social media how toWhile there are many success stories of people using social media for personal and business reasons, there are also plenty of people who may feel their efforts are not paying off.

Whether you use social media to market your business, increase sales, promote your blog, or raise awareness for a non-profit organization, here are six reasons social media might not be working for you—along with ways to overcome these problems.

Mistake #1: You Have the Wrong Connections

Imagine that you are asked to do a seminar about the future of Microsoft Office (with the opportunity to sell some Microsoft training courses).  You’re provided two options. You can have a large auditorium full of over 10,000 people or a smaller one with only about 500 people. Assuming you have no fear of public speaking, you probably want the large auditorium because it would hold a huge amount of sales opportunities, right?

But what if you learned that the large auditorium is full of users who are mostly students and artists, and the smaller one is full of business owners who depend on Microsoft Office. Now where do you see the greatest amount of sales opportunities?

This happens a lot in social media. We connect with tons of people on particular networks, get super-excited when we get a huge number of friends and followers, send out an announcement, and wonder why there is very little response. It’s not the number of people you are connected to that makes the difference, but the number of people interested in your niche that you are connected to.

Whenever you are seeking new connections on social networking sites, make sure to look for relevant connections in your niche or industry. There are many ways to find people who will be interested in what you have to say, including:

  • Use Twitter directories, such as Twellow, that search for members based on their profile description so you can boost your Twitter following with targeted followers.
  • Look at followers of another person in your industry to find some who would also be interested in you.
  • Join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.  Then participate and connect with other members.
  • Find blogs on related topics. (Bloggers usually share their social profile links in their sidebar, header, footer, or about/contact pages.)
  • Join forums on related topics—look for threads that allow members to share their social networking profiles with the rest of the forum. While participating, also look for members’ social links in their forum signatures.

There are also some don’t-miss guides here on Social Media Examiner, including how to increase your Facebook fan base.

Mistake #2: You Hide Your Social Media Presence

OK, so you might not think you’re hiding your social media presence, but you may be inadvertently doing so by not publicizing it. Simple ways to promote your social networking profiles include:

Social Links on Your Website

The first and most important place you should have your social media links displayed is on your website. Everyone who is active on social media, from corporations to freelancers to bloggers, should make it easy for visitors to their website to connect with them on their top social networking profiles.

American Express Website Header Social Media Icons

American Express website header including Twitter and Facebook icons.

Toyota Sienna Website Social Media Icons

Toyota Sienna website header including Facebook and YouTube icons.

DawgHouse Design Studio Website Footer Social Media Icons

DawgHouse Design Studio footer including Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social icons.

Social Links in Your Emails

Chances are, you already have lots of people you email on a regular basis, either directly or through mailing lists. Why not add your social profile links to these emails and let recipients know where they can find you online? This can be done with simple text links below your signature, or with plugins such as WiseStamp, which will allow you to design a beautiful signature with social media icons, links, and even a link to your latest blog post powered by RSS.

WiseStamp Email Signature

Email signature created with WiseStamp.

Social Links on Your Business Cards

On your business card, you include (or at least you should include) your website address, email, and phone number as ways for your contacts to connect with you. Why not also add your LinkedIn, Twitter, or other professional profiles as well?

Social Media Links on Business Card

Creative integration of Twitter and Facebook profile links on a business card. Image by Ajda Gregorčič.

Forum Signatures

Do you actively participate in a forum for your area of expertise? As mentioned earlier, why not include your main social networking profile links along with your website in your forum signature? This way, if someone reads your response to a particular thread and finds it informative, they may connect with you on social media to learn more from you.

Mistake #3: You Send the Wrong Message

Let’s say I’ve just found your portfolio online while searching for a web designer, and I want to hop over to your Twitter profile to learn a bit more about you. So I visit your Twitter profile to follow you, and out of your latest 20 updates, I see the following:

  • 5 updates from Foursquare that you are at Starbucks, work, McDonald’s, the courthouse, and L.A. Fitness.
  • 7 replies to other Twitter members, obviously in the middle of a random conversation.
  • 2 updates with some form of crude, foul language.
  • 3 Twitpics of the last dessert you had, the weather outside, and a funny sign on a street corner.

Now if this was someone’s personal Twitter profile set up to connect with friends and family, these kinds of updates would be perfectly acceptable. But if you’re linking your Twitter profile with your business or blog on a specific subject, then your updates should stick to the same topic lines of your website, as people who are going from one to the other will likely be doing so to learn more about you in relation to the theme of those sites.

