By Ben Nesvig
Social media isn’t the new kid on the block anymore. You don’t have to traverse the landscape blindly hoping to find success. Yet, there are necessary things that many brands large and small overlook. Here are five mistakes brands are still making on social media and what they should be doing instead.
1. Talking to Everyone the Same Way (Lack of Focus)
All successful brands on social media understand one thing: their audience and how it differs across platforms. Your Facebook fans are likely different than your Twitter followers (or they’re at least a little younger).
In addition to understanding their audience, successful brands understand that the type of content that works well differs across platforms. While Instagram rewards design, Twitter requires very little design to find success.
A clear example of understanding audiences and mediums comes from Wendy’s. Their voice and content differ greatly between Instagram and Twitter, yet it works because it remains consistent with their brand while focusing on what’s popular on each platform.
2. Putting All of Your Effort Into One Channel
When the Facebook algorithm first started shaking things up for brands who had built large followings, there was an uproar from people who put everything into Facebook while neglecting or ignoring Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. While not every brand has the capacity to invest the necessary effort into growing a following on every new social platform, it’s very risky to put all of your social eggs in one basket.
3. Ignoring New Content Opportunities
If your brand is on Instagram, your account should be leveraging Instagram Story Highlights. This might be obvious, but there are currently more large brands not using Instagram Story Highlights than there are large brands using them well. New features bring new opportunities that many brands delay leveraging, if they use them at all.
Instead, you should be looking for ways to leverage new features when they debut. First-mover advantages give you the opportunity to be seen and referenced as a model for what works. Everyone else who follows suit will get compared to what you did first.
Lastly, it’s often cheaper to be a first-mover to new features. Ask anyone who bought ads in the early days of Google, Facebook, or YouTube ads. Curiosity and experimentation almost always lead to success on social.
4. Joining the Wrong Cultural Moments
Success on social media requires understanding your brand, its values, and your audience. It’s tempting to participate in viral memes or cultural trends, especially as you see other brands succeed with them, but you have to ask whether it makes sense for your brand. Even joining a well-intentioned cause can backfire if it’s not consistent with your brand, risking the appearance of exploiting a cause or moment rather than contributing to it.
I won’t draw attention to specific brands, but you can find an example of this almost any time a celebrity passes away. Brands who have no logical or obvious connection to the celebrity insert themselves in the conversation in a way that comes off as exploiting a death for awareness.
5. Not Taking a Systematic Approach to Social
If you want to improve any consistent activity, it’s beneficial to take a systematic approach to it. For social media, this translates into: having a hypothesis about content that will work well, testing the hypothesis, learning from performance, and applying learnings to new content.
There is currently no shortage of large brands whose social media profile looks like a yard sale of random, unfocused content. Instead of testing different audiences and types of content until finding a niche that resonates, brands throw content spaghetti at the wall hoping something sticks.
A systematic approach to social media will help you find the right audience on each social network and the right content fit. You’re not aiming to hit one home run. You’re looking for a system that consistently generates wins.