Today, most businesses or business owners understand social media should play a role in the customer acquisition process. They also generally accept that social media provides a great opportunity to stay engaged with customers – keeping them loyal and active with the business or brand – that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Yet, while businesses often “get” this, many are also slightly afraid of social media. Well, perhaps “afraid” is not the right word, but there is certainly a lot of intimidation around how to use social media correctly and effectively, without it becoming a huge time-suck with little to no positive return.

After all, almost everything we do to promote our business should have a documented benefit to our bottom line, right?

Maybe not. At least not directly.

Social media, if done right, doesn’t always have a directly-correlated impact on getting or keeping new customers.

However, that doesn’t mean its role isn’t hugely vital in both of those areas either.

The mistake a lot of businesses make regarding social media starts with little-to-no understanding of how it should be used, or incorporated, in a marketing strategy. Many throw up a basic profile on whatever platform(s) they have decided to use and then start sending out marketing and sales messages. Consequently, they probably chase away more potential customers than they draw in to their company.

Did you notice that wording? Let’s repeat it. “They probably chase away more potential customers than they draw in to their company.” DRAW IN…

If that isn’t how the business is using social media – to attract customers to their website or some other place where they can then, and only there, “convert” them – they are missing the boat.

When a business uses social media “wrong,” the potential power of social media for businesses is being wasted.

Below are some of the biggest blunders many businesses make on social media. If you recognize the way you are using social media in any of these, it’s time to look at changing your approach and adopting a new strategy.

ONE: Don’t Make the Mistake of Thinking All Social Platforms Were Created Equal

There are MANY different social media platforms out there and only some are suitable for businesses. Of those, only a few should be used for different types of businesses. Then, those that are utilized should only be done so in a manner that works for the specific platform and that’s not going to be the same way for each one. All the social platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., were designed with a different purpose in mind.

Sure, they all give you the opportunity to become more acquainted with customers or potential customers. However, they call for different strategies when businesses use them. That’s why they each have become so successful — because they all provide the opportunity to achieve those goals, just in different ways. Consequently, when you try to use style and methodology across every platform you choose to use, you are not only missing the chance to maximize the platform the best way, you stand to turn customers and prospects off for good.

Thus, it’s vital you take the time – and make the effort – to research the pros and cons of each social platform for business, including what experts say are the best strategies for maximum results. In this manner, you’ll get the best ROI for your social media efforts.

TWO: If You Think of Social Media as “MARKETING” in the Traditional Sense (Posting Only Sales and Marketing Messages of Constantly Talking About How Great Your Business Is), You ARE Wasting Time.

When a business doesn’t understand how to participate in social media the right way – or on each platform the right way – the result is often posting pure “marketing” and “sales” messages ALL THE TIME. This is bad, bad, bad.

Sure, it can be effective every now and then. On the whole, however, it does turn off more customers (and especially, potential customers) than it engages. Think about this — does it work for you?  Again, maybe once or twice. Yet, study after study has proven that directly marketing or selling on social media as a marketing strategy in your page / company profile does not work.

Now, that is not to say ads on social media are not effective. Interestingly, people do not mind true advertisements – that don’t try to masquerade as business engagement – as much as consistent pitches on the business or brand’s page or profile.

What does work as a social media strategy for business is creating and sharing content your customers and potential customers want – or even need – to read to help them solve some sort of “problem” in their lives. This could be a “problem” of missing something they need to make their lives easier, some challenge they are facing, or especially, something that solves a universal need for most people.

For example, maybe you decide to tape videos of happy customers after their purchase. Ask them what challenges led them to your business, then use those videos on your business YouTube page and Facebook. Others will likely recognize their issues in these video testimonials and those videos will “sell” your business for you without you having to do it overtly.

You could also ask your customers to take photos of themselves using your product (or after having used your product) and tag you on Facebook and Instagram. Their networks will see these photos as well. And since people often spend time in groups with their same interests (hence, often sharing the same needs and problems too), this opens up your product(s) or service(s) to prospects that are already likely “hot.” Again, without YOU having to market or sell directly. On Twitter, ask your customers to tweet you comments and questions.

If you focus your overall social media strategy on adding value through social interactions, you are halfway there. Strive to be so helpful and interesting that your fans/followers naturally make the effort to visit your website (or opt in to your mailing list) to learn more about you. That and a sincere effort to use each platform in the way it was intended, and you’ll be a social media winner.

THREE: You Dilute the Power of Social Media for Business By Purchasing “Likes,” “Followers,” or Worse—Reviews.

Many new – or even “new to social media” – businesses make the (BIG) mistake of thinking it’s a good idea to give their social media efforts a boost by purchasing fans, followers, likes, and reviews, etc. While there are some varying opinions on this, there is also a lot of data that shows there is little likelihood “purchasing social power” will ever produce new customers.

Website Magazine has a harsher message about “purchased social influence.” They say, “Your wall could end up with spam, little to no engagement and lower ‘talking about this’ numbers, according to research conducted by WAM Enterprises. As far as purchased reviews go, the market is growing smarter. If your reviews look over-the-top and your ratings seem suspiciously steep, customers will catch on and slam your brand. A bad rep once created can’t be undone.”

Contrastingly, however, some experts do say that when you have more fans, followers, and reviews, it adds validity, strength, and reach for your business. They believe that is where the benefit from purchased social influence comes from, and not from those purchased themselves. They say that when real potential customers see these things, they are more likely to want to do business with you. Similarly, they feel that current customers are more likely to leave reviews when there are already several there.

Really, the key to social media for business, boils down to authenticity and The Golden Rule. Genuinely attempt to add value to the lives of customers and potential customers through your social media efforts. Use social media to provide better customer service. Engage with your customers and share with them things they want to see. That’s where the Golden Rule comes into play. Always consider — what do you want to see and hear from companies you do business with and vice versa (what do you NOT want to see). Keep that in the forefront of your mind and you will come out much further ahead than you would have and definitely further ahead than most of your competition.