Many articles have been written about the correlation between Social Media and the prosperity of a business, and we can all agree that customer engagement online goes hand-in-hand with the service standards of your company. This is especially true in the retail line and it is critical to address any issues swiftly, less they fester into a social media Armageddon like Amy’s Baking Company.

I’m going to go through some of the most common, yet sometimes subtle, social media mistakes that small businesses just keep committing over and over. Social media isn’t just a tool to a means, and if you want to win this game of customer satisfaction you’d better correct these mistakes. FAST.

MISTAKE #1 Not replying

For the love of… how can anyone even be making this error?! The whole point of social media is to be SOCIAL. If your customer has taken the effort to go to your Facebook fanpage and make a comment, have the common courtesy to at least respond. If you don’t respond to your customers, they will not be responding to your business in the future as well. A smaller mistake is to have a delayed response. What is considered delayed? Anything reply more than a day. In the world of social media, consumers expect lightning fast engagement, -not- the flying raven with a note tied to it’s feet.

MISTAKE #2 Creating an account for the sake of creating

Although social media is trending now, don’t just jump on the bandwagon without understanding it’s purpose. Just creating a shell Facebook page with an imaginary admin is as pointless as trying to drink water with a fork. If you don’t understand it, don’t do it. I suggest reading the vast number of posts about the relevancy and impact of Social Media for businesses first.

MISTAKE #3 Infrequent posts

As people say: out of sight, out of mind. If you don’t post regularly (or at all), your fans/followers are going to forget you. It’s like that friend they had back in high school that never called. Soon they will leave you for new friends that are more interactive and interesting.

MISTAKE #4 Uninteresting content

Ok, so you do post regularly, but if you constantly just wall spam company products, your fans are going to tune you out. What about just posting 1001 fun facts? That’s interesting right? Wrong. It’s only relevant if your company happens to be Wikipedia. Never have 1 way communication; social media is a 2 way street between business and customer, not business-to-mirror.

MISTAKE #5 Getting hostile

Customers have their right to make honest opinions, whether you like it or not, whether they are right or not. Social media networks are for sharing sentiments. Never have a knee-jerk reaction to any negative comments. Social media is not for the easily offended. As you can see from Amy’s baking company’s evangelist comments above, the social media aftermath was nothing short of legendary. They even tried to cover up the whole episode by claiming that someone ‘hacked’ their Facebook account. It was only after engaging a PR specialist to take over their Facebook page could any intelligible words start appearing.

MISTAKE #6 Incongruent personality

Your social media communication is basically an online representation of your brand’s image. If you get a personality that doesn’t fit your brand’s soul, the engagement is going to be as awkward as Winnie the Pooh talking to Mickey Mouse. It is fundamental to immerse whoever is using your business’ social media in the essence of the brand, and talk like your brand human incarnate. I recommend business owners handling their own replies personally as much as possible.

MISTAKE #7 Taking a side (politics, race, gender, religion)

The safe rules of conversation is to never talk about politics, race, gender or religion. Because somewhere, somehow you are going to offend someone with conflicting views on these extremely sensitive topics. Chick-fil-a had an epic backlash after coming out strongly against Gay marriages. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and you don’t have to force it down everybody’s throat.

MISTAKE #8 Using the wrong social media platform

Think Facebook is universal? You thought wrong. In China, Facebook is prohibited and they have their own replica called ‘RenRen’. Don’t assume that one platform fits all. Different audiences in different geographies use different social media platforms and you need to be on the right platform to communicate to your target. Be present on the major platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but don’t underestimate the power of upcoming apps like Instagram, Pinterest or Ask.fm.  Ready yourself to jump into the next big thing too,  as culture is a fickle lady capable of changing moods instantly.

MISTAKE #9 Mixing business with personal posts

Keep your business page and personal page as separate as fishes and bicycles. It is absolutely unprofessional to post about your sexual position preference on your business page, even if it was unintentional. Watch that you’re posting as the right user and also make sure any representative doesn’t post any inappropriate comments.

MISTAKE #10 Promoting to an empty crowd

Brilliant, you made a twitter account. Now lets tweet daily to these 3 followers (1 of whom is your Mom) till they run for the hills! A message can only be heard if there are ears. Build your fanbase and followers with promotions, offers and contests. You need a network for social media to take any effect at all.

celeb-boutique

MISTAKE #11 Not being in touch with current events

Always know what is happening in the world, even if it’s not your region of business. As seen above, Celeb Boutique made a huge ignorant tweet during the 2012 Aurora, Colorado mass shooting. Globalization has brought us all together and it is no longer good enough to say you ‘didn’t know’. I’m amazed their PR team didn’t know anything about the Aurora incident when it was the most talked about topic of the month. I’d be worried if -my- PR agent wasn’t reading the papers at all.  Staying in touch can also give you more creative space in structuring offers or crafting interesting content. Just don’t do it at the expense of a tragedy.

Put in the effort

For the most part, it’s simple really; Small business owners just need to put in the time and effort to properly manage their social media accounts. It is the simplest and quickest way to gain customer equity and build your branding from scratch. Don’t outsource this important task to some rift raft brand slut that handles multiple companies. They would most likely use the same tone and language for all their clients and that would defeat the purpose of having an online business voice.

More whimsical rants at Seth Lui’s Blog

Read more: Top Five Social Communications Mistakes for Higher Education