It’s a predictable pattern: a social network emerges, eager users sign up and love it, brands see an opportunity and sign up as well, then people complain about brands ruining said social network.
This narrative is still a common one, despite the fact that most people expect brands to be on social media, for everything from customer service to contests to commercials.
So what is it about the way some brands behave on social that people resent? We asked our Twitter followers that question, and the answer largely comes down to two critical mistakes that too many brands continue to make: Focusing too much on themselves, and trying too hard to act like the cool kid in the room.
Too much focus on self-promotion over engagement
@hootsuite focus purely on self-promotion without curating via retweet or engaging! ^GC
— WriterAccess (@WriterAccess) July 20, 2015
@hootsuite Only talk about themselves!
— Spyridon Kagkas (@spyridonkagkas) July 20, 2015
@hootsuite Many brands on Social Media operate like robots. Select some mentions and reply. Don’t ignore always.
— FF @imoseng (@BashorunDon) July 20, 2015
Of all answers provided by our Twitter followers, this was the most common. People are very frustrated by brands that treat social media as a broadcasting channel, rather than an engagement tool—essentially removing the social aspect of social media.
Social media has the power to unite you and your consumers for personal interactions. To not capitalize on this isn’t just a waste, it’s actually damaging to your business. The users that follow you on social media are expecting this type of engagement, and when all they get is your latest mass-produced sales pitch, you’re going to end up building negative sentiment around your brand.
On top of that, on social media only the best content survives. By creating content that focuses on your brand, and your brand alone, you’re actually wasting your efforts. This content won’t get shared, go far or make an impact. Creating content that is shareable, memorable, and provides followers with some sort of value, is the way to succeed on social while not annoying your followers.
Trying to link your brand to any and every trend
@hootsuite say “bae” or “on fleek.” Making the rest of us brands look ridiculous :D
— UNEX Manufacturing (@UNEX) July 20, 2015
— Florence (@FloAbram) July 20, 2015
One of the ways brands try to reach audiences on social media is by tapping into cultural references, news stories, slang and even memes. This approach can make brands more relatable, and add a personal feel to corporate social profiles. When done right, the impact can be fantastic.
However, when done wrong, trend-jacking can also really damage your brand. It annoys users who feel strongly about whatever story or piece of culture you try to hijack for your own purposes. It angers users who think you’re trying to capitalize on a piece of news that has nothing to do with you. And, you even put yourself at risk of coming off like the dad who’s trying to be cool, and very obviously doesn’t get it.
So how do you avoid all of these risks and use trends in the right way? Here are a few rules to follow.
First, stick to your brand voice. Don’t ditch your typical tone and feel in order to fit in. Instead, choose trends and references that will interest your audience while allowing you to be yourself.
Next, consider the meaning behind any trending event or hashtag. Is it a story that incites debate, or has passionate people split into two sides? Probably best to avoid it, unless the debate is humorous (like #thedress). Is it a political or sensitive subject? Probably best to avoid it, unless you want your business to take a stand (#lovewins, for example). Is there any reason your brand would associate itself with the story? Your accounting firm probably shouldn’t be talking about the MTV video awards.
Finally, try and join in the conversation, not be the conversation. If people are talking, strive to contribute to that discussion. Don’t co-opt it and try to shift focus to yourself. It’s annoying, and people won’t just ignore you, they’ll go out of their way to bash your efforts. Don’t be afraid of trends, just approach them in the right way considering all of the above rules. Doing so will open you up to a massive audience, and help your brand make an impact on social media.
Other frustrating brand moves
So many of you answered our question, we wanted to include other examples of how brands frustrated social media users.
Make you run through hoops
Social media is about simplicity, so don’t make things complicated for your users. If you share a piece of content, link to it directly. And make sure your content delivers on whatever messaging you send out. If you exaggerate or lie in your social media messaging, you’ll earn a reputation for click-bait, and lose followers in the process.
Silence, especially in response to critical comments
Don’t ignore your users, especially when they’re being critical of your brand. Social media gives you the chance to gain control of a situation, and being silent is not the right way to handle it. Address concerns to the best of your ability, apologize if necessary, and move on.
Never, ever, delete a reasonable complaint on your Facebook wall or other social property. This is a sure-fire way to create bad buzz around your brand and hurt your reputation. When you respond, regardless of the issue at hand, at least people know that you’re listening.
Silence, in general, is a bad approach on social media. People follow you for a reason, and it isn’t for that Tweet you send once every three weeks. You should be posting on a consistent schedule, even if it means curating content from other sources.
Customer support issues
@hootsuite ask you to DM them your issue and then never reply.
— Murless (@Murless) July 20, 2015
— Erik Schwenke (@Erocdotusa) July 20, 2015
On a similar vein, customer support issues in general are a regular source of frustration for social media users. If your business is on social media, you should be prepared for customer service questions to roll in. Having a customer service strategy in place will help you avoid many of the issues that arise from a simple lack of preparation. A good social media dashboard will allow you to assign messages to your support staff or other employees who might be more knowledgeable on the subject.
Either way, make sure people’s questions get answered and concerns get addressed. Whether you like it or not, social media is only growing as a customer service channel. Ignoring that rise will come at the expense of your online reputation.