Avoiding Common Social Media Mistakes

The constant evolution of social media spurs many questions about how to effectively use it for your business.  

Dave Shute, vice president of marketing for Transamerica Retirement Services, told PLANADVISER that his company conducted listening seminars that overwhelmingly indicated people do not understand how to use social media, although they want to learn.

“They’re sponges. They want to soak up information,” he said. “But they may not know how to participate [in social media].”

Transamerica recently hosted a three-part webinar series about the use of social media in the retirement services space. Shute discussed with PLANADVISER several common mistakes for advisers to avoid when using social media (as always, it is important to check with your company’s compliance department before engaging in social media):  

Posting irrelevant information.  

Face-to-face communication is much different than social media communication, so staying relevant is crucial. “Don’t just talk in social media to talk,” Shute cautioned. “Talk because it’s relevant.”

Avoid being self-serving or offensive, and instead post information that is helpful to your audience including interesting articles, tips or industry expertise. “The more you connect the dots for people, the better it’s going to be,” he said. “It’s not about us [in social media]. It’s about everybody else.”

Engaging like a 'robot.'   

It can be difficult to express personality through social media interaction, but it is still possible.

“Make sure you are not just 'robo posting,'” Shute said. Instead, make your posts more interesting by being enthusiastic, thoughtful and humorous when appropriate. Audiences enjoy a little playfulness, although Shute added that jokes should generally be avoided.

“They will plug into your enthusiasm,” he said.

Taking too long to respond.  

Although response time depends on the social media site you are using, responses should generally be fast. Twitter, for example, warrants extremely fast responses, preferably within one day.

In addition, if you start a dialogue and begin responding to comments, you have established a “response time” and should maintain it, he added.

Not listening first.  

“You need to do a lot of listening first before you engage,” Shute said.

By “listening,” he means reading extensively on the sites before posting. He suggested joining industry groups on LinkedIn and reading the discussions to gauge what information you should post. "You have to see what the audience cares about,” Shute said.

Once you have established a social media presence, it is important to continue monitoring discussions. “It’s not like a fire and forget strategy,” he said.

Shute suggested signing up for Google Alerts to monitor relevant industry Web articles and discussions. Google Alerts offers free e-mail updates of the latest relevant Google results based on your queries.