You would think that by now most people would have learned the dos and don'ts of using social media in business. Certainly some are more careful than others in managing messaging, but there are still plenty of people who seem clueless about communicating effectively on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
In the last few weeks I personally witnessed each faux pas listed and am sharing below remedies to fix each one. Next time you experience an error, help the offender by sending him or her this column. Perhaps you'll inspire them to stop annoying other people and doing damage to their own reputations.
1. Your Picture Sends the Wrong Message About You
If a picture says 1,000 words, make sure it's the 1,000 words you really want to convey. You don't have to use the same profile picture for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, just present photos consistent with your desired image. The wrong picture can scare off potential clients, employers, and connections while tasteful, clever pictures make you memorable for the right reasons. Not everyone needs a professional portrait or serious face in a business suit. Give your selection some thought and care, so it's not blurry or weird. (Unless of course it makes good business sense to intentionally convey your weirdness.) Your picture should show your personality and project happiness and success. If you can't be creative, at least be neutral.
2. Your Profile Looks Like You're Unhappy and Job Hunting
The words "Looking for..." say you're dissatisfied with life. Not the message to convey to colleagues, bosses, or clients. Have a profile that shows you as the secure, productive, and directed person people want to hire. If you are not engaged or interesting, then stop spending so much time on social media and go do interesting things worthy of sharing.
3. Your Sarcasm and Wit Don't Translate
I'm a big proponent of humor, but why attempt funny or ironic if no one will get the joke? Often subtlety doesn't translate without vocal tone or physical expression. Then it can appear odd or even offensive. Consider the context and save subtle humor for small communities where you know it's understood and appreciated. When broadcasting to a large, unknown audience, communicate in a way you know you'll be understood, and make humor obvious with tools like parentheses and emoticons (without over doing either one ).
4. Your Posts are Self-Indulgent and BOOOOORING!
Some people talk because they love to hear themselves talk. In social media, many post or tweet for the same reason. Before hitting return, question whether the update will truly be perceived as informative or at least entertaining. People reward posters who are brief and compelling over those who are prolific. Few are talented enough to be both without serious effort.
5. You are Over-Promoting or Worse, Only-Promoting
No need to constantly sell, sell, sell. People eventually ignore constant pitching if they don't find value in your posts. It may be difficult for a locksmith to post about something more than locks and keys but if you can't find a way to connect in an interesting discussion with your community, social media might not be the best tool for your marketing. Provide value and entertainment consistently so people want to stay tuned to your broadcast. Then hopefully they'll remember your brand when it's time to buy.
6. You Don't Respond Consistently or in a Timely Manner
Social media can expose your marketing weaknesses. People notice when social media buttons on websites and e-mails go to profiles that haven't been touched in months... or ever. It clearly communicates that you're overly busy or unresponsive. There's nothing worse than wondering if your message will ever get answered. Make a commitment to the channels you promote, or don't engage. It's that simple.
7. You Appear as a Slacker
Maybe you're not aware of how much time you spend on social media, but everyone else is. If you're posting every few minutes on every channel about your latest escapade, people may assess that you either don't have real work to keep you busy or that you have someone else generating your tweets and updates. Don't make people decide if you are avoiding business at hand or are simply inauthentic. Unless your specific job is social media, let it be a supplement to your business and your life. You never want to be the subject of that common water cooler question: "Does that guy ever work?"
8. Your Social Media Communication is Inappropriate
Note I said inappropriate, not offensive. Yes, tolerance has broadened for profanity and sex in society, but there is still expected decorum in business. In live company, you can read the audience and tailor your risqué repartee and language to fit. But online, your message is public and permanent. Being edgy in a public forum with profanity or obscenity makes a strong statement about who you are, one you may find limiting in the future. Use creativity to make the point tastefully and you'll be perceived as likeable, intelligent, and discrete, three very desirable qualities.
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