It’s only a single syllable, but it’s a powerful sound. And it’s not a sound any small business owner wants to hear from their social media manager.

Social media comes with many distinct advantages—a platform to promote your business, identify market segments, and network with other companies. But like any tool, social media use can also backfire.

If you’re new to social media for business purposes, there are a few common mistakes you can avoid to ensure that social media remains a tool for your business—and not a platform for your bad habits:

Mistake #1: Sloppiness

Here’s one mistake you’ll never want to make: posting something of a personal nature when you’re still logged in to your business account.

Several years ago, the Red Cross social media specialist made the mistake of tweeting out to the organization’s Twitter feed instead of to her personal account. The tweet read:


Social media mistakes like these can be embarrassing and costly — especially if not handled correctly. However, the Red Cross perfectly averted a PR crisis with a good humored response.


Whether your employee forgets to log out and posts something personal on a corporate account or your profile is legitimately hacked, account management and social media security are two issues you don’t want to take lightly. Not every rogue Tweet can be handled as light heartedly as the Red Cross’s.

How do you prevent this?

Mistake #2: The “No Strategy” Social Media Strategy

Having a look at some of the top businesses on social media, you might find that it feels effortless. Wendy’s is a favorite of many thanks to their willingness to engage in memes, “roasts,” and petty rivalries with competing companies. The overall vibe is relaxed and fun.

That’s not a coincidence.

Wendy’s is a large company, after all—they’ve got a social media team in place and they leave it to the professionals. Mixed in with the hilarious one-liners and quips are promotions for summer berry solids and never-frozen beef. Make no mistake: it takes a lot of strategy to make social media look that effortless.

Our solution? Use a service like Buffer to make sure you can stick to a social media calendar. This allows you to handle your tweets and updates in blocks of time and schedule them to go out routinely, which in turn gives you the freedom to focus on other elements of your business.

Mistake #3: Forgetting the Advantages of Social Media

Everyone’s aware that social media can be a monster of a platform for reaching a lot of people. Great. But what really matters is what you do with that platform.

One of the chief advantages of social media is that you can use it to create highly targeted campaigns. It’s one thing to post enticing Facebook statuses; it’s another thing entirely to install a Facebook pixel on your site to ensure you can re-target customers and measure the success of individual campaigns.

No, you don’t have to start out with sponsored advertisements if you don’t yet have the budget for social media campaigns. But it doesn’t hurt to know the advantages of each distinct platform. Are you researching hashtags thoroughly before you post one up on Twitter? Are you joining LinkedIn groups to expand your range of influence?

Don’t just participate in social media. Milk each platform for all it’s worth.

Mistake #4: Give Your Headlines, Statuses, and Hashtags a Once-Over Before Posting

Another reason to use a service like Buffer, in which you decide on your social media outreach in advance? It will give you a chance at revision.

If you’re managing your own social media account, you’ll have to give yourself some time between thinking up a social media post and publishing it. Some companies, in the effort to capitalize on a popular hashtag, have posted jokes in response to very serious campaigns. It’s not a good look for any brand.

Ideally, you’ll have a social media team full of “extra pairs of eyes.” That means plenty of revising and editing before anything goes out. But when you’re still a small business or a startup, you may not have that luxury. That means you may have to do the revising yourself. The best way to give yourself an “extra pair of eyes” is to run these by anyone with a similar job description…or wait until you can look at them again yourself.

Mistake #5: Inconsistent Tone

Think of social media as an extension of your brand. Serving as such, it will need to fit in with your brand.

What is your brand’s “tone”? Are you upscale and professional? Are your products quirky and outside the proverbial box? Who is your target demographic, and what kind of voice do they respond to?

If you’re a luxury concierge service, chances are you don’t want to adopt the tone of a “Wendy’s.” If you work in B2B-based services, you’ll have to speak like someone whose audience includes other business leaders. If you have a fun, universal service, you can loosen things up a bit.

True: sometimes, even mega-corporations like adidas can make mistakes, even when they’re posting something that at first felt consistent with their brand. But as part of your overall strategy, a tone that runs afoul of your brand won’t increase your success on social media. If anything, it will confuse people about your service and your level of professionalism.

Making Social Media Work

To avoid these mistakes, keep the following in mind:

You may make a few mistakes if you’re new to the social media game. But in time, you’ll discover that social media becomes more intuitive—and a much larger part of your online marketing strategy.