Gen-Y social media mistakes to avoid in a new business

More young people are turning to entrepreneurship in a tempestuous job market - how can you give yourself the best start in social media promotion?
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

In today's society, for a business to profit from the potential of social networks and to maintain what we consider a modern brand, a positive Internet presence is vital.

For businesses starting up, social media can be a valuable tool in order to gain exposure in a cost-effective manner, as well as potentially gain funding through online sources. Platforms such as Kickstarter. This platform has become one of the main ways students can apply for the backing they need for a product or service, and is only one of the many online services designed with today's startup in mind.


Starting a business when young is an expensive process -- but a good name can go a long way. Social networking is a free and effective way to market your new business, but what mistakes should young people avoid when they are first starting out -- and afterwards?

1.) Don't just broadcast. Engage and be exciting.

Consider creating campaigns and incentives to build your online business profile. When you first set up a business as a young person -- potentially fresh from college -- you may not have a dedicated client base or relationships to recommend you. Increasing brand awareness through exciting online campaigns and engaging with your potential customers can help bridge the gap.

2.) Corporate versus 'human' tweets.

There is a balance that has to be maintained on corporate social media accounts. If the account is used purely for self-promotion, then it may not be an attractive prospect for customers to bookmark or follow. Building customer loyalty by providing engaging and supportive communication can be of more benefit than advertising product promotions.

3.) Proofread your Facebook and Twitter updates.

Although social media networks are informal by nature, it does not mean that spelling mistakes and typographical errors will go unnoticed. If you want customers to increase your sales by purchasing more frequently, then trust has to be based on professionalism.

On social media platforms, it is the small errors that can have the most detrimental effects.

4.) Promote activities properly, but don't purchase your followers.

A Twitter profile or Facebook page with many 'likes' and followers are generally more active, and will seem more trustworthy and worth following to new visitors. Building a network of followers takes time, but it is the quality of followers that is important. Don't be fooled by 'pay for follower' campaigns -- they don't benefit your business in the long run.

5.) Put damage control systems in place.

Social media's nature as a platform to connect business and consumer comes with a number of risks. A campaign to engage your customers, such as the McDonalds debacle, can turn into a global backlash which is damaging to your brand.

Small businesses that are just starting up don't have to worry about criticism on this kind of scale, however, just as customers can broadcast positive feedback, it can also be negative. Monitoring this kind of activity and putting systems in place to deal with it is a must as soon as you enter the world of social media.

6.) Complete your social media profile thoroughly.

A simple step, but one that is often forgotten. Personal profiles can afford to miss out steps when you sign up for a social media account; professional businesses cannot. Do not forget to input as much information as possible, and include links to any other online profiles or websites.

7.) Maintaining a clear marketing strategy.

Although using social media platforms is a free option, it still costs time -- and this needs to be incorporated within your business strategy. For those who are still studying and working, it is even more crucial to maintain a balance at the beginning, so you have a good base once you leave education to focus on your start-up.

8.) Quality, not quantity.

A recent study suggested that there are certain methods that effective tweeters use to both maintain a valuable following and maximize their click-through rates. By making your social media updates attractive, you will gain more exposure than simply using capitals or obviously PR-based wording.

9.) Schedule time for social media updates.

The trick to building your business's social media profile is to be consistent, rather than do too much too soon. It is not uncommon to become addicted to the challenge of gaining as many followers or Facebook likes as possible in a short amount of time, but it needs to be kept in mind that doing too much at the beginning could make you lose interest and drive in maintaining it afterwards.

10.) Monitor your websites and accounts on a regular basis.

Using passwords that are easy to guess will render you vulnerable to unauthorized access. Using 'Qwerty' passwords, 'Welcome1' or 'Password1' are some of the most commonly used -- and not only is it easy for you to remember, but for others to guess -- who would be happy to gain access to your social media accounts.

It is also becoming more common for websites to experience hacker attacks, so checking the status of your websites can mean a problem is detected early.

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11.) Keep personal and professional accounts separate.

It may be an idea to link social media organizers -- such as Hootsuite -- to separate accounts. Once a message is published, it can be the work of a moment to become re-tweeted or commented on, and a screenshot can be no more work than the click of a button.

In order to avoid such mistakes, double check which account you are publishing an update from.

12.) Make a mistake - admit to it.

The world of social media can be unforgiving if a business makes a public faux pas -- but it may be best just to admit to it. In some cases, what may be a staff mix-up of personal and corporate accounts can even become beneficial and 'refreshing'. Don't pawn it off as 'hackers' -- just say sorry.

13.) Be careful of licensing rules.

There has been a surge of lawsuits in regard to online activity and licensing -- so be careful that your new business is not caught in that trap.

Creating a social media policy is recommended, and copyright disclaimers should be written and checked -- get in touch with someone in the legal industry if you need assistance. Avoid defamatory wording or copyrighted material in any published updates.

14.) Tailor activities for your target audience.

If a blog focuses on student funding, then enrich it with interesting links to news concerning student finance or the cost of living -- but an image of a dancing cat is unlikely to impress your audience. Keep your activity succinct, valuable and relevant.

15.) Avoid poorly timing updates.

Update social network messages in relation to the audience you wish to appeal to. If you are looking to get a message out to a UK audience, then activity needs to coincide with that time zone, and the times in which you will get the most readers.

Image credit: Chinen Keiya


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