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The Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media

Social media can be pretty intimidating for time-strapped business owners. While it’s important to learn from mistakes, what if there was a list that could help you side-step some common pitfalls?

Step forward the seven deadly sins of social media – the vices that can be particularly destructive to the soul of a business (and your bottom line).

1.Pride: Excessive self-promotion and arrogance

It’s important to strike the right balance between showcasing your achievements, while being genuinely interested in engaging your audience. Posts that display excessive self-centredness and arrogance can lead to a sense of superiority and disregard for others’ perspectives.

Celebrate achievements modestly. Sharing milestones and accomplishments should be shared, but in a way that reflects humility. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to talk positively about your business, but always ask yourself: ‘Is this overly self-promotional?’ before hitting the publish button. Instead, express gratitude and acknowledge the contributions of your team, partners or customers that helped you achieve those milestones.

While promoting your business on your social channels is important, don’t forget to also provide valuable content to your audience. Give them a reason to follow each of your channels (they can read the marketing messages on your website!). Share educational resources, industry insights, tips and useful information that can benefit your followers. Actively engage in meaningful conversations with them by responding to comments, messages and mentions. Encourage discussions and show genuine interest in their opinions and feedback. This activity demonstrates humility and a willingness to learn from others.

Maintaining a balance between pride and humility requires authenticity and genuine intentions. Be mindful of your tone, messaging and interactions, ensuring that they align with your brand values and resonate positively with your audience.

2. Envy: Unhealthy comparisons

Feeling resentful or jealous of others’ achievements, appearances or experiences that are showcased on social media can lead to low self-esteem, unhealthy comparisons and a sense of inadequacy.

Instead, conduct competitor analysis to be inspired by those whose hard work is paying off. You don’t even have to focus your research on direct competitors – take a look at other small businesses. How do they engage with their audience? What techniques do they use? What’s their tone of voice like? Park the green-eyed monster and focus on some healthy competitor analysis instead. Take your learnings forward within your own business.

3. Wrath: Displaying anger, hostility or engaging in online conflicts

Often fuelled by controversial topics, differing opinions or perceived injustices, wrath can lead to online harassment, bullying or the spreading of negativity. Don’t use social media platforms (professional or personal) to show hostility online (not that you would!) – or respond to those that are. You are an extension of your business, so be mindful of how you conduct your conversations from both your professional social channels, as well as your personal ones. Things can be misinterpreted and escalate particularly quickly online – never display anger, no matter how justified you might feel.

Instead, take a breath, think of a solution and liaise directly with the complainant in a mature and professional way.

4. Sloth: Engaging in laziness or inactivity

If your target audience is active on social media – you need to be, too. However, don’t create social media channels you can’t maintain. Seeing that a company last posted two years ago reflects poorly on a business’s attention to detail and commitment to customer engagement.

Not only do you need a strategy in place for the social channels your audience is most active on, but you need to keep a close eye on the community management side of things. If you don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to social media, don’t go into sloth-mode. Rather close your accounts then have them live and be redundant. If budget allows, consider investing in a social media professional to join your team. If it’s not a role you’re in a position to hire just yet, consider an experienced social media freelancer or agency that can work on specific projects with you. For example, you might look to use an agency or consultant to create your social media strategy with you, helping you launch your new channels and maintaining them for a set number of hours each week.

Alternatively, entrepreneurs looking to reduce outgoings in the early days should consider a social media scheduling tool and dedicate a specific day/time each week to committing to creating and scheduling social media content. (N.B. you still need to keep a close eye on the community management side of things. Keep checking your upcoming scheduled content, as unexpected events in the news, or internally as a company, might mean some scheduled posts become inappropriate.)

Don’t forget your personal network, too. Do you have friends, family or ex-colleagues that you’re close with who are pretty clued up on social media? Could you take them for a coffee to pick their brain?

We all have that freeze response when overwhelmed – make sure you take on social media when you have the capacity or resources to.

