The only thing worse than not using social media in your marketing plan is using social media incorrectly. At the least, you’ll just be wasting your time. At worst, you could actually be driving customers away.

The differences between a social media presence that grows and thrives and one that never quite gets off the ground can be very subtle, but hugely important. And just like in real life, once you’ve made a bad impression, or given someone a feeling that something is off somehow, it’s difficult to change their mind.

Here are some of the most common mistakes that are made by many companies and entrepreneurs as they try to develop their social media presence.

The Message Is Inconsistent

There should be a strategy. The moves you make on social media should be planned, not random occurrences that happen when you have the time.

Posts on each platform should be planned out in advance, and follow a regular schedule. Content should follow a theme that helps convey your overall message and strategy. If you’re audience knows what type of content they can expect and roughly when to expect new installments, they’re much more likely to stick around to see what’s coming next.

There Is No Proofreading

99% of your marketing is in written form. Absolutely nothing makes a company look worse than spelling and grammatical errors on their website and in their social media posts. The impression is that if you can’t be bothered to do something as simple as figure out if the word should be “there”, “their”, or “they’re”, you can’t be trusted to pay attention to the details in anything.

Social Accounts Aren’t Branded

Your brand should be instantly identifiable everywhere. From account names to avatars, it should be easy for consumers and potential buyers to see that an account is yours on any platform. Your website should provide links to each of your social profiles, and each profile should contain consistent links, branded avatars, and your company name.

Local Business Profiles Go Unclaimed

Sites like Yelp and Google Places, among others, will create a local profile for your business with or without your help. People will gather and talk about you, with or without your presence.

These sites are an often forgotten part of social media. It’s important to claim these profiles and monitor what is being said about your business. Relationships with customers on these local profiles will be among the most valuable you can acquire. Comments on these sites — and your reactions to them — can make or break your reputation.

Responses Are Slow

It doesn’t matter if customers are delighted or insanely angry, if you are slow to respond, you are going to make things worse. You should never think that any social media account anywhere will just take care of itself.

You should be monitoring what is going on, good or bad, and responding promptly to fans, followers, and especially existing customers. There is a large audience watching and forming opinions based on how they see you react to others.

Be Consistent And Be Successful

It all really comes down to consistency. You need to be consistent with your message, your image and your interaction with your social media audience. Follow your plan, make yourself easy to find and, most importantly, take the time to build a relationship with your audience. If you can do that, you will find that social media is capable of helping you to grow your business and brand to levels you never thought possible.