Three Fatal Errors Do-It-Yourself Social Media Marketers Make

Do you cut your own hair? Repair your own brakes? Fix your own electrical work ? How’s that working for you? Unless you're a hairdresser, a mechanic or an electrician, chances are, not so much.

But isn’t social media marketing different from those kinds of things? A no brainer? Don’t you just create an account, slap up a couple of photos, a little blurb about the product, and voila! Clients come knocking at your door?

Probably not.

Do-it-yourself social media advertising has become the norm. In some respects it IS as easy as adding photographs and text, but the question you need to ask yourself is whether or not your actions are meeting your expectations. If you are among the 10 percent who say yes, then “Keep Calm and Keep Posting.” If, however, you are one of the 90 percent whose social media effort has taken a nosedive, chances are you are committing one, two, or all three fatal errors.

1. Wrong (or too big) Audience. (Whether they want me or not, I want them. ALL of them, right now!)

According to media strategist Bob Mangat, people dive into social media campaigns without thinking a whole lot about strategy. They cast a wide net, hoping to catch a few big fish and not knowing if there are sharks swimming in the same water. Unlike their smarter and wealthier fellow fishermen, they don’t know where the fertile fishing grounds are or what lures those fish to the bait.

Fish analogies aside, social media success isn’t about dangling bait. It’s about knowing your target audience and finding common ground. It’s about trust and about sharing value. It’s about creating something important that engages the heart and benefits everyone in your target community.

Hmmmm? Did I hear the words target and community? Sounds about right, but exactly what do I do to get there?

Stop! Before doing anything more, you have to figure out who YOU are. What is your brand, what are your values and goals? What is your passion? What bugs you? What are your pain points? What product, idea or service do you offer, and what can you do to make life better for the audience you want to acquire?

Let’s say you are a writer, not just any writer, but a travel writer who specializes in biking adventures. You’ve come up with a concept to allow cyclists to share their experiences as they happen. It spurs impulsive, pop-up cycling excursions and brings members of the community together. And while it’s doing all this, it just so happens to provide fodder for your on-line columns while drawing readers to your blogs and putting money in your jeans.

Here’s where things gets fun.

Using the cycling example above, not only does our travel writer know clearly and specifically the who’s and what’s of his personal brand and goals, he now has the means to sketch out a clear and specific composite of his audience. Says B2B marketing strategist Ardath Albee, “You create a marketing persona, a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience.” In other words, you make one up!

The words biking, adventure, and travel typically describe people who are health conscious, carefree, social and curious. But even if our writer was unable to create the lists himself, templates like HubSpot’s persona wizard can do it for him. Easy peasy.

Once a persona is created, the next step is finding where the audience exists, how they behave on line and what groups they are affiliated with. Google searches of businesses, organizations, statistics, demographics and archives will net you a wealth of information. Beyond digital marketing, it may cost you a cup of coffee and an hour of your time, but never underestimate the power of networking, of tapping into the gold that comes from one-on-one conversations with your friends, family and co-workers.

Choosing a suitable platform comes next. Our cycling writer would do well to use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter because of their large user bases, visual appeal, and in the case of Twitter, its inherent nature of sharing news as it happens.

It’s all about knowing the whom, the what and the where of your audience. Fishing in a shark infested pool can be fatal.

2. Boring, Stale, Sloppy and Useless! (It tastes awful Mom, and I don’t want to eat it.)

When it comes to social media, content is king. In fact, the guru’s at on line magazine Search Engine Land believe it is the number one factor in developing a successful on line presence. Without fresh, well-written, beautiful, error free, useful and “meaty” material, the efforts of even the most expert creators fall flat.

So how do I make sure my efforts don’t do that?

First, you become a pain manager.

Is your audience broke? Give them tools to help them make money. Are they hungry for Indian food? Guide them to the city’s ten favourites. Thirsty? Teach them how to make Lemonade. Lonely? Help them be loveable. Unemployed? Share ten tips to a successful job interview.

You get the point. Take what you’ve learned about your audience and match your content to their pain. Be sure the idea is new or at least, a new take on an old concept. Don’t just tell them how to prepare a bicycle for air travel, show them how they can save hundreds of dollars at the airline counter by packing it in their suitcase.

