Social media marketing is a necessary and valuable marketing tool for businesses today. It’s one of the best ways to increase awareness and connect with an audience, and it can also help you grow your business and generate leads—if you do it right.

So to give your business some practical direction, we’ve outlined seven social media marketing pitfalls to avoid.

1. Not having a strategy

Social media should be treated as any other marketing initiative you undertake—starting first and foremost with strategy. Many firms jump into social media with no real strategy or gameplan. They’re “doing” social media but their overall efforts are disjointed and lacking direction and focus. Proper strategic planning is critical to the success of your social media marketing and should be the foundation of everything you do. Be sure to align your social media efforts with your overall marketing strategy, and set measurable goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to gauge success. 

2. Being on EVERY social media channel

If your firm tries to be on every popular social media channel, especially as you’re just beginning to build out your social media presence, you will ultimately spread yourself too thin and become overwhelmed. Not all social media channels make sense for every business and every industry either. Start with just one or two social media channels that fit best your firm and audience. LinkedIn is a good place to start for most B2B firms, since it is a professional networking channel. Once you are comfortable and get in a rhythm of posting regularly, then you can begin to expand to other channels as they make sense. 

3. Inconsistency

Another mistake to avoid is setting up a social media account but then leaving it dormant for days or even weeks. One way to prevent this is to dedicate an employee to managing your firm’s social media so that it doesn’t get put on the back burner. Then, make sure they post at least a few times per week. Staying active is key to building your following and increasing brand awareness. In order to maintain consistency, create a content calendar that plans out your firm’s posts on each platform ahead of time. Having a plan will save time, keep up regularity in posting, and as a result, increase familiarity and engagement from your followers.

4. Using social media as a sales platform

While social media is helpful for building your business and engaging with your audience, it is not the place to loudly pitch your firm’s services. People will quickly leave your page and unfollow you if you only try to sell. Remember the content marketing philosophy of adding value and providing relevant information to your audience, and incorporate this into your social media content strategy. Social media creates an informal space for you to display your company culture and share thought leadership in your industry. Sharing industry articles and your blog posts will provide value for your followers while also keeping them engaged with your business. And while thinking about what content your followers want to see, remember that it differs depending on the platform. The content your firm posts on Instagram should be pretty different than LinkedIn.

5. Leaving all the work to an intern

While it’s fine for interns to help execute your social media, it’s vital that there is someone from management that is driving the strategy, planning and content. If not, then your firm’s social media marketing can quickly become unaligned with your brand. Just like you wouldn’t send an intern alone to a tradeshow or press conference, you shouldn’t have them posting content online without strategic guidance and oversight either.

6. Not engaging with others

Social media should not be a one-way street. To be successful and build a following that matters, you have to be social! Share other firms’ posts on Facebook. Ask questions. Answer questions. Retweet. Share articles. Thank people for retweeting your posts. Like others’ posts. And don’t only interact with people who follow you. Pay attention to trending topics, industry hashtags, and what prospective clients are posting. Interacting with these areas will help increase your following, build relationships, and establish your firm’s voice in the industry. Overall, the more engagement, the better; so don’t forget the social in social media! 

7. Not tracking analytics and KPIs

Why set KPIs and measurable goals if you don’t track the results? Treat social media the same as other marketing activities and properly measure your goals. Simply tracking the number of fans or followers is not a good enough indication of success. Social media channels have matured to the point where there is an increasingly high level of analytics behind them, so be sure to keep a close eye on your in-platform social media analytics such as Facebook Insights and LinkedIn Analytics. There are also plenty of third-party social media tracking tools out there to help measure social media success and gain additional insights.

Your firm’s website analytics (such as Google Analytics or more advanced analytic tools) are also a great way to track how much website, blog and landing page traffic your social media channels are generating. When a visitor lands on a lead-generating landing page from social media, it can move from what is nothing more than a fan or follower to an actual lead or potential client. This is where analytics can help prove the true value of your social media efforts, by keeping track of social-to-visit-to-lead metrics.

Best practices lead to proof

While most firms are on social media, not everyone is seeing the value or reaping the rewards of their efforts. Look out for common pitfalls and follow these social media best practices instead. If you set goals, implement these strategies and commit to consistency, you’ll begin to realize the real value that social media can bring to your marketing strategy and business and will have proof of its value to show to firm leadership.