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There is no shortage of real-life examples for us to look at when it comes to social media mistakes. Recently, Epicurious, the “ultimate food site for people who eat,” was accused of making light of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Following the chaos, the site tweeted: “In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest: whole-grain cranberry scones!” New England did not consider itself honored, and Epicurious scrambled to apologise. Social media is not so new that these missteps can be passed off as newcomer blunders. This is just one of the dangers that businesses face whenever they post, update, or tweet. Here are some others to avoid.

To follow up with public relationships mishaps: if you ignore them, they will snowball. It is important to acknowledge angry or negative comments immediately. But the “how” is just as crucial as the “when.” Immediately isn’t good enough if your acknowledgement is insincere. Many critics, for instance, felt Epicurious issued a form letter-style apology (or non-apology). The company apologised again – and hopefully the matter is behind them. Take the complaint seriously, acknowledge it, apologise sincerely, and move on.

If you feel you do not have fault, you have to choose that battle very carefully. An irrational disgruntled customer needn’t destroy your online cred, but you have to deal with the situation nonetheless. This is where a social media moderator comes in handy! If your budget doesn’t allow, it is where common sense, empathy, and tact come in handy.

Moving on. Another common mistake is not choosing your social media channel properly. Do you have to be on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and LinkedIn? If you try, you’re probably going to find yourself overwhelmed quickly! No, you do not need to be everywhere. Some businesses, for instance, ought to focus on LinkedIn, Google+, and a strong website. Consultants, lawyers, doctors, etc. fit into this category. You don’t need to see your attorney’s Facebook updates, after all.

But some businesses benefit from more informal social media channels., a US-based fitness video business, for instance, uses Facebook effectively to engage users, post inspirational stories, link to new videos, and more. It depends on the nature of your business and where your audience is most likely to be looking for you. Note that FitnessBlender also uses Facebook to leverage their existing online content, which should be a cornerstone of any social media strategy.

Social is social! It is not the place to shamelessly promote yourself. If followers/fans, etc. do not feel you are listening to them or offering them any value, they will move on. It takes a while to build a following and to ensure that you are engaging with them consistently – and here is our last mistake. Many businesses build their profiles and stop. You have to be persistent when dealing with social media. Update, add pictures or videos, provide some top tips for your field, answer some questions, ask some questions. Do not give up. A poorly run social media profile does more harm than no social media profile.

Social media is important, and only growing more so. Determine where you need to be, how your customers expect you to engage, and how you can use content to build your credibility and expertise in these mediums.

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