9 Social Media Leaders Reveal Brands' Biggest Social Media Content Mistakes

9 Social Media Leaders Reveal Brands' Biggest Social Media Content Mistakes

It’s no secret, content is king, and brands produce mountains of social media content to feed their marketing campaigns. What’s a secret is that many brands fail, even with huge budgets and ostensibly the best social media marketers on their payroll. If they can step on their you-know-whats with their social media content, why not you, too? Let’s keep your feet off your member.

Social marketing has come a long way since a few cutting-edge brands were trying to decipher MySpace, bloggers were worming their sites onto Digg’s front page, and the iPhone was but a glimmer in the dark recesses of Tony Fadell’s fertile mind. Now, social defines brands, and mobile is set to dethrone staid desktops as the dominant online platform. In some demos, it happened long ago. With brand marketing budgets shifting ever more social’s way, billions are at stake.

Of course, mistakes will be made. There’s no getting around it, especially in the rapidly evolving world of social media marketing. If you make one, move on and set your sights on your next goal. 

Best case scenario: A social media mistake robs your brand of some ROI; worst case, it’s a huge disaster. Either way, it’s something to avoid. 

I see plenty of social media content gaffes during my travels at Most Pixels, but I only work with an infinitesimal sliver of socially active brands. Is what I’m seeing representative of what really goes on out there?

With that in mind, I asked 9 of the world’s leading social media marketing experts, thought leaders, and community builders what they see as the biggest social media content mistakes brands make. Here’s hoping it will keep you out of the social media content dog house, drive your social media campaigns to new heights, and get you that well-deserved bonus next quarter.

Peg Fitzpatrick:

All around social media expert, leading social media author, and consultant. Peg is Head of Social Media Strategy for Canva, the new online app that’s helping individuals and brands keep pace with the burgeoning, social media driven, graphics demand:

“I think the biggest mistake that brands make with their content marketing is sharing only their own content. They should share content from related industries or fans as well. Other people’s content, or OPC, should always be a part of any content marketer’s plan. After all, why should someone share your content if you aren’t willing to share theirs? 

I think that corporations haven’t found the balance of traditional marketing and social media marketing. With traditional marketing, your message is all about you, your products, and services. With social media marketing, you need to build your conversation with many elements: your content, OPC, fan contributions, industry related blog posts, holiday messages, etc.

A well-rounded social media content marketing plan will have a variety of media to make it interesting and fun to follow. Brands need to educate, inform, and entertain their fans as well as share their products and services.

A good example of brands working together, Oreo cookies and the Dairy Council. Very clever!”

Martin Shervington:

A leading social media consultant and speaker, he runs the popular website PlusYourBusiness.com, dedicated to helping businesses grow by leveraging the power of Google Plus. Martin has over 500,000 Google Plus followers, and his GooglePlus profile has a mind-bending 48.4 million views. Martin is a published author with several acclaimed communications and business books to his credit, including The Art and Science of Google+:

“Often brands don’t ‘get’ social and think it is a one way street, a place to broadcast; on Google+ just dropping a link into a post, sharing it willy nilly is likely to be ignored, at best. So often, it doesn’t matter how good the content is, people don’t care until you care about them. 

An unknown brand has no trust until it is built. Instead brands should look to shift their view and think in terms of trust building through conversation. Everyone +1, comment, and share is an opportunity to engage and take the conversation further.

I don’t have any culprits to name and shame but see this a lot.”

Jay Baer:

A long-time digital marketer, specializing in content and social media. Jay is a New York Times best selling business author, sought after speaker, and popular blogger. As head of Convince and Convert, a leading digital marketing agency who’s clients include such leading brands as Allstate, The State of California, Nike, and Walmart, he’s in an excellent position to know what works and what social media content mistakes brands make:

“The most common social media content mistake is the same for all companies, everywhere. And it’s simply overestimating how much people care about the company and its products and services, per se. Of course, you can (and should) talk about what you sell from time to time, but the mistake is talking about that all the time. The best – and most interesting – social content is the stuff that transcends the transaction.”

Jay, do you agree on applying an inverse 80/20 rule? That would mean 80% of their content is high value, intellectually compensating content related to some aspect of the problem(s) the product solves, but not the product itself. The other 20% can be more product (or brand) focused.

“I would say that % tends to vary by company type and size. The best plan is to test different content themes with the audience for your company, and set your ratios based on the efficacy of each content type (and modality).”

