How to Use Social Media Incorrectly
Today, most businesses realize the importance of social media and that it can be a powerful marketing tool. Some companies do a great job, especially in the realm of customer service. Despite the many complaints I hear about Bright House (our Central Florida internet service provider), I've received excellent customer service via Twitter. They respond within the hour and I can tell it's an actual person communicating with me, not some automated response.
The other day I was meeting with the head of an IT company and spoke briefly about their social media offerings. I then preceded to ask what their Twitter handle was and followed right away. Their account had over 5,000 followers, and they were following slightly more than that. I always get suspicious when a company is following more people then follow them, smells like automated Twitter spam. Minutes later I received a follow back and a DM saying, "Thanks for the follow, let us know if we can help serve you in any way."
The auto-follow back was nice, and the automated DM I've seen before. Throughout the rest of the day, their account started regularly tweeting hourly, or twice hourly with links to blogs and articles having to do with social media, IT, etc. And the text accompanying these tweets were obviously not from a real-time human being. I'm all for scheduling tweets and posting links with meaningful content, but a completely automated account is grounds for an un-follow.
In addition, during my conversation with the company owner, he proceeded to show me some social media services they provide for churches and other businesses. I asked if it was a "Hoot Suite" style web app or equivalent? He said it's strictly for auto-management of your Twitter account. No Dashboard to manage or schedule tweets, no tools for responding to mentions, nothing. Just pay a monthly fee and forget about your Twitter account. It will manage itself.
Services and companies like these guys miss the point of social media entirely. Sure, you can get 1000s of followers, but if you're not actually engaging your audience in real time, who cares? I rather have 200 actual people following me that I can engage and hold meaningful conversation with, then over 10,000 mindless followers that I know nothing about. The best practices for social media include learning about your target audience (through engagement), responding to your followers with human interaction, and encourage brand loyalty.
A company that completely automates its social accounts is difficult to trust. I rather give my loyalty to a smaller company who truly cares about their followers and customers than a company who sees automation as the ideal social interaction. If you're a small business or entrepreneur struggling to understand and utilize social media, don't use services like this to automate your accounts. Follow some people and businesses using social media the right way and gleam what you can from them. I'm also reading a book called, Guerrilla Social Media Marketing by Jay Levinson. It's a great how-to for those of you new at social media, or for seasoned users that want to grow their skill in using tools like Twitter and Facebook effectively.