But, you say, researching and writing takes time, especially given the importance of posting consistently. Here’s the good news. You don’t need to work all the time and you don’t need to branch out beyond the scope of your business just to add fresh content. In fact, you don’t need to be an expert of all things related to your product; you just need to know where other experts hang out and how to (legally) make their work yours.

Aggregator tools like Feedly trawl the web, efficiently pulling and compiling on line news briefs, articles and opinion pieces that match the criteria you feed it. Investing five minutes a day into these platforms yields remarkable results, and not only do they offer up a plethora of relevant information, they organize it into simple formats that you feed to your networking site of choice. Adding your own spin in a comment or the introduction to the piece will make you look like an expert on the topic. A word of caution though, be sure to give accreditation where it’s due, and then share, share, share. Reciprocity sharing is an excellent way to build followers and grow your on line community.

Using numbered lists in your “how to” or “top tip” articles is a surprisingly successful way to engage your audience. Other methods that keep your content “Evergreen,” e.g. relevant beyond its publication include: asking questions; adding beautiful images and videos; giving product reviews and using humour or any other emotion. According to Wordstream Advertising, tried and true topics that never seem to grow old include: love and romance, food, finance/saving money, parenting, weight loss, jobs and careers, and pet care.

Be thorough. Be relevant. Give examples. Get opinions from those who are in the know. Don’t be afraid to be controversial. Include little known facts, interesting tid-bits from credible sources and bigger tid-bits from insiders. Get to the meat of the topic but don’t use fillers to make your hamburger look thick and juicy. No one likes mystery meat.

Lastly, if you don’t know the difference between your, you’re, and you are, be sure to get a grammatically gifted friend to proof the article before posting. Nothing challenges your credibility like error-riddled pages, misspelled words or poorly written material. And make sure to watch those emoji’s and exclamation points. Overusing them can be fatal.

3. Consistency – Too Much, Too Little. (I already said I love you today, now go away!)

It’s a given that you want to optimize your posts and engage your audience but the question of the day is: How often should you post on social media?

If you consider that a Social Media Today study in 2016 revealed that, within two and a half hours, a Facebook Impression reaches 75 per cent of its maximum engagement or that other studies show the average lifespan of a tweet is18 minutes, you begin to understand the importance of frequent posting.

But how do you walk the slippery slope between being top of mind and being downright annoying? It’s a problem that even the most savvy SM strategists toil with, and the toughest part is there’s no right answer – no tested and true formula. The best you can do is predict and analyze. And then you do it again. And again. And again.

Begin your campaign by posting often and at different times of the day and, uh huh, (for the sake of those living in different time zones), night. Try different channels to communicate the same message, and then track the results. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Hootsuite and Buffer’s analytics provide excellent tools that gauge success. They also tell you who is following your posts, their age, gender, demographics, and on line habits.

Equally important to posting consistently, is checking in regularly to spur further discussion and respond to your fans queries, opinions, compliments and, yes, complaints. While it is important to shut down trolls (mean and nasty individuals who try to derail rational discourse), how you choose to react and respond to genuine concerns says a lot about your brand. In the spirit of good public relations, owning a problem immediately and going beyond expectations to rectify the situation can elevate a brand above the crowd and secure a loyal fan base for years to come. A complaint is a lifeline. Grab it.

Because consistency requires time and work, it’s easy burn out. Using curating tools and cross channelling are efficient and effective ways relieve time pressure. Scheduling platforms like Buffer and Hootsuite help you maintain audience presence and can be programmed to schedule posts on several channels at the same time.

As for cross channelling, ask yourself this: What parts of my content can I use to spread my message over a variety of different channels? Say, for example, you wrote an in-depth newspaper article (like my Times Colonist piece on how being Connected makes us Disconnected). This week you post the link in Facebook and Instagram, and next week, you share it on your blog. A month or so later, you take snippets from the post, and begin a conversation on Twitter, perhaps asking whether the readers agree that being connected makes us disconnected. At the same time, you assemble a panel of experts to discuss the issue, creating a YouTube video or a podcast to be streamed on Spotify.

It’s important to be consistent on social media but be smart about using your time. Burn out can be fatal.

In the end, being a social media do-it-yourselfer isn't brain surgery. To keep your social media marketing efforts alive, heed the three perils by doing these: Get intimate with your audience (and yourself), crown yourself Content King and be sure to say hello often.

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