Top 7 Social Strategy Mistakes According To The Experts

by Jason Keath on Sep 11, 2013
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When social media campaigns fail, we all lose. And often social marketing efforts could be wildly more successful if a few simple fundamentals were given more attention early on.

To help provide a roadmap for those fundamentals, we reached out to some of our favorite social marketing pros to ask them a very simple question.

“What is the biggest social media strategy mistake that most businesses make?”

Their answers were really insightful and span the full range of problem areas for social brands.

We’ve categorized all the answers into 7 mistakes that every brand should make sure they are overcoming when sitting down to build their social marketing strategy.

1. No Business Goals

AKA Bringing It Back To The Bottom Line

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when they formulate their social media strategy is that they let their social aspirations drive the thought process, not their business aspirations.

By contract, businesses have to make money and they have to deliver products and services that drive long-lasting preference and loyalty. Without these, there won’t be a social strategy because there won’t be a business.

Nick Ayres
Manager, Social Marketing at IHG

It sounds simple, but all too often, companies try to get a great deal of social media content out there and, only later, do they start to look to see how all of that engagement actually helped their business meet its goals. As with any business project, it’s a good idea to start with what you’re hoping to achieve.

Jeremy Goldman
Founder & CEO at Firebrand Group

The biggest mistake is not spending time to clearly and specifically define their business objectives and then create a social strategy to achieve those objectives. Businesses get hung up on publicly visible social metrics like fans and followers, instead of focusing on social as a path to achieve real business goals. Set your Champagne Moment, define a social strategy to get there, and execute.

Clay Hebert (@clayhebert)
Founder/CEO at Spindows, Kickstarter Hacks

Southwest Airlines, Patagonia, and American Express are three organizations’ whose social programs I really admire.  Each has a completely different approach, but rather than simply trying to acquire Facebook fans, they appear to be experimenting in ways that deeply align with their company’s culture, values and business goals.

Southwest is constantly trying new things, but fun and their own employees are at the center of everything they do. Patagonia has an almost soulful approach, less about their product and more about a lifestyle in tune with the environment. And, American Express has built big, meaningful programs that provide genuine value to its business customers and showcase the perks one associates with their brand.

Paula Berg
Digital Media Lead, Linhart PR

2. No Inclusion In Overall Strategy

AKA Reducing Social To A Condiment

Brands struggle to attach a clear return, or ROI, to social. Add in the perception that social media is free and the social staff is often new, and most social marketing leaders will not be in higher level decision making roles. They are not included in larger brand strategy discussions until the plan is set.

When you say ‘social media,’ many people just think of Twitter or Facebook. But what they rarely understand is the need for the larger plan.

When social is marginalized within the larger brand strategy, a cycle of underperforming is created and not seeing an ROI perpetuates because the key social media stakeholders are not sitting at the table with the rest of the decision makers.

Nicole D’Alonzo (@nikisnotes)
Founder, TASTEdaily

Here we are in 2013 and even major organizations continue to treat social media like a side show.  They’re not investing in appropriate staffing or infrastructure.  They’re not creating content worth a damn. They’re not including their own employees in their plans.  Instead, many organizations are focusing on cheap, quick fan acquisition without thinking about a long-term social business strategy.

Paula Berg
Digital Media Lead, Linhart PR

A big mistake I see people do is to pander in order to get likes and retweets. I’ve seen brands post things that have absolutely nothing to do with their brand in any way, shape, or form. If the hot topic of the day has nothing to do with your brands, and you can tie back to your business objectives, you don’t need to say anything! Engage when you have a reason to.

Jeremy Goldman
Founder & CEO at Firebrand Group

3. No Conversation

AKA All Talk No Listen

Don’t forget the basics. Brands seem to formulate strategy around what content will produce likes or shares. Yes, you can develop creative, beautiful and funny content for your social networks but don’t forget about engaging your audience with a dialogue. Too many brands are now taking their communities for granted and posting content but not participating in the conversation. Listening, responding and engaging should still be the core of any social media strategy.

Jessica Berlin
Social Media Manager at American Eagle Outfitters

A mistake I see is companies misunderstand social networking altogether. Networking is all about meeting like-minded people and helping them first, before you ever ask for anything in return. Instead of building relationships, many companies use social networks as just another channel to push their marketing messages. Build the community first.

Dave Delaney (@davedelaney)
Founder and CEO, Delaney Digital

4. No Loyalty

The most consistent miss is a fundamental misunderstanding of social’s role within the communications ecosystem.

In most cases, social media is a much better loyalty and advocacy play than it is a customer acquisition vehicle. While social CAN be used to make new customers out of thin air, the more well-reasoned strategy capitalizes upon the enthusiasm that your existing customers (presumably) have for your brand, and encourages and cajoles them into becoming volunteer marketers on your behalf.

Instead of “how can we get new customers?” one of the best questions to ask when formulating a social media strategy is “what can we provide to current customers that will get them to buy more or convince their friends that we’re worthy of their time and attention?”

Jay Baer
, (@jaybaer)
President of Convince & Convert

5. No Free Lunch

When creating social marketing strategies, companies talk about “creating an army of advocates” that will do the selling for you. For free. As with everything else – you get what you pay for.

Advocacy programs take dedicated resources and relationship building. And creativity. While a team of advocates can be encouraged to sell – think outside of the “Conversion” box of your strategy. Your Advocates can create educational posts, videos and podcasts showing your products and services in use. They can be a useful part of your Customer Service plan. Another way you need to use your creativity is incentives – creating a plan that compensates (yes, that does means money) your advocates at different levels in ways that allows them to participate in ways that are ethical, and that your company and advocates feel comfortable with and are aligned with your corporate values and business goals.

