Five Social Media Mistakes and Their Legal Consequences!

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/220099(accessed August 8, 2011)

The Story

Starr Hall writes an article for “Entrepreneur” magazine that discusses the biggest mistakes she has seen business owners make with social media and how to avoid them. In this blog, I comment and critique her suggestions which are:

1. Talking One-Way: She suggests engaging the audience in your social media by asking questions and tagging people in posts by using the “@” symbol for Twitter and Facebook.

2. Not Knowing When to Ask for Business: It is her experience that businesses don’t ask for any business in their posts and some ask for business too soon.

3. Having the Shiny Object Syndrome: She feels that business owners will often spend too much work time exploring the newest online gadget or site without devoting time to necessary work or administrative matters.

4. Poor Messaging: She has seen posts that have nothing to do with a company and are not strategic in their messaging.

5. Sales Faux Pas: Posting costs is inappropriate, Starr says. Instead, instead she suggests trying to share pros and cons about your industry and product and asking for feedback.

Lessons Learned

Starr Hall has the general premise correct: Your social media campaign must be as strategic and well thoughout out as any media campaign. You must have a targeted audience with a consistent and relevant targeted message that converts posts into “clicks” on your website and eventually sales. Anything less and you are wasting time on your social media campaign, which can be time consuming. So do it right!

From My Perspective

At Kendrick Law Practice (“KLP”) (www.kendricklaw.net), we have a strong social media campaign which includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, our website, our monthly e-newsletter and blogtalkradio.

Response to Starr Hall’s Recommendations:

  1. Talking One-Way: Starr is correct that social media should not be about “sell, sell, sell” but should be a dialogue with your audience, just like you would speak an old friend, so that you can build rapport and trust with your audience. HOWEVER, I disagree that you should tag friends in your posts. Not only is that annoying but it puts that particular person in an ackward position to respond. Instead, I suggest that you ask open ended questions (like the one at the end of this blog) that facilitate discussion. Legal Consequence: It’s a long shot but harrassment. The last thing you want to be accused of it’s making harrassing statements. So…tone down the selling and engage in more conversation.
  2. Not Knowing When to Ask for Business: That has never been a problem for KLP! I agree that business owners must realize that social media’s purpose is to create rapport and trust with  the audience but that the ultimate end objective is business creation. HOWEVER, I don’t believe there is a time that is too early to ask for a sale on social media at large (although this may be the case to an individual person). Ask for the sale or, as I call it, a “call to action”after EVERY post such as “Visit www.kendricklaw.net today for all your document drafting and reviewing needs.” Legal Consequence: Bankruptcy (because you have no or very little sales.)
  3. Shiny Object Syndrome: I know. It’s easier said than done. With the fast past of technology, business owners don’t want to be behind on the newest invention to reach out to potential clients or to make their lives easier. I agree with Starr that you must place a set time limit on exploring new technology, for example 1 hour a day in the morning before business hours. If you do this, you can have the best of both worlds: expanding your knowledge of technology and being productive throughout the day. Legal Consequence: Bankruptcy (because you have little or no sales) and utilizing and implementing the newest technology that hasn’t been properly vetted and tested and runs afoul of security breaches and laws.
  4. Poor Messaging: If I had a penny….This is an area that I TOTALLY agree with Starr.There are a lot of social media posts, especially if you have thousands of friends, so it’s important to grab the attention of as many people as possible. Making sure that you have a consistent, relevant message everytime you post is vital to creating rapport and trust with your audience. No one trusts a business that isn’t consistent and posts irrelevant information on their business. That being said, make sure you post consistently (daily, weekly, monthly, whatever) and make sure you post relevant information (For example, KLP never posts an article or blog unless it’s relevant to our business; we find a way to connect it back to our vision statement.) Legal Consequence: While there are no foreseeable legal consequences of this, it’s just BAD business decision-making and bad marketing.
  5. Sales Faux Pas: Blantantly putting costs on social media is not only tacky but can be a bad business move, especially for those in the service industry. Details of a particular clients’ situation that make the price higher than quoted on social media and beleive me…that client will hold you to your advertisement. Instead of quoting prices, KLP makes general statements such as “Obtain negotiating services at a fraction of the price of traditional law firms” or a better “call to action” would be “Call KLP NOW to get your FREE 15 minute phone consultation and price quote.” It’s about interacting more and more with your potential client and drawing them closer to an in person conversation. Legal Consequence: False Advertisement if a price is quoted and then subsequently changed. Georgia has some broad consumer protection laws against unfair business practices, one of which is “baiting and switching” so be careful of price quotes.

Discussion Question: What lessons have you learned about social media campaigning? Do you AGREE or DISAGREE with my assessment of Hill’s suggestions? Any other suggestions to add?

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