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Going social: Top 10 pitfalls of social media for business

10/15/2010

Millions of companies and entrepreneurs are jumping into the social media world of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn only to find their efforts aren’t capturing the results they’d hoped for.

“Like any strategy for growth, social media isn’t foolproof,” and it requires a defined plan, says Barry Libert, author of the new book Social Nation and CEO of Mzinga, a social-media software firm.

“You’ve got to know who your target ‘fan base’ is, where they spend their time online, what sorts of content and programming is valuable and relevant to them, and will foster their continued interest and participation,” says Libert.

Half the battle is knowing which mistakes not to make. Here are the top 10 pitfalls he’s seen companies make:

1. Running a Social Nation like a traditional business. Understand that almost everything you do is a two-way street. You’re not going to prosper if your products and services are designed solely by folks on the inside. Embrace the perspectives and contributions of employees, as well as customers.

2. Underinvesting in social initiatives and abandoning them too soon. Only after you’ve built a firm foundation will your social network begin to sustain itself through participant contribution and recommendation. Remember that using multiple approaches will reach more people.

3. Neglecting your followers and fans. They are essentially volunteering their time to serve as developers, sounding boards and ads for your company. Respect what they have to say and take their input to heart.

4. Relying on a “build-it-and-they-will-come” mentality. Marketing 101 principles still apply. That means you need compelling incentives to have people join your community.

5. Delaying the process of going social. If you don’t start gathering loyal followers and fans now, there’s a good chance another company will woo them first. Designate employees to help foster community growth.

6. Underestimating the power of a Social Nation. It’s not just window dressing. Social media and community collaboration can create brand-building, customer loyalty and retention, cost reductions, improved productivity and revenue growth.

7. Neglecting employees, partners, investors or customers. Set up a focus group of employees to shepherd your company into the social networking world. Social Nations are organic organizations, so the more people who are empowered to influence yours, the better. “You’ll find that leaders will emerge from your community population—whether they are employees, partners, customers or prospects,” says Libert.

8. Relying on traditional approaches when designing your Social Nation. A decade ago, you probably would have been horrified at the thought of releasing ideas and products into the hands of your customers before they were complete. With social networking, that monolithic approach is now becoming obsolete.

9. Developing your own social software and analytics solutions. “Do what you do best and outsource the software and community building to the experts,” advises Libert. “Various vendors provide ready-made, complete solutions to help you build your fans, followers and friends.”

10. Getting caught without partners. Make sure you truly treat your community members as partners, not just as fans or numbers. That means creating a community for the people who matter most in making your business thrive—a place that is all theirs and that is connected to your brand.