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Make social media work for you

Five mistakes to avoid

Martin Desmarais
Make social media work for you
Allison Maslan is the head of business coaching company Allison Maslan International. (Photo: Photo: Courtesy of Allison Maslan)

There was a time not too long ago when the common consensus about the main power of social media for small business was that it can broaden a customer base and was a savvy way to achieve sales and marketing gains without much cost. While some of this does hold true, social media now is important to small businesses because anything but a positive social media presence can essentially kill a business.

You don’t have to look hard to find examples of businesses — especially in the food industry — forced to close shop thanks to social media users consistently sharing negative reviews or news about a brand.

Social media mishaps can be deadly and small business strategy now is about avoiding them more then become some kind of viral hit.

The doubters only need to look at the statistics to become believers: According to Pew Research 52 percent of online adults now use two or more social media sites and 90 percent of young adults (ages 18 to 29) use social media; Statista reports that 70 percent of the U.S. population has at least one social networking profile; and Ad Age now reports that consumers rank social media almost as important as television for influencing purchasing decisions.

Allison Maslan, serial entrepreneur and head of business coaching company Allison Maslan International, identifies a number of damaging mistakes many small businesses make when it comes to social media. Here are five critical ones to avoid.

  1. Forgetting that social media is about community and connections. “It is all about the conversation you are having. You are creating the sale by working on the conversation first. You are going to push people away if all you are doing is throwing your products and services in their face,” Maslan said. She suggests following the 80/20 rule: 80 percent content, 20 percent sales pitch.
  2. Thinking social media marketing should only be free and not being willing to pay to get the message out. Maslan suggests small businesses can benefit from spending money on ads on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. “It is definitely worth businesses investing in social media. I think businesses realize now it has become a regular part of business just like your bookkeeper or your business attorney or your office supply,” she said.
  3. Posting content at random with no strategy or consistent theme. Social media marketing is a strategy. Anything less is a waste of time or money. Maslan said that businesses need to know the message they want to convey and who the audience is. She also says analytics are important and companies should track responses to content and focus on the content that generates the most interest.
  4. Expecting immediate return on investment from social media and giving up if this ROI doesn’t happen. Maslan said businesses must post to social media regularly and consistently over time to build a social media presence that will have an impact. Consumers reward brands that consistently provide content that connects with them. Social media is not a one-off business in most cases.
  5. Not posting enough content. Those businesses that think posting content to social media three times a week is enough are sorely mistaken. Maslan suggests posting content three to five times a day on each social media platform a business uses. She also tosses off the concern about too much content or overexposure. “If you are giving valuable content and sharing things that are positive and inspiring and informative, people will love to see your posts,” she said.