It seems like almost everyone claims to be a social media expert. I am most definitely not, but there are two obvious mistakes being repeated over and over again by small businesses that want to use social media for marketing purposes. We'll use florists as an example.
Often florists have two very different audiences online. The first audience for many is their peer group - other florists. Florists are great people and they tend to mutually support their efforts. When a florist creates a new Facebook page, or Twitter account for their flower shop, a lot of other florists like/follow that account to help them get started. Hopefully, over time, they will also get a following of the people they really want – potential customers that might actually buy from them.
The result is a split audience – a group of fellow florists, with whom they might understandably want to chat, and potential customers that they want to buy flowers.
Those are two different conversations. Two florists, talking around the online version of the water cooler, will have one conversation about flowers and the industry. They would have a very different conversation with a potential customer they are trying to sell.
For example... more than once I have seen florists post about opening up boxes of moldy flowers or greens. Other times they've complained about wire services, or pointed out the artificially low prices promoted by order-gatherers.
Comments like these are very interesting to fellow florists, who share the same concerns, and the internet gives them a great forum to vent. At the same time it's safe to say that retail customers probably shouldn't hear about moldy flowers or insider stuff like wire service complaints. And their attention should definitely not be drawn to lower prices (artificial or not) that competitors are offering.
The split nature of the audience can to confusion in messaging. Is the post something that might make their peers chuckle, or generate the "hang in there!" response they need on a tough day? Or is it something that will prompt a potential customer to make a purchase? It is very hard to do both.
There are solutions. Florists can have one twitter account (or belong to a Facebook group) for sharing inside comments/complaints with their peers (the perfect place to mention the box of moldy product). They can then have another Twitter account and a Facebook page for their customers (perfect for talking about the arrival of a spectacular shipment of fresh product).
Both are way more fun than cold calling hotels, restaurants and other businesses trying to get more corporate accounts. More fun than creating email campaigns. For most people it's more fun than anything they could possibly do that is work-related, and that is why it's something they choose to do in their spare time.
But in the flower business so much attention has been to the idea that a social media presence is essential that it often leads to confusion between work and play. It's made it easy for people to think that the time they spend on social media counts as work.
Sure – some of it may be promotional in nature and can legitimately be seen as work. But too often social media time that would have been spent anyway, and been considered as recreation, is now being counted as productive work.
Like anything else the return on investment of social media efforts must be considered carefully. It is very, very easy for it to become a distraction that takes you away from other less profitable but more productive activities.