7 Critical Mistakes You're (Almost Certainly) Making On Social Media

By Alex Banayan

December 4, 2013

original article on FastCompany.com

If you are marketing on social media (and you should be) you are probably making some of these mistakes. Here's how to recognize and fix them—from the gospel of Gary Vaynerchuk.

Social media is just like … boxing?

That’s the latest gospel out of Gary Vaynerchuk, the two-time bestselling author and the man known to many as the king of social media.

book cover

In his latest book, he breaks down social media strategy into five simple words: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.

Or in other words: Give Value, Give Value, Give Value, Make Your Ask.

The book goes into detail on how to navigate the often confusing and overwhelming world of social media and Vaynerchuk sheds much-needed light on the mistakes many of us make every day. Here are seven of them:

1. You're Speaking The Wrong Language

You wouldn’t speak Spanish in Iceland and you shouldn’t post essays on Instagram.

Vaynerchuk says the best social content is “native” to each platform, meaning the content speaks the right language in the right place. The goal should be to seamlessly blend your message into each platform’s unique style.

For example, Tumblr “attracts the artsy crowd and supports animated GIFs,” whereas Twitter “speaks to an ironic, urban audience.”

What’s the native language of the platform you’re trying to speak on? Is it possible that you’ve been speaking Spanish in Iceland?

2. Your Advertising Strategy is Out of The ‘50s

Back in the glory days of television, you’d be watching Bonanza and the show would abruptly cut to the Marlboro Man trying to sell you cigarettes. During that era, that kind of marketing worked.

Today? Not to so much.

“Marketers are on social media to sell stuff,” Vaynerchuk says. “Consumers, however, are not … If you want to talk to people while they consume their entertainment, you have to be their entertainment.”

If users are on Instagram to see beautiful pictures, don’t interrupt their experience by posting a picture of a coupon. Instead, post a beautiful picture of your product in a picturesque setting.

Are you interrupting the flow of entertainment or are you being the entertainment?

3. You’re All “Right Hook”

Vaynerchuk argues that customers appreciate brands that “Jab” often—that put out great content without explicitly making a sales pitch. The brand is sharing a moment, creating an emotional experience with each person.

Just like boxing, it’s the flurry of jabs that sets up the perfect right hook.

What’s your ratio of jabs to right hooks? If it’s not—Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, RIGHT HOOK—you’re doing something wrong.

4. You’re Trying to Create the Wave

Vaynerchuk says hashtags are like waves—and the best way to surf is to ride the wave, not create it.

“You’re not single-handedly getting a hashtag to trend on Twitter unless you’re the Biebs,” Vaynerchuk wrote on his blog. “On the flip side, your ability to pay attention to what’s going on and jump into it, over-indexing the performance of a normal tweet, is pretty consistent even for people who are somewhat average social media users.”

So how closely are you listening on Twitter and following what the population at large is talking about? Are you listening for the wave and jumping onto it or are you hopelessly kicking and splashing in the shallow end trying to create a wave of your own?

5. Your Tweets Are Invisible

In a recently published SlideShare, Vaynerchuk explains that many people are still making the mistake of starting tweets beginning with an “@”—which makes the tweet invisible on your follower’s stream unless they are following that other tagged handle as well.

If you insist on starting a tweet with tagging another account, put a period in front of the “@” so the tweet is visible to all of your followers.

6. You Think Snapchat Is a Fad

Maybe it is, but can you afford to ignore a social platform whose users send 400 million messages per day? With a core audience between the ages of 13 and 25, Snapchat has taken a foothold in the way the next generation shares and communicates.

Sure, it is harder for a brand to venture into uncharted territory, but it’s those who head out to sea first that catch the biggest fish.

Are you playing it safe and waiting for others to test the waters on these emerging platforms or are you rolling your pant-legs up and running into the water yourself?

7. You Think You’re Don Draper

“Forget Mad Men, and f*ck Don Draper,” Vaynerchuk writes. “He lived in an easy world where … you could spend your whole career working to figure out how the print and television markets worked. This world, the one you and I live in, evolves every second, every day.”

If you’re going to spend time telling your brand’s story on social media (which you should) and if you’re going to use that engagement to convert sales (which you will), then you need to accept the fact that this is not a slow-man’s game. This is a game of micro-content, of moments, of riding waves and kicking the Marlboro Man to the curb.

Are you willing to stay up to speed and stay current with each new turn in the social media street race? There will be bumps, sharp rights, and many unexpected accelerations—but as long as you have the desire to play the game and you put in the effort—you’ve got a solid chance at winning.

—Alex Banayan is an associate at San Francisco-based venture capital firm Alsop Louie Partners and the author of a highly anticipated business book being released by Crown Publishers (Penguin Random House, Inc.). For more, sign-up for Alex Banayan’s inner-circle email newsletter here.