Sometimes successful marketing is not about fancy tactics. Sometimes it just means not screwing up or, in our case, avoiding common social media mistakes.

Making mistakes sucks, especially when you do it in public. However, even if nobody notices but you just fail to get the desired results, it’s just as annoying. Both of these scenarios can happen easily in social media marketing.

This article aims to put an end to that. We’re going to walk you through the twelve most common social media mistakes to avoid in your business: what they are, how to avoid them and what to do instead.

Are you making any of these common social media mistakes?

Social media is a complex area with many pitfalls. However, once you’re familiar with the most common social media mistakes, you will find it quite simple to avoid them.

1. Not having a solid strategy in place

You know the old adage: failing to plan is planning to fail. Ever find yourself in shambles at work because you failed to define your to-do list for the day? That’s what operating social media without a strategy is like – ineffective, haphazard and without direction.

To avoid this scenario, here’s a rough blueprint for a social media strategy:

  • Define your audience – One of the most basic steps is knowing who you are trying to talk to. If you don’t, your message will be all over the place. We have an extensive guide on how to find a social media audience for your business.
  • Think through your brand voice and tone – Your brand needs a defined social media personality, a brand voice. What is going to be yours? Playful? Serious? How will you talk to your audience? All of that needs to be set down in writing.
  • Set goals – Goals and objectives define much of the content you are putting out there and other parts of your social strategy. For that reason, figure out what you want to achieve beforehand.
  • Define your posting strategy – After that, it’s time to think about the content you will publish. Figure out what you will be posting, when you’ll be posting it and how often those posts will go live. For help, check our article on the best posting times for different platforms.
  • Create policies – Finally, you need rules in place on how to respond to comments, questions and criticism. If you don’t, you will be forced to develop them on the fly in an emergency.

For more details on how to properly develop a social media strategy, I recommend this article.

2. Overextending yourself

One of the most common social media mistakes is feeling like you have to be on all platforms at once. While there is nothing wrong with a multi-pronged approach, it only works if you have the capacity for it. Otherwise, you will likely end up overwhelmed with a handful of failing social media accounts. Many bloggers, like Alice of AliceVSTheWorld, have openly talked about overextending themselves and having to deactivate or outright delete multiple accounts.

A better idea is to start by concentrating on the few channels that make the most sense for your business. One or two is often enough to start. Then, really focus on learning everything you can about how they work and how to get the most out of them. You can always scale up to other platforms later.

Pro Tip: If one of your main channels is Facebook, check our articles on Facebook business page tips and common issues running Facebook pages.

3. Posting the wrong kind of content

Like blogging, social media hinges on the content you publish. Your content determines whether your channels are valuable and interesting to your audience or bland and boring. Unfortunately, you can make a lot of mistakes here:

  • Failing to create value – Your audience doesn’t hang around your accounts because you are a swell person. On the most basic level, they are in it for themselves. For that reason, the aim of your content should always be to make their lives better. If you don’t, there’s no reason for them to stick around.
  • Inconsistency – Publishing content that has nothing to do with what you stand for serves no purpose. That includes posts that are off-brand or off topic or too private for a business outlet. Instead, focus on your topical area and knock that one out of the park.
  • Spamming – There’s a fine line between trying to get noticed and annoying people. If you overwhelm your followers, they might ban you completely. Quality over quantity!
  • Not optimizing for each platform – Sharing the same content on different platforms is generally a good idea. However, you need to make sure to optimize each post for each platform. Otherwise you risk looking amateurish.

To create better social media content, check our guide on how to write compelling social media posts. Also, be aware that the focus on many social networks is now visual content. If you are not taking advantage of it yet, it’s high time you did. These articles will get you started:

4. Too many new updates, too few replies and interactions

Here’s what generally happens when you begin to automate things on social media:

You become more conspicuous.

People begin to notice your brand more frequently than before, social proof improves, you get more social traffic, and so on.

In the same way, more people begin to send you Tweets, private messages and DMs – which, apparently, is what you want.

But that’s when you should pause on the automation for a bit and get into those interactions – manually.

If you don’t reply to people’s interactions but they keep seeing new updates from you on their timeline, they’ll begin to think you’re a robot.

You’ll begin to look spammy and they’ll naturally start to find that offensive – which is just bad for business and one of the biggest social media mistakes. Because it would mean that you’re just spamming them.

It feels like you don’t really care about them. You just want them to pay attention to you or your brand/product.

But you don’t want all that; you don’t want to annoy the very people you’re trying to attract. You want to engage with them. Hence, you want to make sure you’re replying to their messages before they start seeing new updates from your account.

For example, Convince and Convert ran a campaign using automated tweets, and they got some very strong upshots. While sharing their results, they mentioned that social media automation users need to capitalize on those moments when people start interacting with their (automated) tweets. In their own words:

You have to be able to jump in within an hour or two to capitalize on those opportunities for interaction. So really, this is “assisted automation” because you need a real person to be a part of it.

