You're Doing It Wrong

or, How to Lose Followers and (Negatively) Influence People

Despite the occasional headline-grabbing brand implosion, social media is a fairly forgiving medium - it's real-time, so you have to be able to keep up with it, but that also means that any disasters are usually short-lived too.

However, when you look to the long term, there are certain things you're probably hoping to achieve - an increase in 'likes' and Twitter follower count, an improvement in brand awareness and perception, and ultimately an increase in sales.

With that in mind, here are a few examples of 'poor practice' (although there are few hard and fast rules) that I personally think you'd be wise to avoid.

The Empty Tweet

OK, 140 characters isn't much, but it should still be enough to summarise your message, and let your followers decide for themselves whether they want to visit your website/blog/Instagram feed.

Resist the temptation to write a tweet that is intended to tantalise, without delivering - if it ends with a '...' and omits the actual valuable bit of information, you're doing it wrong.

For example, if your new product is in the shape of, say, a cat, it's fine to tweet and say "We're loving our new cat-shaped spatulas" or whatever, and then link to either a TwitPic or blog post or product page, or whatever seems appropriate.

Tweeting "Guess what shape our new spatulas are...?" and then expecting every single one of your followers to click on the link to load the picture, blog post or product page in order to find out is frankly just annoying.

Marketers will say "it's good because it makes more people click". And? Do you define the success of your business by how many people look at your products, or how many buy them? Because if you tell people what your product actually is, far more of those who click through to your page are likely to be specifically interested in buying it.

Like-gating

Like-gating is horrific for so many reasons. It's the Facebook equivalent of local newspaper sites that prompt you to fill in a survey Every Single Time. Or sites that grey out their entire content every time you visit, in an attempt to force you to download their app. Or websites that redirect your mobile browser to a crippled, content-free version even though their desktop site would have worked just fine on your device.

Even though you're a 'brand' in cyberspace, you're still a person in real life. Ask yourself what the hell you're doing, and why, and if you hate it as a person, don't do it as a brand.

The worst examples of like-gating are "for every 'like', we'll give £1 to charity" and "if this gets enough 'likes', we'll whatever". If you're going to donate to charity, just do it - don't try and emotionally blackmail people into promoting your brand.

Even if you use like-gating as a marketing tool, what is it achieving? You're basically spamming a part of people's profiles that no longer has any concrete meaning, and what you get from it is a 'fan' cohort filled with low to no-value individuals who probably have zero real-terms engagement with your brand.

Stick to getting likes from people who actually do like you, and you've got a much more valuable data set to use for future, legitimate marketing activities.

Cross-posting

This one isn't 100% bad, but poorly thought out cross-posting can be a disaster waiting to happen.

In particular, if your entire Twitter profile consists of the first 140 characters of each Facebook update you post, then you don't really have a Twitter profile.

Clicking a link on Twitter, only to find yourself referred via Facebook to an article on a third-party website, is frankly annoying, slows down the loading speed of the article, and will grate with anyone who is devoted to Twitter to the exclusion of all other social networks.

Likewise, if you're cross-posting from Google+, any mention of an individual that appears with a '+' symbol in front of it - required to link to their profile on Google+ - will just look like a typo on Twitter, where the + notation is not used.

Until recently, cross-posting Twitter posts with hashtags on to Facebook was similarly problematic, but now Facebook have added hashtag support too, it's less of an issue.

Do It Right

The point of all of this is, know why you're doing what you're doing. Don't cross-post and like-gate and stuff just because everybody else is doing it; it might simply not work for you.

Instead, be willing to take a gamble, to put extra effort in; to craft separate status updates for each of your social network profiles, so that you take full advantage of the capabilities of each platform.

Avoid 'empty' updates, and your messages will add value to your total social brand proposition; and as this value grows, so should your return on investment.

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