Column: Seven ways to ruin your social media program

Many companies and organizations are already a bit fearful of the potential drawbacks of building and running a social media program. It may seem as if there are constant reports of businesses or organizations that participate in the social media space that ultimately end in problems. Issues such as negative public criticism, loss of control of messaging and rogue employees often keep companies from fully taking the plunge and making the most out of a social media program.

For these reasons, social media tends to get a bad rap with decision makers and those evaluating return on investment for marketing and communications programs. However, the biggest reason for failure when participating in this space is not related to a major crisis. Instead, social media programs often fail because of ineffective execution and management.

The best way to overcome these issues is to understand what not to do. If any of the points below seem familiar, it may be time to reevaluate your organization’s program.

Build an empire

 So many organizations first think about social media in the perspective of “what stuff can I build?” This is a terrible approach because it generally leaves out strategy. To be honest, having a presence on every social platform you can get your hands on is almost guaranteed to not be very beneficial because you end up spending time trying to reach audiences that may not matter to you. Instead, start with a plan, and grow your online social presence in a smart and targeted way.

Shout until someone pays attention

The social part of the phrase social media is there for a reason. If you are just posting messages and not engaging in conversation, you probably aren’t doing it right. Look for opportunities to engage. A connection won’t happen every time, but when it does the exchange will be more meaningful.

Create dry, lifeless posts and updates

Communicating to your audiences as if you are an emotionless robot is no good. Most audiences expect and need that human touch. It’s ok to not be perfect all the time because your audience also is not perfect. Some of the most successful social media programs have a clearly identifiable personality behind them, which is the driving force that makes the program great.

Lock down those employees

 Sure, employees can make mistakes on their personal social media profiles or upload potentially harmful videos, but those same employees can also send harmful emails or make inappropriate comments over the phone. Remember, your employees are ambassadors. Empower them by giving them the appropriate training and education about your organization’s social media strategies and goals. With the right tools, your employees can be your greatest asset.

Put the intern in charge

Unfortunately, an effective social media program doesn’t run itself. Staffing is an important issue that is constantly overlooked. However, putting a young intern at the helm is a poor choice. Take a look at the highest performing components of your business – they might seem like they run themselves, but that is probably because they have excellent infrastructure built around them with seasoned professionals calling the shots. Interns can add a tremendous amount of value, but that value is often only surface level.

Expect unparalleled growth

Many organizations make the mistake of thinking because they now have a blog or a Facebook page that people will naturally flock to them. The missing link is promotion. Building a social platform is the first step. The next is promoting it through other marketing materials, such as advertising and cross promotion.

Focus strictly on the numbers

Sure, increasing the number of Facebook fans by 12 percent in one month is great, but it’s not the whole picture. Social media campaigns can be thought about in a similar way to how traditional brick-and-mortar retailers operate. While the first step is getting a customer in the door, there has to be a plan to get that customer to purchase something once inside. Too many social media programs focus far too much on getting people in the door without providing them anything interesting or relevant once you have their attention.

Luckily, if you see your organization in any of the points above, it’s easy to change course and make strides to increase the effectiveness of your social media program. A wonderful characteristic of any social media program is the ability to quickly and inexpensively mix things up and try something new. 

Matt Smedley is the social media practice lead for Frause, a full spectrum communications firm with offices in Portland and Seattle.  Matt can be reached at 503.467.4686 or

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