s still a good idea to make sure you are posting each strand of your business to the right place rather than just scattering it over all your channels and hoping for the best.

Mistake 3: I don’t engage with any communities or grow ones of my own

I think one of the big areas that people don’t consider on social media is their community. We all check in on our social accounts and like comments that other people make on our posts but do we spend time really engaging?

Do you reply to every comment that someone makes on your social channels? It’s a powerful way to engage with people who’ve taken the time to comment on your posts, and just one great way to grow your own community.

Seeking out communities that fit with your audience, brand and niche is also a great way to grow your engagement online. This could mean taking part in a twitter chat for local businesses or relevant industries. It could be searching relevant hashtags on twitter or Instagram and replying to comments that resonate with you. You might want to congratulate every one of your connections on LinkedIn that has a milestone which appears on your notifications.

All these small interactions add up. They come together and bring momentum to what you are doing. When you spend time finding and growing your community you start to know them better. You know what they like and what resonates with them, which in turn starts to inform your business. It’s a win win.

So there you go. Three social media mistakes that I know I’m making and I’m working to improve. Let me know what you think your social media mistakes might be. And, as always, do get in touch to chat about your strategy. As you can see from this, I’m all about making sure my clients don’t follow my own mistakes!

Why do we need someone to do social media? Isn’t it just all common sense?

When I first started out freelancing I organised coffees with some of my friends who I knew worked in the kind of industries and sectors I was interested in. I felt a bit nervous and thought that just having a chat with some people I already knew about something work-related would be a good place to start.

And it was. I met up with a friend of mine who is a CTO. He was really encouraging, stating ‘I’m really glad you are doing this, you’re good at it and we need more people like you.’ I was, understandably, grateful and very pleased to be starting out like this.

My friend got back in touch within a few weeks of our coffee. Would I like to do a proposal for him for a local community initiative that he was working on. There might be some work in it, nothing big, but the chance to write the proposal would be a good opportunity.

I was happy to do it. I saw it as a chance to show him what I could do, as well as the chance to pitch for potential work so I put something together.

When we had a follow up chat, I asked how things were going. Yes, the proposal was great, everyone liked it and agreed with the content. And one person had made the comment that makes up the title of this blog – ‘Why do we need someone to do social media? Isn’t it just all common sense?’

It’s a good point. In fact it’s such a good point that still, 2 and a bit years on from receiving this feedback, I think about it every time I write a proposal, or content, pitch for work or post for clients.

I welcomed this feedback at the time and I welcome it every time I think about it. It focuses me to think about what my skills are and what value I add to my clients.

When this feedback was given my friend qualified it straight away. ‘You and I know the value of this work but you know what people can be like.’

Yes, I do. But I’m more than happy for people to question what I do, to be curious and ask. OK, it’s not always said in a nice way but I’m a pretty positive person. I’m good at answering questions for people and deflecting their bluntness to chat about what they really want to know.

And I’m happy to chat about what I do. The power of social media is an awesome thing and I could geek out on it for hours on end. (Sidebar: if you want to get in touch and discuss your social media, please do! Always happy to chat, virtually or in person. 🙂 )

Yes, a lot of social media is common sense. It is a skill that can be learnt. In the same way that doing your accounts is just maths. It is just maths. That doesn’t take anything away from accountants, who understand this ‘maths’ on a grand scale for small and large businesses. In the same way, as a social media professional, I have the skills to show you how you can reach your goals with social media.

Some of my clients want to learn how to do social media themselves, they are looking for tips and tricks. Others have heard that they ‘should’ be doing social and want to know more about what that means. Resourcing for small business, which I specialise in, is an issue and having someone who can take care of another thing that’s looming on your to do list is valuable.

I was reminded of this last week when I was doing a tiny victory dance as one of my clients ranked onto page 1 of Google for their chosen keywords. Last year, before I started working for them, they were sold multiple keyword URLs. They were told this is what would get them ranking on Google and they did nothing.

There is a lot of noise in the digital content, SEO, social media arena for small businesses. Some companies do make their money from small businesses by using words that don’t mean much and selling ‘must haves’ for things they could do easily and cheaply themselves online. I’m often working with clients on just untangling all the ‘advice’ (sales!) they’ve been offered to show them what it all really is so they can make a decision about whether it adds value for them.

If you are looking to do social media for your business then I think there are many things to take away from this. Yes, it is a skill you can learn. It might be a skill you want to outsource. Don’t be blinded by someone telling you what you ‘need’, if you really do need it they should be able to explain exactly why to you in a way you understand.

And question. Ask where the value is. Everyone I know, who is doing great work, is more than happy to tell you. I would be more worried if I couldn’t answer this question, not whether you’ve asked it.