Ronnie Bincer:

A Google Hangounts expert who helps businesses leverage the power of Hangouts or Hangouts on Air (HOA) through his company; TheHangoutsHelper.com, Ronnie’s been let into the Google inner circle as a Google+ Trusted Tester, helping test and implement new features that make Google Plus what it is today:

“The common mistakes brands make on Google+ is assuming that people want to hear them “broadcast” a message… This is not Twitter. Most people want to interact first with a brand, not just hear what they have to say. Interaction can grow trust.

In a similar light, Brands need to get personal with hangouts on air… let us see who is behind the brand and relate to them. Then they should also go beyond simple presentation of information via HOA and truly engage with their viewers. Move away from presentation and embrace interaction using Hangouts on Air. Use the tools for their strengths… interaction builds trust.

It seems to be ‘more risky’ for brands to do that, but it is the only way to cut through the noise now-a-days… A brand that interacts well can capitalize on the social world’s thirst for transparency and honesty.”

Heidi Cohen:

A university professor, highly requested corporate and event speaker, and leading marketing blogger, Heidi’s blog was voted as one of the Top 10 Social Media Blogs in both 2012 and 2013 by Social Media Examiner:

“The biggest 3 mistakes that brands make with social media content are:

1) Don’t diversify their social media communications. Brands assume that one size fits all social media platforms. Just as you may cast your conversation differently if you’re talking to your boyfriend versus your mother, the same type of adjustments are needed on social media platforms.

2) Don’t use a variety of content formats. There are 5 key social media content formats. Change up your offering across social media entities.

3) Don’t overlook email. Email is the original social media platform. It works because you own it!!!”

Andrew J. Coate:

A social media enthusiast and expert, Andrew is the man behind the largest and fastest growing LinkedIn content marketing group. If that’s not enough, Andrew keeps himself busy as the Community and Content Manager for Kapost, one of the leading content marketing platforms.

“One of the biggest mistakes I see is not hiring a dedicated resource to manage social media efforts. Social is no longer an add-on, “nice to have”, or secondary thought. It takes a full time resource to not only manage the broadcast of content, but to consistently analyze the results of those efforts and also focus on listening and the dozens of tasks required for a strong social policy.

Another I see is misunderstanding the depth of what social media can be used for. It’s not just to “tweet out our blog posts”. Beyond publishing, you have engaging prospects and current community members, listening for brand mentions and other opportunities to join discussions, content curation, social selling, customer care and many other things.

The final one, is believing you must be on all social networks. Figure out which networks perform the best for you and focus more efforts there.”

Mark Traphagen: 

Senior Director of Online Marketing for Stone Temple Consulting, a leading online marketing agency in the United States. An active Google+ user every day since day 3, he’s an in-demand speaker at major social media and online marketing conferences, such as SMX, Pubcon, ConvergeSouth, MozCon, and SearchExchange. He’s also frequent university lecturer.

“A chief mistake I see is brands concentrating more on posting strategies than on audience and community building. The real value of social media is in earning fans who feel like they have a connection to your brand. To do that you must put at least as much effort, if not more, into proactively engaging with fans and prospects as you do into posting your own updates.

I recently saw a very graphic example of this on Google+ by a major content publisher. For a period of time their Google+ account was being run by a savvy community manager who made sure that comments were responded to and that any mention of the brand on that network at the least got a personal thank you comment.

Then the brand decided to move him to a different role, and resumed their practice of using Google+ only to post links to their own content. Not long after their view count metric growth declined markedly. I don’t think this was a coincidence. As they stopped engaging with their community on that platform, the community was less likely to pay attention to them and reshare their content.”

Ann Handley:

Co-Author of the best-selling content marketing tome Content Rules, prolific blogger, speaker, and Chief Content Officer of leading market research and training firm Marketing Profs. In case she hasn’t enough spinning plates aloft, Ann co-founded ClickZ.com, a pioneering source of interactive marketing news and commentary.

“Having a social media strategy that’s divorced from a content strategy. (Or at least, the two have gone to bed mad.) Brands and companies don’t need a social media strategy; they need a content strategy that includes and incorporates social media. Suggesting a company needs a social media strategy is like suggesting a company needs a Yellow Pages strategy: One is a vehicle for a broader story, not the message itself.