Jane Quigley
, (@jquig99)
Chief Client Officer at Converseon

6. No Audience Research

In my consultancy, I frequently see companies who have jumped onto every social network without a plan or before determining if their target market is active there. I believe that if companies stop and consider who they want to reach, they will have a better idea of how and where to find them.

Dave Delaney (@davedelaney)
Founder and CEO, Delaney Digital

7. No Collaboration

The biggest mistake a large enterprise can make when creating a social media strategy is to have that strategy live in one department. Customers don’t build relationships with the Marketing or PR departments – they build a relationship with the brand as a whole.

Many businesses approach social media through one silo, not taking into account the entire business. We get feedback on every aspect of our business in an instant – and oftentimes that feedback spans many departments. In order to create a better customer experience, silos need to come down and departments need to work more collaboratively with one another.

It is also the only way to scale social engagement. The only way to effectively engage in real time is to have an “all hands on deck” approach. Taking care of customers is the low hanging fruit of social media engagement and should be Step 1 for every business.

Vanessa Sain-Diéguez (@VSDieguez)
Director, Social Media Planning & Integration at Hilton Worldwide

Post Author

CEO and founder of Social Fresh, the social media education company. Jason is a social media consultant, a social media speaker and industry analyst. He consults with corporations and agencies on social media strategy, building community, and influencer...

  • I think Jay’s point about No loyalty is pretty spot on. I’ve found that in general social Media is great for deepening engagement with the people already interested in you, its less good (in its free form) for outreach.

  • Stuart Gordon

    Great post bringing together some really good points.

  • Abimbola Olulesi

    Very informative article. I particularly find Jeremy Goldman’s take on NO BUSINESS GOALS very enriching. Good work Jason, keep it up

  • Dirk

    Great to see “No Business Goals” at the top of the list. I see this all the time and it blows my mind…

    Thanks Jason!

  • Colleen Fischer

    Great list. The only mistake I see missing is “no fun.” Brands often take themselves too seriously on social media. Lightening up can be an effective way of humanizing a brand, creating trust and getting noticed.

  • Cheri Lesueur

    As a media manager I feel the No Inclusion in Overall Strategy a lot. If I knew more about the overall plan I could better manage the Social Media for better results.

  • Agreed Toby. What type of company have you seen this for in the past?

  • Thanks for stopping by Stuart. Which point do you think was the best?

  • Thanks Abimbola. Jeremy is a sharp one.

  • It is a very familiar problem for anyone working for a corporate brand in social.

    What are your responsibilities as a media manager?

  • Indeed. It is crazy. Thanks for reading.

  • No fun is a great add Colleen. Have any favorite examples of brands that do this well?

  • Stuart Gordon

    I think the point about social media strategy needing to flow out of business goals is key. It should not stand in isolation, or just be engaged in because everyone else is doing it. There should be a pyramid with business objectives at the top, flowing down to the marketing strategy, part of which will be the social media strategy, and the tactics and KPIs will flow out of that. I also think that some companies confuse social media strategy and social media tactics.

  • CPG (FMCG) and entertainment brands mainly

  • Here here. Nothing to add here. You captured the problem/solutions well.

    Who do you work for Stuart?

  • Two ultra competitive arenas. We plan to cover and research entertainment a lot more in 2014. Should be fun. Lots of innovation there.

  • Stuart Gordon

    Thanks Jason – very kind :)

    I am the Production and Communications Manager for Life Healthcare Communications, part of my role being managing a team who look after social media.

    Have a good afternoon.

  • Joseph Ruiz

    Excellent list Jason. All too often I see businesses, especially smaller ones entering into social platforms tactically. “We need to be on (fill in the blank)” Read a great post from Booz Allen this morning that talked about the need to reimagine rather than reengineer the digital experience. This of course fits within the points in your post.

  • Christina Garner

    This is spot on. I’m in the middle of a steep learning curve right now, but I’m really trying to balance these elements. Now if only I could get a version of Power Editor to stop being so buggy…

  • Arron George

    Great article! I a, still amazed that the majority of marketers do not understand the role of social media and the power it has. Planning is evertthing!

    Thanks for this resource

  • Great share @jasonkeath:disqus

  • Great list. A good question companies should be asking is how this campaign will work towards my overall strategy? Are you using Facebook simply because your competition is using Facebook or are you using it because you want to develop good relationships with your consumer base who may want to buy your products in the future?
    Like the point about engaging your audience, I agree that social media sites are just that, social websites that allow for a 2 way conversation to develop. If you are ignoring your audience then it is no good no matter how good your content is.

  • Matt Coffy

    Must admit the delivery of the message is very essential to gather audience. In fact, I noticed lately that that’s what a lot of people focus on just to get chain-shared in Facebook or ReTweeted, often missing out on the content’s quality. Anyway, thanks for this Jason! Worth sharing to my friends!

  • Colleen Fischer

    Weird, I thought I had responded to this mentioning the usual suspects, Taco Bell & Old Spice having a lot of social fun. Sorry for the delay @jasonkeath:disqus – I must have imagined writing. I have personally had success with this as an initial relationship builder for a few communities I have managed (restaurant and travel). Certainly doesn’t work for all brands, but it does for my favs.

  • Love your thought here @33e5b694018faf206ba7f338fa43ffec:disqus . Can you expound a little bit more on what you mean by noticing that is where people focus? Have any examples?

  • Thanks Shaun!

  • It is mind blowing, but when I stop and think about it, this problem existed long before social media, or the internet even.

  • Ha. Power Editor is a troublesome tool. We have some awesome training coming soon on that.

  • Thanks @joseph_ruiz:disqus! Mind sharing a link to that article? Would love to give it a read.

  • Very concise and helpful outlook on social media strategy. Thank you Jason.

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