5. Being too salesy

In a similar vein to too many updates, sending out too many sales messages can also be a turn off. It’s one of those common social media mistakes that doesn’t seem obvious at the beginning.

After all, social media is a business channel, right? As such, it needs to generate leads, bring in clients and make money, right?

True. However, selling is not the main purpose of your social presences. Instead, it’s to get onto the radar of potential customers, build relationships and start interactions. Only from there can you start thinking about how to turn your audience into paying customers.

However, what about sales messages? Should you not post these at all?

You should, just less of them. There are different recommendations for the right ratio of sales messages in social updates. For example, Hubspot recommends a 10-4-1 split. That means out of 15 posts 10 should be from other parties, 4 from your own blog and only 1 a direct sales message.

You will find other ratios out there, such as 80/20, 90/10 or 70-20-10. While all slightly different, what they agree on is to keep your sales posts to a minimum. Only one in a dozen or so updates should be an offer to your clients. The rest is about making your follower’s lives better.

6. Appearing selfish on auto DMs

There’s a whole lot of debate around whether to use auto DMs these days.

Some folks think it’s a smart move. Others think it automatically makes you look spammy.

So which side should you be on?

Well, I’ll say, don’t appear selfish when using DMs.

This means you don’t just try to sell people stuff the instant they get connected with you.

Before anything, try building a relationship first…no matter how long it takes.

You could start with sharing their content, saying something nice about their work, etc.

When people connect with you on social media and get an automated DM from you, here’s simply what you’re telling them: I didn’t connect with you because I like your content – I JUST want you to buy my stuff, sign-up for my free trial, etc.

Here’s a DM I recently got after connecting with someone on LinkedIn:

stay active on social media

We’ve not even had a single conversation before now, and the first thing you want me to do is follow your company page? That doesn’t seem fair.

And it’s not just me saying this. A study shows that most users are not generally excited about the DMs they’re getting. Granted, the data is not new, but the patterns of human behavior don’t seem to change that often, so they should still be more or less accurate.

(Charts by Visualizer Lite.)

The takeaway – probably that automated DMs are huge social media mistakes in general.

7. Not sharing updates without links

When you see most timelines these days, it looks as if social networks have forced us to not share anything apart from links to our content.

But we all know social media isn’t all about sharing content. Sometimes, simple nuggets, quotes from you or other experts can do a great job impacting your followers. See how Digital Marketing Influencer Sam Hurley does it on Twitter:

stay active on social media

Rand Fishkin does it almost all the time as well:

stay active on social media

stay active on social media

So it’s not all about sharing content or links on social media. You can gain attention and influence people without asking them to check out your latest content or buy whatever you’ve got to sell, but simply sharing bits of advice, nuggets etc.

The data seems to confirm that social media shares without any links get more shares, favorites, and user engagement in general. For example, a research piece done by Buffer based on more than 1 million tweets reveals that tweets without links got 25.1% more engagement than those that did include links.

Not using any linkless tweets is up there with the other social media mistakes, and it’s an easy one to make, especially if you produce a lot of content regularly.

8. Not taking social media seriously

This one is becoming less common as social media enters every area of our lives, but it’s still one of the most common social media mistakes around. To be successful on social media, you must understand that it is much more than cat pictures and people’s lunch updates. It has become not only a legitimate marketing channel, but also a way for customers to communicate with brands online.

In fact, 34.5 percent of consumers prefer to reach out to brands via social media. And they expect a reply. Quickly. 42 percent want to hear from you within 60 minutes or less. Others are more patient. However, all of them are waiting to get a reply. If they don’t, they might see it as a clear invitation never to contact you again (and possibly stop buying your products).

common social media mistakes to avoid - not taking social seriously
Source: SproutSocial
While depending on your setup you can’t always respond immediately, you should definitely do it eventually. Responding to incoming messages, comments and Tweets needs to be a priority for your social media team. Even if you are a one-person setup, interacting with your followers should be part of your day.

Pro Tip: Schedule set times during the day at which you respond to everything coming in via social media at once. That way, it doesn’t creep into your entire day (this also works for email). Also, use social media management tools to for more efficiency.

9. Not using custom headlines when sharing content

Custom headlines can help your posts look unique amongst the hundreds of updates that people get on their timelines every day.

For example, if your content (white paper, blog post, infographic, etc.) is titled: ‘How To Market Yourself And Become Well-Known’, you can share the content using a custom headline like ‘Wondering How To Market Yourself In 2017? Here’s The Right Way To Go About It’.

This helps to make your posts stand out and get more attention.

Here’s a tweet from Neil Patel that illustrates my point well:

stay active on social media

The title of the podcast Neil shared was originally ‘How To Generate Sales Through Webinars’, but just to make it look unique and different, he tweeted it using “If you haven’t used a #webinar to generate sales, you might want to try. Learn how in this episode, click to listen:”

Leo Widrich does something similar with his tweets as well:

stay active on social media

The post Leo shared is originally titled “3 Breakthroughs and 2 Failures That Have Shaped Buffer”, he shared it on Twitter as “A few big learnings I want to share: 3 Breakthroughs and 2 Failures That Have Shaped Buffer”

The additional benefit of writing custom multiple headlines for your shares is that you can fine-tune them based on the platform they’re meant for.

