The Number One Mistake Rookies Make on Social Media

More and more people are turning to social media to spread the word about their burgeoning businesses.

Although that’s a great thing, there’s a rookie mistake I see businesses make over and over again that kills their credibility and stymies their growth. It may not seem that disastrous at first blush, but I guarantee you that this approach will hurt the ability of your business to build relationships and drive sales through social media.

Want to know what it is?


Although this might seem counter-intuitive, sending out a steady stream of discounts, deals and offers does nothing but hurt you (unless you’re Groupon).

Now, I’m not going to say you should never promote your business. What I am saying is that promotion shouldn’t be the only thing you say through social channels.


People don’t like to be sold to.

Think about it. It’s why we fast forward through TV ads with our DVR and unsubscribe from businesses that send us too many sales emails.

Although we buy from people and businesses every day, we want to do it on our terms. We want to buy from people and businesses that we know, like and trust.

So, how do you become someone that people want to do business with?

Here are a few suggestions on how to get started:

  • Talk like a human being. Believe it or not, human beings like to talk to other human beings. So, quit sending out robotic sales messages. Be real. Be yourself. It’s amazing what a difference that makes.
  • Start a conversation. The whole point of social media is to be SOCIAL. But, for some reason, that seems to get lost in all the hoopla. Ask questions and strike up a conversation with someone you want to get to know. And don’t be afraid to jump into the conversations of others. If everyone’s talking about their favorite sports team, let them know you bleed black & gold (Mizzou Tigers, baby!). This helps people get to know you as a person and can even lead to wonderful business relationships down the line.
  • Add value. People are busy, so find ways to make their life easier or better. Provide helpful information that your target audience will find useful. For instance, if you’re a local business, talk about road closures for that upcoming festival or let people know about that new burger joint in town. Doing this makes you a go-to source of information that people don’t want to miss.
  • Educate people. Instead of bombarding fans and followers with offers, share information about industry trends, best practices and relevant news articles This is a great way to educate potential about your customers about your line of work without overselling.
  • Go behind the scenes. People love getting the inside scoop on things. So, give them a sneak peak into how you make your famous ice cream or share pictures of what your office looks like during brainstorming sessions. Doing these things makes you instantly relatable.
  • Promote others. As surprising as it sounds, promoting others and sharing their content is a great way to build relationships and get attention online. When you talk about others, they often take the time to thank you and perhaps even check out your profile and promote you right back. But, whatever you do, don’t promote others just for the quid pro quo. Do it because you truly believe in that person or business.
  • Share your stuff. Even though you shouldn’t spend all of your time focused on yourself, you definitely SHOULD share your own stuff. That means, if you have a blog, be sure to post it on social media sites. And if you don’t have one, share links to press you’ve received or talk about exciting changes at your company.

It’s your turn

What would you add to the list? What do you in social channels to become someone that people want to do business with?

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Laura Click

Laura Click

Laura Click is brand strategist, speaker, podcaster and the founder of Blue Kite. Learn more about Laura and her work at Blue Kite.

21 replies on “The Number One Mistake Rookies Make on Social Media”

My main pet peeve is when it sounds as if the business owner/account is a robot. I just hate that and it puts me off even wanting to consider making a purchase of even the smallest item. Also, people should be well-educated – nothing turns a person off when the sales rep is quite clueless about a product and it scares me when the owner hardly knows much either.

The way I promoted my blog was–actually this was my tip on the business site of yours I answered a HARO for a couple months ago (can’t think of the name!)–using a contest. I didn’t know how else to get people’s attention, so I decided to make it about them while making it about me at the same time.

I asked them to vote on some name and theme-style choices for my blog (any of which I could live with), offered a certain amount of free services as a prize for anyone who could offer a better choice than the ones listed, and tweeted it consistently for the few weeks it ran.
 At the same time I blogged just about every day, bringing something else new to the table each time a visitor stopped by. I’ve made several long-term acquaintances and supporters that way, and I’d highly recommend something like that for new bloggers to get to know others in the social media sphere.

In that way I could promote myself but be sure I wasn’t tooting my own horn in more than a self-deprecating manner (oh, it’s just li’l ol’ me, and I can’t even think of a good name for this shop!), while effectively (according to the Analytics) drawing people to see what else I had to offer.

This is a great strategy, Shakirah! You’re right – you still have to promote yourself, but in a way that’s not overtly selling. What I see all too often is people just spewing a
 of offers – BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE or Come in today for 20% off! If you all you do is have offers, people begin to wonder about the value and validity of your business.

Can you share links with us to your contests? I’d love to see examples of what you did. Perhaps other people can learn from
 your success!

It’s interesting to see how Google is dealing with this over at Google+. The way they’re encouraging personal use and keeping brands off the platform (for now) bodes well for these kind of approaches to be less the norm, and more the exception.

Nice post, Laura, and so true.


In the “overpromotion” category are companies that talk exclusively about their business with NO additional value-add to their audience; and I’m talking about posts like “hey, we’ll be at the upcoming (insert trade show name) event next week!”, “Hey, here’s pics of our company barbecue”, “So-and-so was promoted to senior accountant last week”. More important is to develop credibility as a thought leader in your category by linking to blog posts (your own AND other vetted authors) that are of compelling interest to your audience. Only then should you sprinkle in a few company-centric posts (but only if they truly have value for your customers).

Right on, Carla! It’s a lot like a broken record – every gets sick of hearing the same thing over and over, especially when it’s overt sales messages.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

I might under-promote I’m so wary of self-hyping too much; I know I should share my own stuff and do, but am careful about it, don’t want to do so in a spammy way. Good list of ways to balance the self-promotion. BTW on my last cruise, I totally made a fool of myself trying to learn the Thriller dance. FWIW.

That’s certainly the converse problem. Those of us who “get it” often get gun-shy about letting people know that we have products and services to offer. I’m going to write about that next week as a lot of people struggle with that (myself included).

In the meantime, check out
 ‘s post about this – it’s a good one:

But it’s all about me, how can I talk too much about that…………:)

Not only add value, but quantifiable value. Be conversational and ask questions to discover what your prospect/customer’s true ‘why’ is. Why are they buying or making this decision.

I’m in front line sales in my day job and concur with every point you made. As soon as you get salesy, over promote, or talk too much about you, your product, your company, etc, your done.

Ask the questions that discover what their biggest challenges are, what wakes them up in the middle of the night and then work from their aligning resources to meet their needs.

Thanks for sharing Ms Laura, I’ve seen you around and thanks for the follow.

You see, that’s the thing….we all like to talk about ourselves. So, if you want to be successful, make it be about THEM, not you. Asking question is a good way to do that and people will love you for it.

Great points, Bill. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your perspective!

BTW – Your pic of Frank Thomas was from Auburn Univ; where all my money went putting my two sons through college.

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