Said another way: Social media without any content strategy is just noise. Social media is a way to engage with people and share your broader story more widely. But it’s merely a tool.”

Melonie Dodaro:

A universally recognized LinkedIn expert, consultant, and international #1 bestselling author of The LinkedIn Code. A conference and event speaker, Melonie also runs a noted social media marketing firm, Top Dog Social Media, helping brands, sales teams, and individuals receive a measurable ROI from their social media efforts.

“The first most common social media content mistakes that brands make is not understanding the true needs and wants of their ideal clients. The second mistake is not using the language of their ideal clients. This is so important because if you are creating content that does not provide value or solve the needs of your ideal clients, they will not bother to read it. At the same time, you need to write it using their language so that it truly resonates with your audience.

The worst mistake I see being made by brands large and small is many are not making their content sharable. They may be creating awesome content that their ideal clients will find helpful and resonate with, but that they will most likely never see. This is a huge waste of a brand’s time and resources. 

To make readers want to share the content, brands need to make their content easily digestible and interesting by include visual elements such as infographics, videos or slideshows. They also need to make their content easy to share, such as taking quotes from the content and making them sharable on platforms such as Twitter, with a simply click. “

What Does It All Mean?

Mistakes Will Be Made – What The Experts Said

Fitzpatrick: Brands sharing only their own content

Shervington: Broadcasting only; no audience engagement

Baer: Talking about what you sell all the time

Bincer: Broadcasting with no interaction

Cohen: Failing to diversify social media communications to fit the situation, and instead using ‘one-size-fits-all’ social media  content.

Coate: Misunderstanding the depth of what social media can be used for.

Traphagen: Concentrating more on posting strategies than on audience and community building.

Handley: Having separate social media marketing and content marketing strategies.

Dodaro:  Producing content that doesn’t resonate, stemming from not understanding the true needs and wants of their ideal clients

Distilling this leaves you with a stark reality. Many brands don’t fully understand social media marketing –  still! Sure, they’re to be forgiven; to a point. After all, many brands’ marketing departments are populated by traditionalists, and were/are slow to embrace social media as a marketing tool. I’ve seen this personally, including a marketing VP who said “No one ever bought anything on Twitter”. Really! 

While that may be technically true, it ignores a wide swath of the buying process. In the Internet and social media age, that includes consumers in both B2B and B2C environments being far along the decision making process before deciding which brands deserve their attention. Consumers must feel invested in the brand; no emotion, no attention, no transaction.

Greater still, these execs have been reticent to embrace social’s true calling, its ability to create deeper customer and prospect relationships. Oh, they’re not opposed to it in principle, it’s just that old habits die hard. If it’s been pounded into your head since Marketing 101, 30 long years ago, that marketing means blasting out your brand-focused message until people can’t help but notice, you can be forgiven. 

That broadcasting may work, but so does a 12-guage to kill mice. Yuk! Social media is so much more strategic and long term, and relies on the perfect content mix to do its job effectively. It’s about relationship building to create long term, brand loyal customers. The sales and product guys can screw that up later.

The concept of creating high value content that’s not brand or product focused, and GASP!! sharing others’ content too, is likely alien to you as pink teddy bears and lace in a Texas saloon. Get Over It! It’s not all whiskey and peanut shells on the floor anymore.

There’s a reason many younger brands, such as GoPro, EcoTools, and Qdoba have grabbed the social media bull by the horns and been hugely successful with it. The brands are younger; so are their marketing departments. That’s not to say that it’s all upstarts rocking social media marketing. A look at what Oreo’s done with Vine, Kohls’ Google+ campaign for the Peter Som line, and  NASA’s (Yes, government agencies are a brand) Global Selfie campaign is enough to prove otherwise.

How can this help your brand leverage social’s power into a marketing tour-de-force?

A quick look at the experts’ main points make it clear: 

1) Brands must redefine their thinking.

2) Deliver value in their social media marketing, not simply their offerings. Create and share content their target customer finds invaluable, and make not all about the brand or product.

3) Marketing is a 2-way street now. Know It, Love It, Use It!

4) Think long term relationship and community building with social media. It’s not all about today’s transaction. 

5) Social is big-time marketing, and your organization needs big-time resources focused on it.

Hit those, and you’ll create legions of brand loyal fans, not just customers, in an era where brand loyalty is more prized than ever. What do you think? What are the key social media marketing mistakes brands make now? Name names?