If you’re not careful, the fear of social media can linger over your company like a bad smell coming from the communal fridge. You know it’s there, you know you need to deal with it, but you don’t know just where it’s coming from, don’t know how to handle it, and to be frank, you’re pretty disgusted by the whole rotten ‘Pintwitbooklink’ thing.

But social media isn’t going anywhere. Rather than ignoring the smell and spraying enough air freshener around your office to single-handedly destroy the ozone layer, you need to jump on board the social media train and make the most of the technology available and grab the attention of your customers. After all, if you don’t, someone else will…

But the world of social media is fraught with so many dos and don’ts, yeses and nos, uh-ohs and oh-no-they-didn’ts that it can be tricky to find your footing. Here’s our advice for social media newbies to avoid some really quite avoidable idiocies:

The important thing to remember about social media is that it’s meant to be social – if you don’t engage with other people or businesses, what’s the point?! The ‘me, me, me’ attitude of posting link after link to your website and not much else is a terrible breach of social media decorum.

The best advice is to think about how you’d act if you were actually in a room with your target audience. Would you shout, ‘I’m an amazing cook!’ over and over and hope that someone will approach you? Or would you mooch on over to someone, ask how they are, what they’re into, their star sign––ok, maybe not––and find out what makes them tick and what their problems might be first, and then say, ‘Well hey, if you’re looking for advice on boiling an egg, I happen to know a thing or two…’ I’m not yoking when I say tactic #1 will leave a fowl taste in their mouth (badumtsch).

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Automating posts can be a godsend when you’re up to your eyeballs in the day-to-day running of your business. Spend a couple of hours a week scheduling your Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn posts for the next fortnight, then sit back, relax and wait for the ‘ping!’ of Likes, Shares or Retweets to start rolling in… or not.

While some automated posts come in handy – scheduling them to coincide with blog articles going live, for instance – you shouldn’t rely on automation. The biggest no-no with scheduling posts is that you might miss something BIG happening in your industry; say, the release of a new product, a huge reshuffling of management at your largest competitor, or a celebrity mentioning a product or service relevant to your company. If you aren’t quick enough to jump on the bandwagon and join in the conversation, you’ll miss fabulous opportunities to connect and get your voice heard. A pet sitting company that doesn’t make the absolute most out of International Cat Day is really missing a trick. #idiots

As people have their individual quirks and foibles, so do businesses. No one business is identical. Even companies under the same umbrella can have different personalities – Wallis and TopShop have different personas, hugely different target audiences and different social media approaches, yet they’re both part of Arcadia Group.

Do you think Innocent drinks would sell half as many smoothies if they weren’t such a big online personality? Just look at their Twitter account – jokes, smart-alecky remarks, up-to-the-moment Tweets… Aim to be fun and let your personality shine through and your audience will thank you for it: by remembering your name and buying from you!

An active presence on social media can be a boon for businesses, yet it’s easy to go overboard and end up spamming tweets– and annoying – the very people you’re trying to impress. This is especially true of those companies who seem to post nothing but link after link to their own website.

No one likes their newsfeed cluttered, and businesses who post on social media every few minutes definitely contribute to what I like to call, ‘ignore-itis’. Did you know that on Facebook you can ‘Unfollow’ a Page’s posts without ‘unliking’ them? This means that you might think you have 534 followers on Facebook, but really, you’ve annoyed 397 of them so much with your incessant nagging that your posts are now only reaching 137. A bit pathetic, really.

Our final piece of advice today: different social media platforms fulfil different objectives. Twitter and Facebook are great for growing your follower base and driving traffic to your website, but if you want to improve your SEO, Google+ or YouTube might be the best bet (Social Media Today).

There’s no need to be everywhere at once; if you try to become a great presence on all social media channels you’ll end up stretched way too thin and none of your social accounts will be worth following. Unless you have hours upon hours each day – or a dedicated social media A-Team to attack all the different platforms – then picking one or two to focus on is a much better plan. In other words, #pickyourbattleground carefully. A sporadically-updated Twitter account, with weeks or months between each Tweet, is worse than having no Twitter account at all. Just sayin’.

Check out our guide to social media for more help.

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Author Chris Painter

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