The 10 Biggest Mistakes Marketers Made with Social Media in 2014

What does social media marketing mean for your business? Has it been ripe with rewards in conversations that lead to sales and new valuable connections? An outlet to show support for what you believe in or has it been a greedy monster that has swallowed your marketing budget and efforts whole leaving you with nothing to show? 2014 was a dynamic year full of growth, joy, success and misfortune for many businesses. Social media is a beast that needs taming and is not for the marketer or business unwilling to commit and learn.

While there has been much debate about the real return on investment (ROI) for social media, one thing is certain; mistakes can be costly, to the tune of $4.3 million on average for enterprises as indicated by a study conducted by Symantec a few years ago. While many incidents can be avoided through the implementation of clear internal management policies, human error makes it a volatile medium.

So what are some of the costliest mistakes made in 2014?

“One Size Fits All” Mass Distribution

Wonder why no one is clicking the link you shared with your most recent blog posts? Well, are you posting duplicates of the same, “Here’s my latest blog post on…” message on every single social network? That may have been your problem.

Each set of users on social networks have their own DNA, different interests and needs for content. The exact message in a tweet that brought in a few visitors will not likely work on LinkedIn or even Facebook. Each audience has it’s own expectations and responds differently to each message. It’s like profiling your ideal customer. You do research on demographics and other characteristics to determine how to deliver the perfect product and service and to the right people.

So evaluate how you use auto-sharing tools to “efficiently” post your updates to all connected networks. Put in the time and effort to coin messages that generate discussions around what you’re sharing. You’ll notice much higher engagement when your presence and content becomes more relevant and meaningful to your target. Not to say that automated social sharing tools like Hootsuite and Buffer are bad, just customize your shared content as much as possible.

Gaffes Galore

Social media requires that you put yourself and your business out there, imperfections and all. We’re bound to make various types of mistakes, it’s human and it’s reality; and makes you authentic. However, some mistakes seem unforgivable and amount to raw mismanagement and ignorance. Some of these mistakes can cost millions depending of the scale of your business or clients’.

For example:

The person who manages the late comedian Joan Rivers’ Instagram account made a very embarrassing mistake by posting an apparently pre-arranged deal with Apple to promote the iPhone 6. Quite distasteful considering that Joan had just passed away.


Or promoting content praising poor service, mismatching customer perspectives. The telecommunication company below had a crisis on their hands when they promoted statistics that didn’t reflect customers’ experiences. This is a good example of why it’s important to master quality product delivery before jumping head first into marketing and promotion.
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Image source

Protect your business and review and think objectively about what you’re promoting. If you’re working with a larger team, have a process for vetting content before posting.

Hashtag Failures

Hashtag usage on sites like Twitter and Instagram are excellent to generate buzz and support for events, topics, causes, you name it. While many brands have positioned themselves brilliantly through its use like NBC’s The Voice’s #VoiceSave that generated over 3 million tweets, some missed the mark completely.

One of the biggest failures was the NYPD’s attempt at community building with their #myNYPD Twitter campaign. The NYPD asked it’s followers to tweet photos of NYPD police officers sharing a positive moment with the public. While the tactic started out on a positive note for about an hour, the attempt backfired horribly with respondents tweeting photos primarily of police brutality and other compromising situations highlighting the worst of the NYPD’s relationship with the public. The hashtag was essentially hijacked by the disgruntled public.

Admittedly, it was pretty difficult to predict such a response from the public but this shows how social media has empowered people to speak their minds for the most part. You have to respect that. Do you have a brand that has a shaky relationship with the public? Consider the potential responses from the public and how any negativity could spread. Depending on the topic at hand, it could be your undoing.

Paying for Fans, Follows & Likes

Beyond being unethical, buying likes and follows is a strategy doomed for failure. A vast majority of services offering paid social following uses fake / bot accounts to bump up the following figures for clients. Therefore, those 10,000 new Instagram followers you purchased are mindless bots that do nothing. While having thousands of followers does “look good” and gives the impression that your brand is “popular,” engagement is really where the money is and will be the judge of what you’re doing right with your brand. This becomes dangerous for your marketing especially in the use of Facebook, where organic reach is painfully diminished for accounts with little to no engagement on posts shared. You simply cannot sell anything to fake users and the whole point of engaging in social media marketing is to eventually sell something, right?

