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How social media can harm your startup

Each prominent social media platform has a purpose and you need to learn to use them appropriately.

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More than three quarters (77 percent) of all Americans now own a smartphone. And of that number, almost as many (69 percent) are frequent social media users.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that almost one-third of all internet browsing time is spent on social platforms. It’s pretty clear that your startup needs to build an online presence. After all, if all your customers are showing up to the party, you need to be there handing out the drinks.

But, sometimes, in a startup’s clamor to get online and build a following, they make costly mistakes that can harm their business. So, make sure you’re hanging out where your customers are. But, watch out for the following social media errors that can harm your startup.

Not being your authentic self

If you want to achieve success on social media, authenticity is key. Millennials, in particular, demand transparency and have an inherent distrust of traditional institutions. Social media is the perfect opportunity to show your startup’s personality and humanize your brand. But, whatever you do, make sure that it’s authentic.

If your company sources certain materials that could be harmful to the planet, don’t preach about supporting climate change. If your company culture is more traditional, or your clients largely Republican, don’t tweet about Trump’s latest gaffs. Millennials can smell a fake from a mile away. So, if your social media image isn’t consistent with your company’s activities, it won’t be long before your followers drop like flies, taking their business with them.

Just ask Kim Kardashian, if you want confirmation of this. Social media influencer and Queen B herself confessed that she messed up by accepting too many sponsorship opportunities. Her followers soon began to realize that her endorsements were hollow and began ignoring her advice and opinions.

Not being open to honest feedback

While Millennials are quick to ignore traditional advertising and company pages, 90 percent of them read online reviews before making a purchase. And of that number, almost as many (88 percent) trust peer reviews as much as they do personal recommendations. If a potential customer is considering doing business with you, they’ll look you up online. And if they can’t find genuine customer reviews, they’ll probably look elsewhere.

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It can be scary offering your startup up for criticism, but it’s also the best way to learn and get better. Don’t be afraid of unflattering reviews, and don’t ignore them either. An angry customer leaving a negative comment on your wall isn’t necessarily the end of the world, along as you don’t ignore it or delete it. Leave the honest feedback where it is and be sure to answer the complaint promptly and politely.

How social media can harm your startup

Never use social media for your startup as an excuse to rant or post whatever you want. (Source)

Apologize, explain, and offer a solution. Customers understand that everyone is human, and your failings only serve to add authenticity to your brand. It’s how you resolve the problem that counts, and also a great way to turn a disgruntled customer into an advocate for your brand. Offer them a free product, or quickly resolve their problem. Be transparent, be authentic, and allow for honest feedback of your brand. It will work much better than stock image photos of grinning customers on your website.

Not engaging with your fans

A major error that many startups make when building their social media profiles is worrying too much about the number of likes and follows. Yes, you don’t want to look like you have no friends, but don’t let your ego get in the way either. And whatever you do, don’t buy likes or followers! You may think you’re helping your brand by going from zero to 50,000 likes overnight, but you’re actually stabbing it in the heart twice over.

First of all, these “fans” are likely to have a zero-to-no interest in your brand, which means they won’t engage with your posts, much less become converted customers. And secondly, many social media platforms have smart algorithms in place that punish brands for suspiciously low engagement. That means that your posts won’t be shown to anyone, not even the interested parties.

Worse still, when you only care about the numbers, you stop taking the time to engage with your fans. When a follower takes a moment to comment on your post, to retweet your news, or participate in your giveaway; thank them and interact. If you leave your fans hanging, they’ll leave your page and turn right off your brand.

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Posting whatever you want whenever you want

Each prominent social media platform has a purpose and you need to learn to use them appropriately. Don’t make the mistake of posting the same content across all boards. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, but Facebook calls for more detail. LinkedIn isn’t the place to share news about a celebrity’s breast enhancement surgery. In fact, if you’re going to do that, I strongly advise considering the suitability of that post to your startup. Understand what each platform is for and how to use it.

Never use social media for your startup as an excuse to rant or post whatever you want. You may disagree with certain political procedures, but not all your customers will take kindly to your strong opinions. Remember too, where the majority of your customers are and consider staggered postings if they’re based in different time zones. There’s little point in sending out the perfect tweet if you do it when your customers are sleeping.

The takeaway

There are many ways that social media can harm your startup. What seems like a fun way to promote your brand can also be a double-edged sword. Beyond avoiding the above mistakes, make sure you also don’t fall into the trap of spending way too much time online.

Remember what your goals are when using social media. It’s not just about getting people to like you. You want it to drive sales and queries as well. So, make sure that whatever campaigns you run and experiments you make, you’re actually measuring your metrics. Even if your online etiquette is on point, if you’re leaking money like there’s no tomorrow and not seeing a single dime back from your efforts, something needs to be changed.

DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.

Christina Comben is a freelance copywriter and Content Manager at translation and localization services provider, Day Translations. She specializes in B2B website content, marketing materials, article writing, content optimization and blogging. Multilingual and qualified to MBA level, Christina has produced investor guides and economic reports in developing countries for Spanish newspaper ABC. You can connect with Christina via her website, through Twitter or LinkedIn.

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