What Not to Do When Using Social Media for Business

7 things to avoid when you're growing your social media presence

Businesswoman using social media on her cell phone in cafe

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If you're a small business owner, you are probably already active in social media. And if you're not active, I would guess that you're at least considering getting started with social media.

Whether your favorite network is Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, there are some things you should avoid doing if you want to grow your community and use your social media presence to form relationships.

Here are seven things you should NOT do when using social media for business.

Skip the Plan

So many small business owners dive into social media because everyone tells them they should, but they skip the research and planning phase. Just like any other marketing activity, it's important to take time to get to know the networks you are joining, set SMART goals for your use on the sites, and develop a plan of action to achieve your goals.

Lie or Mislead

Social media can feel like a popularity game. There are the "cool" kids, cliques of people who have been around for a while and have created large followings, and everyone else seems to fall behind. It may be tempting to create a fake persona or be less than 100% genuine in what you are sharing in order to elevate your standing and make your following grow at a faster pace. This is never a good idea, and can not only hurt your reputation, but it can also hurt your brand over the long term.

Ignore Everyone Else

Acting like you are the only person out there is a quick way to social media failure. Even if your social media presence is for your brand and not you personally, you may find you are more successful when you inject a little personality into your interactions. This can be as simple as thanking people for retweets and Facebook likes, offering your expertise to help others, and sharing a little of your personal side.

Spam Your Fans and Followers

Spam isn't just for email anymore; it has also entered the world of social media. Figuring out what spamming is on social sites is tricky because there is not an "opt-in," per se. Some forms of social media spamming to stay away from including unsolicited sales pitches, posting the same updates over and over, and sending private messages after being asked to stop.

Be Vulgar, Obnoxious, and Confrontational

One of the biggest turnoffs on social media sites, especially in business circles, is people who attack their competitors, are obnoxious or are generally offensive. When using social media for business, it's vital to stay professional and avoid the temptation to constantly vent and air your grievances publicly. And it doesn't stop with you. If you have a staff or team members managing your social media presence for your business, you should provide training and a guide that sets expectations about what should be posted and what should not.

Share Too Much

When you're using social media for business, letting a little of your personality show through is a great way to start conversations and form relationships. There's a thin line, though, between being engaging and sharing too much. A good rule of thumb is to think of what you're posting as if it's a personal message going out to your most important client or a mentor. If you wouldn't say it in front of people who are valuable in your business, keep it off social media sites.

Self-Promote All the Time

Promoting yourself and your business is likely part of why you're on social media, to begin with, but these networks are vastly different from other marketing tools. While you can and should share your experiences and the value of your business, products, and services, balance your self-promotion by promoting and helping others. This will make your friends and followers much more receptive to your promotional posts, and your followers may be more likely to pass your promotions on to their own networks.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of different ways to use social media. There really aren't rules about what you should and shouldn't do. There are, however, best practices you can follow if you want to create thriving and engaged communities on social media sites. And avoiding these seven activities will get you moving on the right path.