In addition, consider the great Instagram purge where they deleted millions of inactive accounts to clean up the network. It’s a strategy that makes no sense, does not provide any ROI and will generate even greater failure in 2015.

Lack of Focus

Do your research, drill down on a specific niche, spend time creating your target audience profile and pound it. Many marketers and bloggers believed that they had to cover every single topic to be seen, heard and grow. In fact, it’s the fastest way to burn yourself out and produce thin, non-performing content. As many niches and industries became even more crowded in 2014, there’s now a greater need for marketers to hone in their focus on the long-tail topics and provide value that is broadly ignored. For example, if you’re running an online marketing company, rather than deliver content to cover SEO, Social, PPC, etc., find an area where you can specialize. ConversionXL, for instance, has over the years built a blog on just conversion optimization and because of that focus has grown tremendously and is now a globally reputable voice on the subject. Their success has been amplified by their maddening focus on one subject area. They’ve quickly become an authority.

Don’t spread yourself thin, be known for one amazing thing then branch out from there.

Lack of Internal Policies

The gaffes mentioned before and the numerous business social media accounts being hacked and tampered with over the years have, in many cases, been due to poor internal management. Define and clearly communicate a policy that covers employee advocacy, account credential management, what’s appropriate to post and how to handle errors, breaches and even disgruntled employees.

Assess the standards and needs of your niche, set the guidelines and expectations for your team and activate a system for monitoring.

Thinking in Terms of Campaigns vs Long-term

Using the term “marketing campaign” is very common and is a useful way segment and create different strategies. However, we run the risk of adopting a temporary mindset, not realizing that successful social media marketing that delivers recognizable ROI is based on long-term valuable relationships.

Drop the campaign mindset and treat your audience like engaging a marriage for a lifetime. After all, your audience comprises of humans and we mostly trust those with whom we have a beneficial relationship. We spend based on things we trust most. 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated, so relationships count.

Thinking that Social Media is Free

While it doesn’t cost any money to use social media networks, effectively appealing to your audience and engaging in activities that produce real results require a huge investment of time and effort. Many marketers use the fact that networks are “free” and plaster and litter their streams and timelines with blatant all-out sales pitches without much thought. It’s a sort of free-for-all and marketers for the most part just sell, sell, sell without trying to genuinely engage and present value that appeals. As Gary Vaynerchuk says accurately, marketers ruin everything.

The concept of free infers the idea of lesser value and therefore garners less respect. Not respecting the medium and audience is a huge mistake and it shows in your work.

Treating Social Media like Traditional Advertising

Whether you have a million dollar budget or a thousand, don’t be tempted into engaging in a spray and pray tactic with your marketing and advertising. It was perfectly normal to be interrupted by television and radio ads in the 90’s and earlier but technology has empowered practically everyone to skip to our desired content ignoring and almost eliminating annoying ads. Advertising based on sheer volume instead of deep audience analysis simply does not work. It’s not about you and how “amazing” your product is but instead, how great is the experience you can provide for the viewer. Sometimes that means not delivering a sales pitch but creating content that makes your audience smile instead. You have to give something to receive anything. Also, the numbers don’t lie; inbound marketing produces 54% more leads in the marketing funnel than traditional outbound marketing.

Misunderstanding Social Media ROI

One of the greatest debates over the past 5 years is how to determine the real ROI of social media. How does it affect the bottom line and which activities and metrics truly matter? Is a “like” worth anything or what value does 1,000 shares of a story achieve for the business’ goals? Marketing technology has come a far way and a tool like Oktopost allows users to track how audiences on social networks engage your content. It will also reveal which of them converted into a lead and the pieces of content that helped make that happen.

Focusing on vanity metrics such as likes, shares and number of followers is a waste of energy. Your content should serve specific goals such as increasing leads / sales, generate sign-ups or some other high impact business goal. It’s not about how it looks but how much more money you’re earning because of your activities.

As we break into 2015, spend some time analyzing the industry’s experiences to develop the right mindset, eliminating activities that devalue your efforts and employ strategies to make the new year more profitable. The sky is the limit.

What are some terrible mistakes you’ve witnessed or made in 2014 and what did you learn? Share with us in the comments below.

Owner, Developer and Marketing Consultant at Yuraki, I enjoy creating web & marketing solutions for small businesses to help them achieve greater efficiency in-house as well as increase revenue online. I’m also passionate about the web and love sharing my experiences in blogging & marketing. Chat with me on Twitter

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