Top 5 Social Media Marketing Pitfalls

Avoid these common mistakes to enhance your reach and prowess.

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By Karen Spaeder

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The popularity of social media isn't going away anytime soon, making it an important part of your overall marketing strategy. According to Statista, an estimated 3.6 billion people use social media worldwide, and that number is expected to grow.

Assuming your target audience is part of that overall user count, you have a chance to reach them through the platforms they're already using. However, at the same time, you need to be cautious about avoiding any social media pitfalls along the way.

To make the most of the opportunities available to you on social media, start with an honest audit of your current marketing strategy. By avoiding the common missteps below, you'll be more likely to reach your audience, build a relationship with your followers and achieve your marketing goals.

Related: Beginner's Guide to Social Media Marketing

1. Focusing on follower count

Followers are important in terms of building brand awareness, gaining leads and reaching new customers. However, you can't simply collect followers like you collect antique teacups or vintage neon signs.

It's what you do after you gain a new follower that matters the most. If you gain followers but fail to interact with them, your page won't gain much traction. Any small amount of organic reach you may have initially when a new follower joins isn't going to last without the proper nurturing.

Eventually, your followers won't see your content if you're not taking the time to build a relationship with them. In exchange for that "like" or "follow," they expect you as a brand to make their time on your page worthwhile.

Pro tip: Followers are great, but keeping those followers is even better. Make sure you're posting consistently — and posting content your audience wants to see (more on that next). In addition, reply to your followers' engagement, questions, comments and customer service issues so they know there's a real human behind your brand.

Related: 7 Ways to Get More Engaged Followers on Social Media

2. Posting irrelevant, boring or salesy content

The content you post for your followers will either keep them coming back for more or cause you to get lost in the social media void. If your content is unrelatable to them, yawn-worthy or overly promotional, your followers will skip over it, or worse, unfollow you. The more your followers scroll past your content, the greater the odds that your content won't make it into newsfeeds.

In other words, just because you have 5,000 followers doesn't mean all 5,000 of them will see your content. You have to post content they want to see in order to get more of your posts seen by not only your followers, but also their friends.

Pro tip: Create content that informs, educates, entertains or inspires. Roughly 80% of your content should be non-promotional, with the other 20% reserved for your sales, events and special offers.

Essentially, the vast majority of your content should be focused on them, not you. Here are a few content ideas:

  • Owner or team member spotlights: Post a photo and a few fun facts.
  • How-to videos: Tell your followers how to use your products or services.
  • Customer testimonials: With permission, post a photo of a happy customer and thank them for their business.
  • Community or charity events: Do you work with a local school or nonprofit? Give them a shoutout with a photo highlighting how you're supporting them.
  • Behind the scenes or throwback photos: What's it like running your business? How did you get started? Post a pic to show your audience what goes on behind the scenes.
  • Influencer photos: Partner with influencers who can share their own experiences with your brand. You'll reach entirely new followers with this type of third-party social proof.

The final bullet point above can be especially effective. Influencer marketing, where "regular" people who aren't celebrities promote your brand, has exploded in recent years as a marketing strategy.

These influencers are viewed as trustworthy and credible, more so than promotional content. In an online influencer survey of 18-to-34-year olds, global communications firm Edelman found that 63% of them trust what influencers say about a brand over what the brand says about itself.

Related: 4 Influencer Marketing Secrets Entrepreneurs Need to Know

3. Failing to boost content

The idea that social platforms are free marketing mediums is ancient history at this point. You have to pay to play if you want your followers to see your brand on social media.

Even the best content — while it may earn a modicum of organic reach — won't get the same traction as boosted content. Your followers might initially see your content after liking your page, but over time, your visibility will drop unless you advertise.

Pro tip: Set an ad budget so you can boost the high-quality content described in number two above. Doing so ensures your content makes it into newsfeeds and reaches the right audience. You can set parameters for your target audience's age, demographics, geographic location and more.

You can also create sponsored content that might be more promotional in nature. Think about the different ads you see as you're scrolling through your feed or viewing stories on Facebook and Instagram.

This content has the potential to reach new leads. With effective calls to action, you can drive website traffic, conversions and sales.

Related: 3 Common Mistakes Companies Make With Their Social Ad Strategy

4. Being tone-deaf

The current year has presented numerous challenges in terms of the economy, the health crisis, social justice and political matters. It's important for brands to be aligned with and sensitive to these issues.

Unfortunately, what happens for some brands is that they're tone-deaf to current events. They're sending out the same marketing messages they always did, failing to account for what's actually happening in the world. The timing and wording of their messages are out of touch with what their audience wants to see.

Imagine, for example, a travel agency inviting followers to book a weekend escape — at the height of the pandemic. This kind of out-of-context marketing won't sit well with your followers.

Pro tip: Your marketing messages need to align with current events without being offensive or irrelevant. Author Alison Weissbrot of Ad Exchanger, an integrated media and events company, advises staying away from sales-driven messages when discussing social justice.

The same is true with any kind of major world event. When tensions are high and the general mood is more somber, the last thing your followers need is a brand pushing their web hosting service or organic nail polish.

Instead, adjust your social media content to address various issues and be a source of help, inclusion and inspiration. Back your words with action so you're followers know what you stand for — and what you're doing to help your community.

Related: 6 Tone-Deaf Ads That Got Companies in Trouble and Damaged Their Brands

5. Doing it all yourself

When you first start a business, you might be handling your social media yourself. If you continue trying to DIY your social media, however, you'll be taking time away from other aspects of running your business.

Social media management and marketing, when done right, requires dedicated resources to handle a myriad of responsibilities, including:

  • Curating and posting content several times a week.
  • Boosting content and creating sponsored promotions.
  • Managing the community, i.e., responding to engagements and building brand loyalty.
  • Handling any customer service issues or negative online reviews.
  • Keeping up with current events.
  • Analyzing results, establishing KPIs and tweaking the strategy to meet goals.

Pro tip: When your budget allows, hire a dedicated social media manager, if not a complete team of social media marketers. Some businesses outsource the work to an agency or use a combination of in-house and external resources.

Letting go of this responsibility will free you up to focus on growing your business. Plus, you'll have more to talk about on social media if you're actually out there networking, developing a sales pipeline, interacting within your community, building a rockstar team, and retaining your customers and employees.

Avoiding these five common pitfalls takes some effort. However, it also has the potential to help you grow your business significantly. Not only can you avoid becoming irrelevant, but you can also establish yourself as a market leader.

Karen Spaeder

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer


Karen Spaeder is the Principal of Spades Digital Marketing, a nationwide provider of content marketing, SEO, and social media marketing solutions. A former editor and writer at Entrepreneur, she is an expert in content marketing and social media.

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