So taking the above example again, this freelancer could go with:

  • 5 updates from FourSquare relating to a purchase for their work; for instance, you are at Best Buy buying a drawing tablet to use for a Photoshop design layout.
  • 7 replies to other Twitter members answering questions about web design or giving helpful tips.
  • 2 updates that relate to the industry in a humorous light, like a link to an Oatmeal comic on How a Web Design Goes Straight to Hell.
  • 3 Twitpics of your workstation, your library collection of web design books, and your newest business card.

How do you find people to reply to about your industry?

HootSuite allows you to set up multiple columns for keyword searches and Twitter lists so you can always see what is being talked about and be able to give a timely reply.

Also, think of the search engine optimization value that can be gained from having keywords in your updates on your social media profiles. Having updates with web design–related keywords certainly won’t hurt your profile, especially now that social search is becoming more prevalent in Google search results.

Google Social Search Results

Google search results for web design include social circle connections on Twitter.

Mistake #4: You use Social Media Profiles for Link-building

It’s one thing to create social media profiles on sites that are relevant to your industry and that you want to use. But it’s a whole other thing to create them just to get a backlink to your website with no intention of going any further. There are better and more effective methods of link-building and other strategies to increase your Google ranking.

Some services out there will reserve your name on social media sites, which can be good for branding and reputation management. You certainly don’t want someone to sign up pretending to be you on a network. But you can’t assume that once you have over 100 social media accounts, they will automatically start benefiting you. You have to go out and use them by getting social before you see any results from social media.

Mistake #5: You Only Do Things that Can be Measured for Return on Investment

Ah, the elusive ROI. Some say it is a myth. Some say social media marketing can be measured, some say that it shouldn’t be measured, and some say it cannot be measured.

No matter where you sit on the fence of ROI, one thing you have to remember is that the best things you can do for your business on social media will not necessarily create a measurable impact on your bottom line.

Sure, you can spend all day on your social media profiles and only send out coupons with specific tracking codes or leading to landing pages that will tell you which profile is bringing you the most conversions. But then you will miss out on valuable ways of communicating with your fans, such as providing good customer service, managing crises, and otherwise engaging with them to create more loyalty to your brand.

Mistake #6: You Follow Too Many “Rules” of Social Media

There are many experts who suggest that you follow specific guidelines in how you use social media. While there are some things that should not be done (such as running a constant stream of advertising), there are some social media rules that may not apply to followers in your niche or industry.

The best way to see what works is to follow those who are successful utilizing social media specializing in the same subject area as you and analyze what they do. Do they reply to their followers/fans often? Do they share blog posts? Do they share industry news? How do they personalize their profiles, backgrounds, etc.?

How do you know if someone is successful in social media? It’s not the number of followers they have, but the amount of interactivity they have with them. If you do a Twitter search for @theirusername and see lots of conversation directed at them or retweets of their updates, then that’s a sign they are successfully influencing their followers. If on Facebook you see that their wall posts get a lot of comments, that is another sign of their success in engaging with their followers.

Is Social Media Working for You?

Do you believe social media is working for you? What do you think can help improve the success rate of individuals or businesses using social media in terms of creating a better overall social media presence?  Please share your thoughts in the comment box below…

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  • Where I think it’s good to stay strictly professional with your business or blog twitter account. I think it’s also good to show apart of your personality, since that is where appeal comes from. People are not only interested in what you DO but also in who you ARE.

  • Excellent list, Michael. All great points. Point #2 is one that I try to stress to clients. If you are going to take the time to blog and create a social media presence, by all means, tell people about it!

    Number’s 5 and 6 are also ones that really strike a chord with me.

  • Hey, Kristi!
    First of all I wanted to tank your for so useful article! How did you found these tips about Social Media mistakes?
    I will keep in mind these tips!

    Thanks again,

  • I love comment #6. It’s kind of a 2 edge sword. Follow this list in order not to make mistakes with Social Media marketing…but then again don’t follow all the rules. I totally get it, and think it’s a great comment.

  • Another tremendous post by @kikolani Top 6 Social Media Mistakes And How to Fix Them

    I wasnt sure where you were going with that microsoft example but you nailed it 🙂

  • I think that a lot of the positive effects of social media can hinge on not making mistake number 5 – only doing things that can be measured for ROI. Quite often, the value you add to your followers/fans/friends is not something that can be quantified, but will give social proof of your generosity and competence, which influences people offline as well.


  • Hey Kristi, # 3 is the most commonly misunderstood one esp by new social media users. When I first started on twitter back in Sep 08, that’s what most conversations were like. It took a good year to really “get” it! I will add though, that it doesn’t have to be all business related – a personal touch goes a long way in being relatable and connecting with people :).

