The Small-Business Owner's Guide to Advertising Injury

Chapter 3: Social Media Mistakes That Cost Small Businesses Big
Part 1: Missing the Mark: Common Small Business Social Media Mistakes

So what are small businesses doing wrong? And what can they do to get their social media marketing back on track? Read on for answers.

Social Media Mistake #1: Ignoring your online audience.

Simply creating a Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn account won't get your business very far. Though social media can help generate leads, it requires that you do more than just log in.

The only way to bring in business through social media is to spend time online listening to what people have to say about the kinds of products or services businesses like yours offer. Are they complaining about their current providers? Are they confused by a new product?

It takes time and patience to glean this information, but these cues tell you what matters to your prospective customers.

Fix it: Log time on social media listening to your base. Use filters to sort out the content that could relate to your expertise, and offer help when the opportunity arises. (Note: if you're not doing this already, don't feel bad. Surveys show that a significant number of small-business owners have social media sites but do not use them regularly — see the chart below.)

Social Media Account Maintenance by Site


Social Media Account Maintenance by Site
Site SMBs That Have an Account SMBs That Use Site "Regularly"
Facebook 82% 22%
LinkedIn 47% 30%
Twitter 47% 14%
YouTube 73% 13%


Social Media Mistake #2: Only using social media to announce sales and discounts.

Part of listening to your audience and making a connection means treating social media differently from direct marketing vehicles. Instead of using your page like a bullhorn to announce your latest sale, you have to engage with your audience.

Fix it: Share content your customers find valuable. For example, is one of your fans complaining about a product they bought from you? View the grumbles as an opportunity to flex your customer service muscles and offer a solution.

Another way to build support is to showcase your business's personality. Direct marketing tactics don't work on user-generated sites because people don't turn to social media to interact with companies. They are interested in connecting with people. But if you use social media profiles to humanize your business, you're more likely to generate an interested following.

Social Media Mistake #3: Expecting immediate ROI.

Social media marketing does not offer instant gratification for businesses. Its value comes from its potential for building long-term customer relationships.

Manta's study found that only eight percent of the small-business owners polled are interested in using social media to build a community. If your social media marketing strategy is going to work, connecting with prospects and building relationships with them has to be your primary focus.

Fix it: Occasional half-hearted posts aren't going to translate into immediate sales. But if you consistently post engaging content and interact meaningfully with your audience, your social media efforts will eventually lead to strong customer relationships, bigger orders, more frequent purchases, and loyal support from the community you've built.

Social Media Mistake #4: Ignoring copyright considerations.

Just because you find an amusing photo on Flickr doesn't mean you can post that image on your social media page. That's the lesson BuzzFeed is learning the hard way. The entertainment site found photographer Kai Eiselein's image on Flickr and published it in one of its lists without permission. Even though BuzzFeed has since removed the photo, Eiselein is seeking $3.6 million in damages, claiming that the site infringed on his intellectual property rights. 

Your business could find itself in similar trouble if you violate copyrights. As a rule, creative work is the kind most often protected under copyright laws. So if you reproduce, perform, distribute, publish, or display copyrighted material (such as photographs, writing, or music) on your social media pages without permission, the holder of its copyright could sue your business.

There are certain situations (known as "fair use") that absolve your business of copyright infringement liability. We'll discuss that in more detail on page XX.

It's worth noting that reproducing Internet memes for commercial use can also land your business in hot water. Warner Brothers used the famous cat memes Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat in its popular game Scribblenauts, and the meme creators are suing for the infringement. You can read more about the case in Forbes's article "Warner Brothers Sued For Infringing Cat Meme Copyright."

Fix it: Get familiar with copyright basics and fair use exceptions. (You can start by checking out Chapter 4 of this guide.) Keep yourself in compliance by only posting your own work or buying a license to a stock photo service.

Social Media Mistake #5: Committing libel.

You want to engage with your fans and followers on social media by sharing your personality, but some thoughts should be kept private. For instance, say you're upset about a never-satisfied client and post about that person on Twitter.

But airing your grievances in the public eye can open you to libel charges. That's what happened to a freelance writer who was sued for more than $82k when she tweeted a libelous comment about one of her clients. (Read the full story on the insureon blog.)

Fix it: Maintain separate accounts for personal and business use. If you're not sure whether a comment could count as libel, save it for a conversation with a close friend.

Social Media Mistake #6: Eavesdropping on your customers.

When companies keep tabs on social media for mentions of their brand, services, or products, it's called "social listening" or "social monitoring." Netbase, a social analytics company, found that 42 percent of businesses they surveyed considered social listening a priority in 2013. But the consumers they surveyed weren't wild about the idea of companies eavesdropping on their social media conversations.

The survey found…

  • 32% of consumers weren't aware that companies monitor social media mentions.
  • 51% don't want companies to listen when they're being talked about on social media.
  • 43% consider social media monitoring to be an invasion of their privacy.
  • 64% are only interested in companies responding to social media comments when they are directly addressed.

(More results available in this infographic: Social Listening: Too Much Big Brother?)

Fix it: Remember that context is everything. Before responding to comments customers make about your business online, consider the bigger picture and decide whether weighing in makes sense.

Another tactic: use the power of social monitoring to stay in the loop about what your competitors are up to – many small businesses admit to doing exactly that!

Next: 7 Steps to Take Today to Get the Most from Social Media Marketing

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Customer Reviews
Rated 4.9 out of 5 Stars

"Amazing customer service, loved that I could do everything via email. Nothing better than that."

"Excellent and responsive service. My agent was out when I called but another person jumped right in and took care of the policy."

Read more reviews...