The 7 Biggest, Counterintuitive Social Media Mistakes You May Be Making

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social media mistakesI’m pretty well known for making mistakes. It’s kind of a known trait of mine. Just this weekend I walked into a door because I didn’t open it properly first.

When it comes to social media, though, I try hard to learn from mistakes since they’re all saved for me to reflect on. Plus, I research and write about social media enough to have access to stats that make it easier to pick up and rectify these kind of mistakes.

The funny thing about some of the mistakes I looked at for this post is that the advice to avoid them is counterintuitive—sometimes even controversial. As we’ve seen before, though, counterintuitive advice is sometimes the best kind.

1. Losing out on traffic – Post the same thing multiple times

This is something that can be pretty controversial – a lot of people discourage re-posting links to the same content more than once. A good example of the controversy and why some tweeters continue to do it is Guy Kawasaki’s experience.

Guy is a big proponent of repeating your tweets, and has faced a lot of flack for it. After all, it doesn’t really make sense to send out the same thing multiple times… or does it?

Guy makes a good point that his followers probably aren’t reading his tweets at every moment of the day.

I repeat my tweets because I don’t assume that all my followers are reading me 24 x 7 x 365.

For Guy’s tweets that link to posts on his site, Holy Kaw, he repeats these four times, eight hours apart:

I picked eight hours because this means that even if the first tweet goes out at the worst times for traffic, one of the repeats will hit the best times… For example, a first tweet at 3:00 am Pacific then hits 11:00 am Pacific and 7:00 pm Pacific.

Guy also notes that he would lose out on traffic if he didn’t repeat his tweets, which is something we’ve examined before when looking at the best time to tweet:

I’ve examined the click-through patterns on repeat tweets, and each one gets about the same amount of traffic. If I tweeted stories only once, I would lose 75% of the traffic that I could get.

Here’s a typical example of the traffic from one of Guy’s tweets:

social media mistakes - guy graph

First post: 739 clicks

Second post: 718 clicks

Third post: 565 clicks

If I follow common wisdom, I would have tweeted it once and lost 1,200 clicks—that’s the bottom line.

This is something we do at Buffer as well. We use different headlines to test which one gets the best clicks for a particular post, and then we repeat the best one using Buffer to reach different timezones with the same content.

2. Using more tools than necessary – Don’t use all the tools available

As social media becomes a bigger part of our overall marketing strategies, more tools are becoming available to help us get the most out of our efforts. At first, it probably seems like a good idea to use as many tools as you can—after all, they all do different things.

In fact, this is probably a bad idea. It can divide your efforts so much that your whole strategy becomes diluted because you’re more focused on the tools you’re using that the results you’re aiming for.

Using just a couple of tools that actually improve your results and help you manage your strategy more effectively is a better option. Especially if we look at the latest social media statistics and the changes here, it becomes clear that less is more.

3. Measurement overwhelm – Don’t measure every social media metric you can

Social media marketing—like any marketing strategy—needs to prove its worth for us to keep spending money on it. We need to be able to point to solid results that show social media is working for us.

One of the biggest challenges in doing this is working out exactly what to measure. After all, there are so many different elements to measure, it can be hard to work out which ones are useful and which ones we’re looking at just because they’re easy to measure.

It’s important to realize why we’re looking at these metrics in the first place, so that we can choose the right metrics to focus on.

The only question we really need to answer is: Is social media worth it?

Working out what you should measure can take a few steps. Here are two to start with that can get you on the right path:

1. Define your goals
Once you know how social media marketing fits into your business’s overall objectives, you can work out what results you’re looking for. This gets you one step closer to choosing useful metrics to measure.

2. Choose a good metric
The difference between a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ metric really comes down to how useful it is to you. If you pick a metric that is hard to understand, or one that seems disconnected from the goals you’ve chosen, this can make it difficult to take action on the results you get. And if you’re not taking action, why are you measuring it in the first place?

This Marketing Land post offers some more advice on choosing metrics that are meaningful for your business, rather than measuring everything that’s available to you.

4. Publishing when no one’s online – Don’t publish your posts when you write them

I’ll finish writing around 1am and that’s a dumb time to Tweet because few people in the US are online. – Mark Suster

If anyone knows how much effort goes into creating a new piece of content, I’m one of them. I know how relieving it is to get something finished and finally share it with the world. Holding back when we’ve finished a great new post could actually be more useful for us, though.

The mistake with publishing as soon as we finish creating something new is that we’re not optimizing for our audience. Assuming that just because we’re online right now means our audience is online and open to consuming our content is an easy mistake to make.

A better approach would be to look at the best times for posting content online and work those into our strategies.

For instance, Facebook engagement is 18% higher on Thursdays and Fridays.

social media mistakes - thurs fri

For Twitter, on the other hand, weekends are the best for high click-through rates.

social media mistakes - tweet on weekends

Take into account the best times for each network before you publish your content. And if you have a Buffer account, you can pre-set your schedules to reflect those times so you don’t have to think about it each time you publish something new.

