The new year is often a time of reflection and making plans for improvement in our personal lives and our businesses. Take a look at these social media bad habits and see if there are any you can eliminate in an effort to improve your social media engagement in the new year.
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I’ve seen it bring out the best in people, revealing their softer side - their positive worldview, loyalty, and kindness. I’ve also seen it bring out people’s less than admirable qualities: passive-aggressive tendencies, anger, and negativity. Social media drains my time (because I let it) and sucks the soul right out of me (because I fall prey to the cynicism). Yet, I can say without hesitation that my businesses and my personal life have benefited from social media in endless ways.
Sidebar: I’ll take this opportunity to thank Mr. Zuckerberg for creating Facebook which allowed me to build two successful businesses in ways that never would have happened if it weren’t for the ability to connect with and build relationships with people online through his amazing site. Customers have become friends. Friends have become customers. I’ve connected with people who’ve taught me new skills and have inspired me to be a better human being. In fact, I wouldn’t be writing this article if it weren’t for Facebook. I can trace my current position with Shelley Media Arts to something I read about remote work in a Facebook group. That’s the kind of power it has. It’s up to us to use that power for good.
I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. However, I am a big fan of taking stock of where I am and seeing the areas in my life that need improvement then setting goals to make positive changes. One of those areas I can change is my social media use. I’m sure you can relate. If you see yourself or your friends in one of the following scenarios, make a pact with yourself to do better.
And, if you’re perfect and don’t have any of these shortcomings, then I applaud you. Share this with someone who needs to read it. Or save it for when you notice yourself slipping back into bad habits.
It’s easier to stop doing something than to do something new. So, I won’t just tell you which habits to break and leave it at that. I’ve added action steps that can help us improve in each area. I’ll preface this list by stating that most of these relate to Facebook, but they can be applied to other social media platforms as well.
Unless you are Amazon.com CEO, Jeff Bezos, not everyone wants what you’re selling. Stop selling to your friends. They know you have a business. They know where to find you when they want to do business with you. An occasional mention of your business is fine. Spamming your friends is a big turn off.
Action step: Set up a business page. Post about your business there.
People come to social media to learn, to be entertained and to build relationships. If you constantly promote your business on your page, you don’t give your fans an opportunity to know you as a person and to develop the trust that can lead to business.
Action step: Let your fans get to know you through your business page. Be helpful, show your personality, and give them opportunities to engage with you. Don’t forget to share other people’s content on your page. It says, “I liked this and thought of my fans. If you like this, we have something in common.”
Don’t ignore your fans or followers. When someone takes the time to mention you, leave a review, or comment on a post, they shouldn’t hear crickets. If you don’t respond, it says you don’t value them. It could also indicate to them that your account is inactive.
Action step: Engage with your followers. Be thankful for the mention and reply back. It’s the right thing to do, and it helps build credibility.
This might be the hardest habit to break. It takes effort to plan and carry out a social media strategy.
Action step: Consistency builds momentum. It also builds trust and can help you build authority in your niche. Plan out your social media strategy and use a scheduling tool to make it easier and save time. But beware of #5.
Scheduling every single post using an automation tool may seem like a time-saver. But your fans and followers are going to get suspicious and wonder if there’s a real person behind all those automated posts. If they start to unlike you or unfollow your account, you’re defeating the purpose.
Action step: Pop in occasionally with trending, relevant content. Post an occasional personal photo or image of your behind-the-scenes business life. Make sure your followers see that a human being is there, someone who wants to make a real connection with them.
If you try to be everywhere and you will be nowhere. When you spread yourself too thin, it’s difficult to gain traction on any one platform.
Action step: Find out where your niche congregates online. Then focus on the one or two platforms where it makes the most sense for you to build community and establish yourself as a thought leader.
Tagging and mentioning your friends or other business accounts with reckless abandon is another spammy maneuver which will get you unfollowed quickly.
Action step: Use hashtags that make sense and that are helpful to other users who have a common interest in a subject. Only mention accounts directly related to the subject of your post. For more guidelines on using hashtags and mentions, check out our Best Practices for Using Mentions and Hashtags on Twitter.
Long text posts are boring and rarely hold the reader's attention. Visual content grabs people's attention and makes them stop scrolling long enough to engage with your message.
Action step: Add some variety to your posts with images, video, or infographics. Posts with images or video get higher engagement and more shares. Looking for some tools to help with visual content? Check out this list of 20 Visual Content Tools to Increase Engagement.
I saved the best for last. Venting on social media is the ultimate in bad social media etiquette. Your audience should never be subjected to your tirades and temper tantrums. Related to venting is “vaguebooking.” If you only have a business page, you may not have experienced this phenomenon. However, if you have a personal page, you know what I’m referencing. It’s the attention-seeking, passive-aggressive post, usually ranting about some injustice, addressed to no one in particular but referring to someone specific (apparently we're supposed to ask what's going on), which leaves anyone who reads it thinking a) “Is she talking about me?” or b) “He’s nuts!”
Action step: Dial direct. If you have a beef with someone go directly to them with it and work out your problem. Leave the rest of us out of it.
What’s the most annoying habit that you’ve seen on social media? What habit would you like to break? Now’s your chance to share your social media pet peeves. It helps others see their behavior for what it is and helps them make better choices. Feel free to comment. We’d love to know your thoughts.
Strategic use of social media can reap benefits for your business. By aligning your social media presence with your core values, company mission, and growth objectives, you’ll build an audience of followers who truly are “your people.” Building lasting connections online is what it’s all about. Make a pact to break your bad social media habits this year.
Wishing you much success in your digital marketing in 2020!
Originally published December 30, 2016. Updated December 4, 2019.
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