    When you ask if social media is working for someone, it could mean a number of things – is social media helping you make connections, bringing you clients and business, introducing you to new ideas and people, propelling you along a fast learning curve, increasing your credibility, birthing work partnerships & alliances, creating community, sending traffic to your site, etc.

    And the answer is yes, to all of the above.

    As long as you know:
    1) what you want from social media (clients? support? knowledge? traffic? JVs?),
    2) realise it’s a tool, not the message,
    3) get intentional about connecting with the people you follow,
    social media will work for you and be a huge asset in your overall marketing & life enhancement pie.

    That’s been my experience & I’m having a blast! @TiaSparkles

  • Ken, Kristi gets all the credit as she wrote this…

  • Exactly… since social networks are littered with fully automated accounts, it is good to see a little pinch of personal info (so long as it’s not TMI) to show your followers that you are a real person behind the profile.

  • I’m always surprised when I know that someone is on Twitter or has a blog, but when I go to their main website to find them, I have to search and search for it, and have many times have been unsuccessful in locating the links to them.

  • After almost two years of playing around on social media, you start to notice trends, such as the people complaining that they have no followers, but at the same time, they don’t promote their social profiles at all.

  • It’s more about considering rules more as guidelines. It’s not about doing everything exactly, but finding a combination of tips and tricks that is right for you and your online audience.

  • Thanks! I thought the sales example approach would hit home for many readers, so I’m glad to hear that it worked, even if I had to throw Microsoft into it. 🙂

  • Mistake #3 “You Send the Wrong Message” resonated the strongest with me too. Connecting is important and there is definitely value to making it personal to a degree. I strongly believe that people prefer to do business with people that they like. So, it is important to be likeable but please don’t tell me what you had for breakfast.

  • Definitely… I think that some things may never actually be measurable, as many people might not reference the fact that they ended up buying something because they received a lot of valuable tips from a company’s Twitter, but I’m sure that there are many more cases of that kind of thing happening that businesses just aren’t aware of. So even if they can’t measure it, it doesn’t mean they should stop doing it!

  • It worked er go all your transgressions are abolished lol

  • Thanks for sharing your experience! The definition of social media benefits is different for many people, but starting to see the benefits usually does come down to whether or not you are really using social media the right way for you and your followers. Figuring out a goal in the beginning of your social media campaign is a great start so you can start tailoring all of your activities to achieve that goal, as opposed to creating a profile and wondering what to do next.

  • Exactly – it starts with being intentional instead of randomly poking around. That’s what I’m always telling people – Set Intentions, Know what you want, Have patience 🙂

  • Some people go a little too far with being professional, and some go on the opposite end of that spectrum into too personal. There is a right balance, and once you hit it, you will show your audience the best of both worlds and have their full attention!

  • Excellent post Kristi you hit the nail on the head when you spoke about “Mistake #3: You Send the Wrong Message” I love the examples you gave on how you change your message to represent the services that you offer.. Great Post.

  • Kristi I have not working in Social Media very long, so I am soooo glad that I’m getting this message now!! Thanks!

  • Thanks. I think there’s a good way to represent your personality while still staying on focus.

  • You’re welcome. This is a great site to find more valuable information about doing social media the right way, so be sure to stick around and read up on some more articles!

  • Tracy Lesch

    Hi Kristi, I really liked this article. I have always wanted to promote my services as a writer and artist, but I also want to be personable too. I like to share my sense of humor, and it sounds to me as if you’re promoting BALANCE. Am I correct?

  • Though we are trying to get better at all six, Mistake #1 is a high priority. Regarding our social media connections, it is important to seek quality not quantity.

    This is definitely a post worth sharing. Thanks Kristi!

  • Mona

    Great post Kristi! A must read for any social media users, personal or professional. You nailed it with #6, as I’ve shared with many new followers on my tweets. Its not the quanity but the quality of followers and interaction.
    Thanks! keep the info flowing 🙂

  • Yes, balance. Your social media presence should be (based on your services, of course) a mix of personal and professional. As an artist, you’ll have a little more lead way on the personal side – the balance isn’t necessarily an even 50/50, but something you have to experiment with to see what your fans respond to the best.

  • Exactly… now that HootSuite is showing the Klout measurements for users (basically a score of how influential each user is with their following), you can see how a user with 100K+ followers but a low influence rate is less effective than a user with only 500 followers but a much higher influence rate, meaning they reach and gain interaction from more of their followers.

  • True… in our case for instance, the brand dictates that the site will only link to the corporate social media channels. Thus the individual properties trying to use social media to differentiate themselves and identify brand advocates cannot create links on their site for easy access. Which unfortunately can be hard for consumers to find us… but we work around it.