5. Filling up the character count – Say less

Twitter’s 140-character limit is well-known. Being such a small message-length, and one of the defining features of the service, this one has garnered a lot more attention than Facebook or Google+’s character limits. It’s probably the one we focus on more, as well, since we’re not generally used to making a point in so few words.

Focusing on character-counts or word-limits can have a negative effect, though, when we start to squeeze in as much as we can fit. However, shorter posts actually get more engagement, on average.

On Twitter, tweets of less than 100 characters get 17% more engagement. For tweets with links, 120–130 characters is the best range.

social media mistakes - tweet 120-130

On Facebook we can see a similar trend:

social media mistakes - fb short posts

Keeping your posts below 250 characters can get you 60% more engagement than you might otherwise see. You can even get up to 66% more engagement if you cut it down to less than 80 characters. Regarding Facebook statistics we’ve found that the above changes especially were quite recent so it’s easy to keep to the old patterns.

6. More hashtags, less content – Get back to basics

Hashtags can be difficult to get right, since they can be both helpful or a hindrance to your engagement levels, depending on how you use them. Hashtags let you group your tweet with others around a particular topic or event, and help you to make it clear what you’re talking about very quickly.

Using Twitter hashtags correctly can mean 2x engagement for your tweets, but going overboard is an easy mistake to make. Just 1 or 2 hashtags can get you 21% more engagement than if you use 3 or more, so the trick is keeping your hashtags to a minimum.

social media mistakes -  hashtags

7. Talking to the wrong people – Don’t publish your posts when it’s convenient for you

From what we talked about in #4, you might be thinking that optimizing your social media marketing based on statistics will lead to more engagement and save you from “talking to no one.” Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Knowing what the right headline for which audience is is something we’ve explored before, yet there are lots of factors to consider.

Since social media is still so new and hasn’t been studied much yet, it’s hard to find blanket statistics that hold true for all social media in all demographics, even as an average. Being aware of general statistics can be really helpful but it’s just as important (if not more so) to do your own testing to make sure your audience is online when you’re posting, rather than just anyone.

Here’s a good example:

social media mistakes - blogs at night

If more men read blogs at night than women, you’ll probably want to post earlier in the day if women are your target audience.

What other mistakes have you come across that we need to avoid? Let us know what you’ve noticed in the comments.

PS: For more insights on Social Media metrics and how to improve them, check out this post.

  • http://www.remarkableinterviews.com/ Leonardo Plebani

    Really cool post, as all yours Belle!

    Interesting the #5 “Say less” and it makes sense. In this fast world you don’t want to lose time reading long poststweets, so keep it short.

    Have a great day everybody!

    Leo

    • http://about.me/joeklemmer Joe Klemmer

      Also, specifically for Twitter, shorter posts are easier to retweet. It’s annoying to read something you know your followers would like but you have to spend 20 minutes rewording things to fit into 140 char.

      • Belle

        Great point, Joe. I often change my mind about retweeting something because it’s too long!

    • Belle

      Thanks Leo! Glad you enjoyed it :)

  • http://www.eBizROI.com Rick Noel, eBiz ROI, Inc.

    Awesome post, as always Belle Beth. #2 is a great one. As a friend of mine once said, businesses rarely die from starvation, but over eating which leads to lack of focus. Dine on a few good tools like Buffer :) and Followerwonk (user of both no other affiliation).

    Maybe a #8 is promoting only your own content. No one person or organization can know it all. We find the 80/20 rule works well in terms of 4 pieces of others content for everyone one of our own. I have seen successful users at extreme ends of this spectrum, but 80/20 is a great place to start. The challenge can be sometimes creating the 20% original, but your #1 can help with that.

    The one caveat with #1 is dated content is like dated food, even if somewhat evergreen, to some it still “won’t taste right.” Be careful with dates as even if you turn them off on posts, the comments still reflect and you don’t want your readers to feel they are always being served left-overs vs fresh content.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Belle

      Excellent points, Rick! I definitely agree with not promoting just your own content – that can get old, fast. Thanks for reading!

  • Sandy

    Great post, Belle Beth! Shorter posts are the best tip …easier to retweet. Thanks for sharing this.

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    • Belle

      Thanks, Sandy! I definitely agree about retweeting :)

  • Mel

    Been reading little pieces of this throughout the day. Data is everything.

  • rayfilwong

    fantastic information

  • Yarned Together

    I’ve wondered about re-posting the same posts (especially on Facebook) so they would actually be seen by more of my followers. Thanks for the clarification! :)

  • http://notdrinkingcoffee.com/ Lynn Long

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing. I’ll definitely be putting these to good use.

  • drkthng

    Hi belle. Great post as usual m(__)m . One thought though: I think no. 7 doesn’t really say a lot with the data provided, since we don’t know how the men/women ratio is for the rest of the day. What if men in general read more blogs? Would be nice to have the whole dataset.

