Companies establishing a social media presence may make some missteps. Some of the brands known for their social presence, including Best Buy and Starbucks, can point to mistakes made along the way and to what the brand learned from it.

It’s understandable. Social marketing requires a company to shift from broadcasting an anonymous, singular brand voice to engaging directly with customers as individuals that are indirectly reinforcing the brand. It’s not as simple as flipping a switch.

While some mistakes can actually increase a brand’s credibility if handled correctly, the following tips can help brands avoid the “seven deadly sins” of social media: Envy, Sloth, Gluttony, Wrath, Pride, Lust and Greed.

Envy Envy:  Being envious of brands like Zappos, Jet Blue or even a direct competitor is understandable. But chasing their success, even trying to mimic their programs, isn’t beneficial. Brands that truly understand what makes them unique, and use social media to bring these points of differentiation to life, are the ones that will get results.

Sloth Sloth:  Every brand wants fans and followers. But too many brands don’t want to earn them. Earning an audience can involve everything from engaging content and cause marketing to promotions and, yes Virginia, even paid media. Brands must be prepared to keep an audience’s attention. Without an engagement strategy to support audience acquisition, it’s as if the brand is dialing the phone, setting it down and walking away. 

Gluttony Gluttony:  It might seem like more is better when it comes to social media – set up a presence on as many sites as we can map on a conversation prism — or at least the most popular ones. But the brands that succeed don’t have the same level of activity across a large number of sites. Focusing on just the spots where customers spend their time is key. A business may want to spend more time on Yelp, less time on Facebook and ignore Twitter completely. It all depends on where customers discuss the brand online.

Wrath Wrath:  We’ve all tapped into the more expressive tendencies of social media. Snark is a guilty pleasure of the web…reality TV 2.0. It’s understandable but it’s something brands should avoid. And brands should be prepared to be on the receiving end of wrath. There are trolls online who live to get a brand to make a misstep. Step away from the keyboard. This is another reason for a social media policy and rules of engagement.

Pride Pride:  A brand’s first inclination is to use social media as another broadcast channel. Taking the same content and merely pushing it out over social sites won’t have an impact for long — if at all. It’s the equivalent of someone showing up to a party and talking about themself the whole time. One of the easiest ways to engage customers is to identify which ones are talking about the brand and then thanking them for doing so. Overall a well-rounded mix of conversation, promotion and content based on fan feedback will work best.

Lust Lust:  So a brand is well-established on Twitter or Facebook. They’re tweeting, posting, sharing and along comes Ms. Shiny New. She’s a 2.0 and Mashable’s latest centerfold. Don’t go all geo-loco and have a premature Quor-gasm. Brands must consider if the new site appeals to its audience. Asking its most loyal fans is the easiest way to figure this out. Brand X may want to take Ms. Shiny New out for a date. It shouldn’t happen at the expense of the established program.

Greed Greed:  If a specific marketing program finds success, should a brand punish other efforts by pulling support and moving all of the spend into one effort? Of course not. A brand shouldn’t neccessarily pull support from the winner to help the lagging programs either. Revisiting marketing spend based on results is key. But don’t be Draconian. Allocate according to business goals. Consider complementary marketing efforts and remember that social media can manifest itself as earned, owned and paid media.

Social Media Semantics
OK, maybe these social media sins aren’t deadly. But I prefer considering the above sins instead of rules. Rules imply there’s a single way to do things. It may seem like semantics, but I prefer guidelines over rules. Regardless of the hair splitting, the above are important considerations for any brand building a social media program. If I missed any, please add your sin to the confessional, uh, comments below.

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