  • Sherrie675371

    We compliment you on this great article about the 6 social media mistakes.

  • Tinytime744

    great information! thanks & agree with balancing professionalism and personal touch

  • Fabulous post. I see all to often just a mess of self-serving links. I’m all for self-promotion, but in small doses. When I first joined the twitter bandwagon, I was all about how fast I could grow my numbers. In the beginning it was easy to keep up with people, but the higher the numbers, the harder it is. In all honestly, while someone might have thousands of followers, they probably only have a handful of people they interact with on a regular basis forming relationships which to me, is the basis of being on the social media outlets.

    Thanks for sharing your insights.


  • Linda Coles Blue Banana

    I always suggest clients add their sm addresses to their phone voicemail and their printed material such as brochures etc, particularly if you want people to place an order via Twitter for pizza etc.

  • Thanks! Quality over quantity usually wins every time, unless you find someone with quality AND quantity. 🙂

  • Yes… fortunately, Twitter lists makes it easier to handle following thousands. I was just commenting on another post that the reason I follow everyone back now is so they can always have the option of DM’ing me. But to make sure I don’t miss updates from people I follow closely, I have them setup in Twitter list columns in HootSuite. It’s the best of both worlds – following many while not missing out on a selective group.

  • Samantha

    I totally agree. If you act strictly professional, customers/followers will see your pages as strictly business. People LOVE personality.

  • There’s a lot of helpful information, but I’d like to know what you think is essential for a more “personal” blog as opposed to a business related blog. I suppose I’m marketing myself as the product, and I do have a theme to my posts, but there isn’t a service or actual product. I’m a writer, as yet unpublished.

  • Excellent tips. Thanks for it.

  • I love that you included you follow to many rules. In this time and industry, you can’t escape by playing safe and clean. Don’t be afraid to throw a few jabs and surprise punches. Those surprise hits will be the ones that make you emerge victories when it comes to social media. Great post! 😀

  • As someone who is finding their way in the social media jungle, I found this soooooo helpful. So many folk out there saying “do this” “do that” “don’t do this” don’t do that”. It can be hard for relative “newbies” to know what to listen to, who knows what they are talking about and those who should be ignored!! So coming and reading your stuff is like a breath of fresh air. Always makes common sense, easy to understand and also reminds me that following gut instinct and staying true to your own values is very powerful in the world of social media.

  • Social media is a platform where you can share your personal as well as your business profile in an effective way. It’s not only meant for business purpose but also for the personal interactions with your friends & families and with the clients. So use social media socially.

  • If it’s a personal blog, you can be more personal of course. If you have a specific theme / topic for your blog, you have to consider that your followers are following you on social media to learn more about that theme, so you will want more of your updates to be focused on that. Basically, if you are socially promoting your blog, you have to assume your followers like the style that you are writing in, so your social presence should also reflect that same style. I hope that helps!

  • Yes, some people go a little overboard on learning the rules and adhering to them, and then don’t modify their plan when they realize that their audience isn’t responding. You have to learn some basics and then create your own path.

  • There are some basic principles to keep in mind – but they are kind of common sense, like not going overboard promoting yourself and being sure to interact with people. But everything beyond that has to be in line with following your own style.

  • I love the Social Media Examiner posts. Great insights with clear applications and tools you can put to immediate use if you so choose. I already had a link to my blog in my email signature but it was nothing like what I saw illustrated under point #2. That’s now changed. I”m now happy to have a much better looking signature that shows my social media connections as well as an RSS link to my latest blog post. And I’ll be able to show others how they can do this tool!

  • Hi Kristi,

    Great post! In relation to the first post about finding the right audience…what do you do if you work in an industry where it may be difficult to find such an audience? For example, I work for a damage restoration company (we take care of flooding, mold, sewage, etc). But it’s not something that exactly has blogging sites and various communities talking about that stuff. How do I get in touch with such an audience?

  • Great article, as always. I am very appreciative to have your site as a resource. I am an online-only newspaper publisher who also helps clients manage their online presence. I regularly read your articles and have always found them up to par! Cheers!

  • It’s a great addition to emails. When I was doing freelance work, I got a few opportunities simply based on the signature – people who didn’t know what I did visited the profile, or one person was just so impressed by the signature he wanted something similar for his networks.

  • Your audience could essentially be anyone who owns a building in an area that can easily be flooded.