  • http://davidglarson.com Dave Larson

    Nice, Belle. Hidden side of hashtags for folks trying to get the most out of social, is that many businesses and top influencers use tools that classify or brand people by their hashtags.

    E.g if you’re always tweeting about bacon, you need to be sure to sometimes also tweet about #bacon, so folks looking for good or influential bacon contacts can find you via tools influenced by hashtags.

    An example of how what you are known for influences who wants to connect with you is Klout perks. Companies offer freebies to people who are influential in different verticals. Not suggesting that perks matter, but simply an illustration of the effect of branding. :-)

    • Belle

      Great points, Dave! Thanks for weighing in here and adding some more context to how hashtags can be useful! :)

  • http://tobto.org/ seo freelancer

    Thanks a lot, Belle Beth! Beautiful thing about optimizing – it never ends!

  • Brandon Schaefer

    Rocking post and I love your profile picture.

    • Belle

      hehe thanks Brandon!

  • John Chapman

    I use Buffer to collect my more successful tweets and insert them into a spreadsheet. I then use an application to re-post them at random intervals. It takes about 10 days before I run out of tweets and start again. Periodically I randomise the list. I have about 3,000 tweets in my list to post – a collection made up of interesting items, quotes, pictures, videos, technology items, hints & tips, links to blog posts, humour, RTs of other’s posts and finally the all important promotion posts. Currently they make up 15% of my list but I’m trying to get it down to 12%.

    How often do I post from my list? – A random time between 1 and 15 minutes. That’s what experimentation shows has the greatest effect.

    I use Tweriod to find when most of my followers are online and schedule my Buffer posts accordingly. I can confirm that weekends are best but during the week 5:00-6:00pm then 7:00-9:00pm and 12:00am – 2:00am (UTC times) are best for me. Those times are when I’m most likely to use Twitter. My autotweeting allows me to catch those people who are not around during my peak times.

    I DON’T just autotweet. I’ll go out there and get involved.

    • http://www.FindYourSocialMeidaZen.com/ Yvonne Heimann

      John, what are you using to re-post?

  • http://writespeaksell.com jeannettepaladino

    My primary source of traffic comes from publishing my blog posts. My audience is both women and men. I post early in the morning, the thought being to capture those people who read early and then throughout the day and evening. I can’t republish a blog post more than once a day. What I hear you saying is to publish micro-posts to social media networks at strategic times during the day with a link to my post. Do you advise posting via Buffer 2-3 times a day and Buffer will then post at the optimum times for each social network?

    • Belle

      Hi Jeannette,

      Your Buffer schedule will post at whichever times you set it at. You might want to check out our Followerwonk integration: http://blog.bufferapp.com/optimal-best-time-to-tweet-followerwonk-buffer which can help you to find the optimal times to tweet based on your audience, and update your Buffer schedule with those times.

      Hope that helps!

      • http://writespeaksell.com jeannettepaladino

        I just looked at Followerwon. But doesn’t Buffer also schedule my posts at the optimum times if I simply hit the Buffer icon? Or, is your schedule for the mean posting time for all tweets?

        • Belle

          Ah, sorry for the confusion here! Yep, so Buffer lets you set whatever schedule you like, (whether that is optimal or not!) and when you hit the Buffer button, that post will publish in the next available time slot you have set up. Followerwonk actually helps you choose the best times to post and use those for your Buffer schedule.

  • http://www.progadgets.org/ ProGadgets

    I do agree…thanks for the lists.

  • Constantin Gavrilete

    Belle, great list! Especially #1 was very enlightening for me, so I decided to try that out to improve our metrics. As a Buffer newbie I wonder whether it is possible to resend buffered posts multiple times?

  • http://www.LizBarnett.me/ Liz Barnett

    Fabulous list! It turns out I have been doing a lot of things right by accident… and I have a few areas for improvement. Thank you for combining this info into one article.

  • http://www.FindYourSocialMeidaZen.com/ Yvonne Heimann

    Is there a way (or in planning) to say…repeat this post x times in and interval of y hours?
    Would be a great feature!

  • Lee Huy Lam

    This is a great post Belle! Regarding timing schedules for posting, I think new users should experiment a bit and see what’s suitable to them.

    They might attract an audience from the other side of the world!

    The 8 hour rotation is a bit controversial but does make sense! I wouldn’t encourage this for new users unless they are posting consistently throughout the day!

  • John Chapman

    Can’t say I agree with item 4.
    “I’ll finish writing around 1am and that’s a dumb time to Tweet because few people in the US are online. – Mark Suster”
    If Mark is in an EST zone his ’1am’ is 10pm in California, 6am in the UK, 6pm in Hawaii, 8am in South Africa, 11:30 in India and 2-5pm in Oceana. If Mark’s market is just in EST time zone then he’s right but not if he has a global market.

  • Nathan Brook

    Its good blog for me, I have not knowing all these ,simply i use to write a blog without thinking it is attractive or not.

  • salaamthebody

    Excellent analysis!