For example, something that Gary Vaynerchuk – social media guru (although he’d probably be mad being called this) – emphasizes in nearly every one of his #AskGaryVee episodes is that each social media platform is tuned differently, and that it’s one of the biggest social media mistakes that people treat all those platforms equally. Quite simply, some headline + content pair that works on one, is not likely to work on the other.

This is also something that Buffer points out when discussing the topic of how to write headlines for your articles + differentiate based on the platform they’re shared to.

10. Going too heavy on automation

Most times, staying active on social media absolutely requires that you automate some of your activities – unless you’re ready to spend every hour of the day on the different social platforms you’re on.

You need to use social media automation tools to help you stay active and get in the front of social media users often.

However, where automation goes wrong is when you don’t appear like a real person anymore on social media – when people see your updates and instantly know you automated them. (Aka, when they start seeing you as a bot, not human anymore).

And it really can be tempting these days to just use tools to do virtually everything on social – seeing the influx of social media tools around.

Just recently, Digital Marketing Strategist Chris Makara published a post on a list of 609 social media tools. And that number keeps increasing; it was 515 last year (2016).

So it’s now easier for people to pick whichever tool they deem fit and automate all the way. However, if you don’t thread on these tools carefully, you could end up looking like spam.

Now, this might look weird coming from the authors of a social media automation tool – our Revive Old Post plugin – but going too heavy on automation really is among the biggest social media mistakes, and we need to clarify that.

So yes, we give you the tools to automate. But with those tools comes great responsibility – uncle Revive Social says.

Corny, I know, sorry.

Either way. While you technically can share every piece of your existing content multiple times per day, this might not be the best idea from your audience’s perspective.

If your audience is to pay attention to what you’re doing on social media for any longer period of time, you need to remain human above all else, and fine-tune your shares to have a good balance between the automated stuff, the linkless stuff, the manual shares, shares pointing to other people’s content, and so on.

So in the end, yes, use social media automation, just don’t make it your whole social media strategy. Remember, companies labeled Best-in-Class are 67% more likely to use a marketing automation platform. Why not you?

11. Forcing yourself into current events

Connecting your social presence with current events can be great way to insert yourself into an ongoing conversation.

One of the most well-known examples of this is Oreos’s famous tweet during the Super Bowl power outage.


However, for every successful example, there are misfires. For example, here is DiGiorno, a company selling frozen pizza, trying to jump on a trending hashtag on Twitter.
common social media mistakes to avoid forcing yourself into current events

The problem? #whyistayed was a hashtag about domestic violence. Abuse victims used it to share their stories. An embarrassing blunder DiGiorno could have easily avoided.

That sort of thing happens often enough, even if usually not on this scale. So, how can you avoid a similar scenario? Ask yourself a bunch of questions before posting:

  1. Am I/is my brand in fact relevant to this event?
  2. Am I adding value to my followers by inserting myself into it?
  3. Is this an event where trying to tie myself in is tolerated well?

If you answer “no” to all or most of these questions, think twice before you try to hijack current events for your purposes.

12. Failing to deal with negative feedback properly

So, what do you do if you screwed up and have a lot of negative feedback rolling in? How bad it gets largely depends on your reaction.

Let’s face it, being at the center of a social media storm is never pretty. However, you can easily pour gasoline onto the fire. Just ask Amy’s Baking Company.

common social media mistakes to avoid amys baking company

How do you do better? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Don’t delete negative comments – Doing so will make you look disingenuous (especially if screenshots exist) and slighted customers even more angry. Not a good strategy.
  2. Accept negative feedback with grace – Accept criticism whether unfounded or not. Don’t get defensive. Thank them for bringing up the issue. This usually works better than confrontation.
  3. Address the problem – If you need to apologize, do it. If you can take steps to solve the problem, do that as well. Owning up to problems in public will increase the trust of everyone else who is listening.
  4. Encourage dealing with larger issues in private – Not all dirty laundry needs to be aired in public. If the issue takes more effort, move the interaction to private channels so that you can resolve it together.

Of course, we are only talking about genuine negative comments here. Feel free to delete anything abusive, threatening or hateful.

Common social media mistakes in a nutshell

Social media is an area that is not without its pitfalls. There is plenty you can do wrong if you are not prepared. In fact, you might have noticed that most of these common social media mistakes come down to lack of planning, lack of focus on the audience and lack of educating yourself. Thankfully, these are all in your control.

Consequently, don’t worry if you have recognized yourself above. Realizing the problem is the first step to solving it. In most cases, being active on social media requires that you use a lot of tools, do a lot of things, test out a lot of concepts, and inevitably make many social media mistakes. You are far from the only one who has gone through this process. Just learn and do better next time.

What are some common social media mistakes that you have noticed (or even committed yourself)? Let us know in the comments section below!


Written by Nick Schäferhoff, Victor Ijidola and Karol K.