social media mistakesIt doesn’t matter if you own or manage a business with a global reach or a small business serving only local customers: The time for ignoring or putting social media on the back burner is over.

Online users expect businesses to have Facebook and Twitter accounts. Increasingly, customers and prospects turn to one of a company’s social media channels to express satisfaction or voice complaints. Because social media posts and interactions are public, the way you engage users forms a clear picture of the way your company treats its customers.

At this stage in the game, your company likely has a Facebook and Twitter presence. But like most businesses, you’re probably making mistakes. It’s understandable. Social media isn’t advertising. It isn’t statistics. It’s not the place to list your credentials or those of the principals. The unique position social media holds in the online business world means you need a clear understanding of what it is and how to use it effectively.

Are you making any of these top five mistakes?

#1: Confusing Your Prospects

Online businesses have a challenge when it comes to proving legitimacy. Building trust with internet users takes a defined strategy of brand building.

To build trust, your website, blog and social media channels have to look like they belong to the same unit. One of the most common mistakes businesses make is inconsistent online branding. How does your business stack up? Do you use the same logo on Facebook and Twitter? Do your corporate colors match throughout your online presence? How about your business name? Do you use ABC Company in some places and ABC Inc. in others?

Look at examples of both small and large companies, such as LBF Travel and Microsoft. Each uses the same logo on everything from Facebook to website. Of course, large companies have more leeway when it comes to presentation. Small businesses don’t have the same luxury. Take a look at your social media accounts. Does everything match? If not, make them match. Don’t confuse viewers with different looks that create doubts.

#2: Posting the “Same Old Same Old”

The problem with social media, at least on the business side, is it’s a time hog. It’s a particularly difficult issue for the small-business owner who does everything from keeping the books to shoveling snow from the storefront sidewalk. The challenge of finding time to engage in social media is real. And so is the temptation to post the same messages on each platform. But, it’s a mistake. Each platform is different with its own proposition, value and advantages. Each post has to fit its channel.

The same old same old on every platform makes your business look bad as well. If you don’t care enough to create unique high-value content for each platform, perception is you don’t care about customers. And that’s not the impression you want to make.

Instead, play up to the advantages of each channel. Facebook is the friendly, get-to-know-you community-building place where behind-the-scenes messages and pictures and easy back-and-forth between the people behind the business facade and customers is attainable.

Twitter is more of a “show the world you’re an expert” channel where you supply and share informative content. Prove your expertise, not by spouting your qualifications and certifications, but by posting real news and information customers, colleagues and prospects can use. The hard sell, whether you’re selling yourself or a product, has no place in social media.

#3: Going It Alone

Sometimes the word “social” is forgotten in the broader sense. It comes into play with customers and prospects, but the very nature of social media also means you have the opportunity to become an integral part of a larger community.

If you’re not following others or follow only a few, get to work on increasing the count. Look for complementary businesses, industry organizations and influencers within your field. Comment and like their posts, share their content and actively participate in the larger industry community.

Lively participation increases your business’s visibility and helps solidify your expert reputation. Follow 20 to 40 other accounts to gain maximum visibility. One caveat: don’t follow multiple accounts and immediately “like” every post you see. Participate moderately over time.

#4: Responding too Slowly

As customers and prospects flock to social media for customer service issues, a slow response or no response is a nail in the social media coffin.

A 2016 Sprout Social report indicated most people only wait four hours for a business’s social media response before becoming angry. Unfortunately, the average brand response time was 10 hours and a whopping 89 percent of users’ messages were ignored.

With social media being what it is, users fight back when they feel ignored in exceedingly public ways. They’ll complain on social media. They’ll write bad Yelp reviews. People don’t like feeling ignored or waiting too long for a response. The sad part is business owners miss out on a gold opportunity to positively engage users when they don’t respond in a timely manner. It’s a mistake businesses large and small make.

You’re probably wondering how you’ll find time to respond swiftly and avoid looking like a selfish ogre who’s only in it for the money. Begin by setting aside a few minutes every couple of hours to check your social media accounts and activities. If you don’t have time to figure an issue out, respond to the comment anyway. Let the poster know you’ve heard them and will get back to them as soon as you can. And then do it.

No one, not even you, can monitor and respond to posts 24 hours a day. List your business hours prominently on each channel. Some platforms, such as Facebook, have a pinned post option where important information is always at the top of the page. Use the pinned post to explain that after-hours comments will be responded to ASAP during normal business hours.

#5: Sharing Everyone Else’s Stuff and None of Your Own

Sharing other experts’ content is an easy way to give your followers and prospects valuable information. And, you should do it. But, if the content you share is never your own, all you’re doing is sending people to those other experts. You have to establish yourself and your business as the go-to authority. To do that, you have to create and share your own original content.