The 7 deadly sins of social media

No matter how hard you try, you can’t be everywhere on social media.

And that’s OK, according to Scott Stratten, a speaker and social media marketing expert.

“Social media is not about being everywhere,” Stratten told attendees at the BlogWorld & New Media Expo this year. “You just have to be great where you are.”

Being great on social media, he added, only really requires you to be average— “because everyone else sucks.”

Stratten delivered the opening session during this three-day conference and tradeshow for bloggers, podcasters, Web content creators, and social media innovators. In his session, “7 Deadly Social Sins,” he offered a raft of pointers for brands (and their stewards) on using social media.

Want to not suck at social media? Don’t commit what Stratten calls the seven social sins:

1. Gluttony. Engagement is the biggest benefit of social media, said Stratten. So if you’re automating your feeds without engaging with your audience, you’re not being present. The shelf life of a tweet is about five minutes; if you don’t engage with someone who responds to your tweet, you lose the chance to have a conversation.

2. Pride. Posing questions like, “What’s your favorite product of ours?” is not the right way to engage your audience. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Also, don’t be the company that allows only positive comments. “You don’t make the rules,” said Stratten. Doing this will only cause people to ridicule you, and that’s the wrong way to get people to share.

3. Sloth. Social media has changed the timeline for responding. Companies used to be able to say, “We will get back to you in five to seven days,” but response time is now measured in hours, if not minutes. “If you’re not going to monitor social media regularly, delete your account,” said Stratten. “If you don’t have the time, don’t do it. If you hate people, don’t do it. Don’t try to have a presence without being present.”

4. Greed. We’ve all seen the ads: “I will get you 1,000 followers for $50.” There’s no shortcut to being social. It’s not a numbers game, it’s an engagement game. If you want more fans, more readers, more shares, create better content.

5. Lust. Stratten reminded us of the cases of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (who accidentally tweeted sexually explicit pictures of himself) and the Red Cross employee who drunk tweeted on the Red Cross Twitter account instead of his own. Never do anything on social media you wouldn’t want on a billboard that your mom, your priest, your kids will see, said Stratten. But if you do make a mistake, get in front of it. “When it hits the fan,” he said, “it’s not time to hide behind the fan.” Stratten applauded the Red Cross for the way it handled the errant tweet.”

6. Envy. Stratten puts the “self-retweet” in this category. Don’t retweet only when someone compliments you. Don’t be selfish. Don’t “humble brag.”

7. Wrath. Social media has given people power. You have to respond when there’s a complaint or a problem. If it’s a troll, delete it immediately. But if it’s constructive criticism, don’t remove it, reply to it. “It’s a chance to be awesome,” said Stratten. And if you do follow up with someone privately, make sure you close the loop publicly so it’s obvious you’ve addressed the problem.

Other tips: 

Avoid apathy. It is social media’s biggest enemy, said Stratten. For example, so many companies send out untargeted, uninteresting event invites on Facebook that people have become apathetic to all invites, making them irrelevant. “We’re breaking social,” one of the best things of recent years, he added.

Be passionate. Any great social site was drive by passion. Pinterest, for example, was successful because it tapped into people’s passions. But then business came and ruined it.

Don’t forget mobile. You have to look at your apps through the eyes of your audience. If you make your audience work to see your content, you’ll lose them. Don’t use technology for the sake of using technology. For example, QR codes have such great potential, but “we’re already breaking it,” said Stratten. QR codes on billboards on subway tracks (where there are no phone signals) are one way companies are misusing them. “Every time someone scans a QR code and it doesn’t work, we’re running it.”

RELATED: 7 deadly sins of PR 

Maria Perez is director of news operations for ProfNet, a service that helps connect journalists with expert sources. To read more from Maria, visit her blog on ProfNet. A version of this story first appeared on the PR Newswire blog, Beyond PR

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