3 Common Sins Brands Commit on Social

Opinion: With this direct line to consumers, brands have a major opportunity to enhance their engagement with their audience

Almost every brand is active on social. Why? Because that’s where their customers are—Facebook alone has nearly 2 billion monthly active users—and it’s where marketers can best engage with their audience in a two-way conversation. There are plenty of ways to reach an audience, but none are as direct, personal or immediate as social media.

With this direct line to consumers, brands have a major opportunity to enhance their engagement with their audience. But like everything else in life, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Here are some common mistakes brands are making on social, how to avoid them and how to strengthen your social presence to better connect with your customers.

Using unattractive visuals (or ruining perfectly good ones)

We’ve all seen these when scrolling through our news feeds—unsightly visuals. Anyone managing a brand’s social channels should ideally have basic graphic design ability, but that isn’t always the case. If you count yourself among those without that ability, fret not, as it isn’t that hard to look like a pro.

When it comes to visuals, I don’t know what’s worse: not using them at all or using bad ones. “Bad” includes images featuring outdated models, dated technology, bad lighting or superimposed text over what would have been a good photo. To prevent this, take advantage of some of the many cool (and free) tools, such as Unsplash, a royalty-free image site that hosts professionally curated, high-resolution photos that can fit almost any theme or mood. Spend enough time there, and you can collect and create a strong creative library that you can tap into when you need a good visual.

In a similar vein, another sin is using ugly text. Any font that would look right at home on an old web 1.0 site should be avoided at all costs—fonts like Arial or my personal nemesis, Papyrus (your site shouldn’t look like a takeout menu). Instead, choose a font that best represents your business—you can’t go wrong with anything with strong, clean lines.

Sounding like a robot

Just because you’re representing your brand doesn’t mean you can’t act like a human. Any copy you write for your brand’s social channels can be infused with a little heart and soul (or a healthy dose of weird, if that’s more your thing). If what you’re writing doesn’t sound like something someone at the company (not counting your legal team) would actually say, you may want to revise. Of course, your social posts should sound like your brand, but still be informal enough to sound like you’re having a conversation with your customers.

As a brand, you don’t necessarily have to hold yourself to a high and mighty standard: Try different, creative ways to connect with your audience. In my role, I’ve often responded to comments on social media with GIFs or images when relevant to the conversation, and the reaction is almost always positive.

A great example of a brand embracing its unique voice is the Wendy’s Twitter account, which has certainly taken to the idea of doing away with a boring, corporate tone. While the hamburger chain’s approach to social is unorthodox, it works. Wendy’s has enjoyed plenty of attention for its bold use of Twitter, garnering press and social attention, as well as raising its brand awareness far higher than even they make have expected.

Not looking at what already works

Too many companies try to reinvent the wheel when establishing their social presence. Instead, skip a bulk of the growing pains and look to brands you admire. Assess what they’re doing right, figure out how to make it work for you and then stay consistent. Pantone’s Instagram, as an example, is a model of what a visual voice should be, and you can emulate it by doing what the company has done—create guidelines, themes and a steady stream of content that matches your brand’s voice.

Speaking of voice, for any brand that’s new to social media, it’s important to not go back and forth with it. Instead, focus on making minor adjustments rather than drastic changes. While it’s important to test and try new things, once you discover what works, you’ll want to find new and better ways to expand on it.

Finally, look for ways to iterate on what’s already working—analyze different aspects of what you’ve created and see what is effectively engaging your audience. For example, what you title your content can have a big impact—on LinkedIn, you can really drive clicks by titling content as a question like, “Looking for a Way to X? Try Y.” It can be as simple as that.

Jordan Decker is brand marketing manager at high-performance ad tech company SteelHouse.

Image courtesy of ViewApart/iStock.