5. Greed: Excessive desire for attention, followers, likes or material gain

This sin is often at the expense of authenticity or ethical behaviour. It can lead to a focus on self-promotion, manipulation of algorithms, or the pursuit of online fame and fortune.

Focus on building genuine connections, providing value and fostering a sense of community. This can be achieved through:

  • Authentic storytelling. Share the story behind your business, including your mission, values and the people who make it all possible. By being transparent and authentic, you create a connection with your audience that goes beyond simply promoting your products or services.
  • Focusing on quality content. Instead of relentlessly pushing promotional messages, prioritise creating high-quality content that is informative, entertaining or helpful to your target audience. Offer tips, tutorials, industry insights and engaging stories that resonate with your followers. This approach positions you as a valuable resource rather than solely seeking followers.
  • Engaging in meaningful conversations. Actively engage with your audience by responding to comments, messages and mentions. Foster discussions, ask questions and show genuine interest in your followers’ opinions. Create a community that values more than just a transactional relationship.
  • Sharing user-generated content. Subject to your business type, encourage your customers to share their experiences with your products or services. Repost or share user-generated content that reflects positively on your business. This approach not only shows appreciation for your customers but also demonstrates that you value their voices and contributions.
  • Providing exclusive perks. If appropriate to your business, offer exclusive discounts, giveaways, or early access to new products/services to your social media followers. By providing tangible benefits, you show appreciation for their support and create a sense of exclusivity that goes beyond simply gaining more followers.
  • Collaborating with influencers or partners. Partner with influencers or complementary businesses in your industry to create co-branded content or joint campaigns. This strategy helps expand your reach while also adding value to your audience through collaborations.
  • Support and promote others. Share content and highlight the work of other businesses, entrepreneurs or causes that align with your values. By promoting others, you demonstrate a willingness to contribute to the larger community and foster a sense of reciprocity.
  • Show appreciation. Regularly express gratitude towards your followers for their support, engagement and feedback. Celebrate milestones, achievements, or community impact together. By acknowledging and involving your followers in your success, you create a sense of belonging and gratitude.

Remember, the key is to focus on building relationships, providing value and encouraging a sense of community rather than solely chasing follower counts. By genuinely caring about your audience and their needs, you can promote your business effectively without appearing greedy. Speaking of greed…

6. Gluttony: Engaging in excessive, misguided practices

Businesses can demonstrate gluttony on social media by engaging in excessive or misguided practices that revolve around content consumption and audience engagement. For example, excessive posting, spamming followers, overindulging in hashtags, chasing vanity metrics, duplicating content, ignoring meaningful interactions and neglecting an offline presence can all contribute to a business succumbing to gluttonous practices that prioritise quantity over quality.

It’s important for businesses to strike a balance, focusing on creating valuable and relevant content, encouraging genuine interactions and maintaining a thoughtful and purposeful presence on social media.

7. Lust: Wanting it all

Sometimes, businesses can become fixated on quantity over quality. While a big social following is impressive, what is the engagement rate like? Look at your website analytics – are your social channels driving quality traffic? Rather have a social media community of 100 engaged, loyal customers who would happily recommend your business, than 1000s of not-so-fussed followers who only liked your account to try and win a free picnic hamper…

By having a clear target audience, you can focus your social media content on their interests, pain points, challenges and goals in the most relevant, helpful way. This will increase engagement and encourage action. Rather than spreading your message thin, you can focus your social media marketing efforts on hitting the mark with those most likely to purchase from you. (Much better use of your time!)

As you can see, no business – big or small – wants to get sent to the social media sin bin. By steering clear of these seven sins, business owners can start to feel less daunted and more excited about the positive impact a solid social media strategy can have on the growth of their business.

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Jenny Lambert

Jenny Lambert is a freelance writer, interiors blogger and Etsy shop owner with extensive experience working in marketing, digital and publishing roles.

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