Most, if not all, businesses today recognize that social media marketing is an important tool in their marketing arsenal. (Side note… if you don’t please give us a call right away). That said it’s important to realize that just like any marketing medium there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. There’s no clearly defined right way to initiate a social media effort. What I mean here is that there is no such thing as a social media expert. The medium is very new and we’re all figuring out what works best as we meander our way through various social media outlets.

There is however a wrong way. There exists some unwritten rules by which those involved in social media have defined that can lead to an unsuccessful social media outcome. There are tons and they are still being written, but here are 5 social media marketing mistakes a business can make.

1. The perceived need to engage in every social media outlet available.

There are many social channels available from a marketing perspective, too numerous to list in fact. But are they all necessary for your business? Spreading yourself too thin by engaging in too many channels can cannibalize your efforts. Before engaging in social media, like any marketing medium, you need to understand your target audience and where they are currently engaged. A B2B company that sells a million dollar enterprise software solution to the Fortune 500 is going to have different social media marketing needs than a B2B company that sells copy machines. Likewise, a B2C company is going to need a different social media marketing experience entirely.

Once you understand your target audience and where they are engaging socially, select a few social media channels and really commit yourself to involvement. Being active (not obnoxious) in a few social media channels is much better than being dormant in many.

2. Don’t be too salesy.

As any seasoned sales person will tell you, there’s a right time to close and wrong time to close. Social media is about providing information that positions your company as a worthy choice for a prospect. It’s about sharing information – not always about your company – that invites discussion around topics that are important to the overall sales process. There’s nothing more annoying inTwitter (as example) than a company that’s always talking about how great they are and linking to their corporate site. Link to industry articles, partner sites, clients, prospects, and yourself too of course, but mix it up. Social media marketing is not about closing the sale!

3. Social media marketing success does not come quickly.

When you start out with social media, you have zero followers, fans, and likes. It takes time to generate a following. If you’re looking for quick leads, try direct marketing or PPC. If you’re looking to create a foundation on which to build a reputation within your market, well then that takes time – months and years in fact. However, if you are diligent and consistent in your social media marketing efforts, then it can be leveraged by all other marketing channels to create success.

4. Think beyond ROI.

This goes hand in hand with point 3 above. There are some marketing initiatives that you just need to participate in depending on your market. And some of them just aren’t directly associated with a measurable ROI. They contribute without a doubt, but let’s not get all caught up in their measurement. There has been a lot of discussion around the ROI associated with social media and I say cut it out! No one gets all heated on the ROI of sound collateral or awareness efforts. Those business cards… what have they done for your bottom line? See my point? Social media marketing can be measured in many ways, but ROI currently isn’t one of them so forget what you read.

5. It’s a discussion, not a lecture.

Social media marketing is about participation in a dialogue. You can start the dialogue; you can even guide the dialogue, but don’t ignore other people who are part of it. Encourage discussion and foster it, even if you don’t agree with what’s being said. This transparency is a crucial part of social media and those companies that are winning with it are those that are part of the conversation.

There are many wrong ways to engage in social media marketing and I’ve touched on just a handful. Hopefully, they’ll help! If you have other social media marketing mistakes that you’ve seen or experienced, please share them. It’s part of that transparency thing in point 5 above after all.