    If you don’t already have a blog but wanted to start one, you could always write tips / suggestions on getting the right kind of flood insurance to protect property and assets, show examples of damage so that people understand what they would be dealing with if they didn’t have protection, health hazards of a moldy building, what to do if there is a sewage problem, what to do in the event of a flood for personal safety and saving the things most valuable to you, etc.

    As far as bloggers and social media networkers to connect with, anyone in home improvement, commercial real estate, local blogs in areas that have a high flood risk, etc. would be a good start. But I see that you have a lot of Facebook fans and an interactive page, so you are already doing something right in terms of communicating with your audience!

  • Really great article, and I get where you’re coming from on Mistake #3, but I think you take it too far. I think you need a mix of the personal and professional. If someone took a twitpic of their web design books and posted that on Twitter, I would think they were trying too hard to do the “right” thing. But, if you are trying to get business through Twitter — whether you’re a freelancer or someone looking for work — you do need to have some thought behind what you post on Twitter.

    When I was job searching, I was pretty careful about what I put out on Twitter and saved some of my more personal updates for Facebook.

    But, like any set of rules, there are always exceptions. I know a couple of people who are very irreverent and un-professional in some of the things they say or do online, but they still do a good job of getting business out of their social media activities.

  • Jarret

    Kristi, very good article! I myself have been pretty complacent with social media. In part, I’ve only recently started to care about using it to generate traffic and to network. On the other hand, I had a ‘bad experience’ with social media a few years ago. Using services like Digg / Stumble Upon / etc back then, it just seemed like a very boring game involving massing followers and spamming links.

    One of the most salient points in your article probably escapes many people. The point of social media is actually to ‘be social.’

  • hakim

    I just had been following Master-class lecture about Social Media. It was brilliant 2 weeks lecture where all guest speakers are really expertise and touch the core of what Social Media all about. About this good article, I like it but in my opinion the title should be changed because nothing wrong about Social Media, the wrong part is about misuse by user who do not know what social media for their own goal.

  • I like your post, Kristi, and #3 resonates the most for me. I joined Twitter just to hang out with friends, before I realized that I could connect my businesses to the account. My issue is that I have two separate businesses and an event in personal life that are all tweeted from the same account. I’ve been thinking of late that I should separate the businesses into 2 Twitter accounts and split my personal ramblings between the two of them. Hopefully that would give them more focus, but seems like a lot of work. Maybe I’m looking for an easy way to do things, but it would still be nice if I was the brand and the businesses were off-shoots. Then one account wouldn’t be unthinkable… 🙂

  • Apritchard

    Wonderful Info – thanks Kristi – this all hits home within our company as we’re trying to get the whole social media thing going….finally!

  • Great article. I totally agree about connecting with the wrong audience. Twellow is great. I also sometimes just use the twitter search for relevant industry terms and sometimes follow the people who are talking about them.

  • This site definitely has some of the best social media resources!

  • Very true.. it is a balance. I always think about my updates as what if this is the first (or possibly only) one that someone sees from me for whatever reason, and I want each one to convey the right message. Individuals have a lot more lead way than businesses do. Overall, these aren’t rules, but more like guidelines. 🙂

  • Carlos M Hernandez

    This is so great!!! I like it a lot… It’s a perfect beguinning for any one who want’s to understand this major phenomenon…. Carl Oz

  • Lowbar77

    Great post! I just wanted to speak to one concern, the idea of the social media icons in an email signature. My boss recently asked me to create this for all of the users within our company. This consisted of about 10 people. We still use Office 2003 and it was a real bear trying to get the formatting to work. Many of the machines that we use are older, have different version numbers, and the people operating them are not all equipped to understand how this works.

    Add to that the fact that many people turn off images coming in from email, others have to click a link to get the images to show up, and replies are constantly being scrambled. It really puts a questionable image on our business when our emails come in mixed up, cause people to click links to see images, and make the receiver suspicious of our emails.

    The lack of standardization and acceptance makes this problematic at best. Thanks for a great post.

  • daeniilanen Kivaari

    That was a really well written article and the discussion has been so constructive. Thank you for your insights!

  • Consider the value of SEO to gain the presence of keywords in the updates on your social media profiles. Updating of keywords related to web design would certainly not harm your profile, especially now that social research has become more prevalent in Google’s search results.

  • Uth Video

    Social media has become a necessary part of any kind of online marketing
    efforts. While there are many success stories of people using social
    media for personal and business reasons, there are also plenty of people
    who may feel their efforts are not paying off.

  • 100% True. This article really helped me to understand that what common mistakes we do while using social media. Thank You for sharing such a nice article. 

  • Pingback: Are You Sabotaging Your Social-Media Efforts? - Fathom()