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The 7 Deadly Sins of Social Media Marketing

Imagine you’re dropped from a plane and land on a foreign island with foreign people.

The first objective is simply to stay alive. To survive.

After that? Maybe you want to get the people on the island to trust you. You learn their language and do your best to respect their culture.

If you play your cards right, you begin to fit in and get comfortable. But you never want to get too comfortable. One slip up might have you in big trouble, and the last thing you want is to be a castaway.

A savvy business takes a careful approach into social media waters. Craft your strategy in just the right way, and you can end up with a legion of believers following your every move and promoting your products and services to others. Mess up, and…well…they don’t call them deadly sins for nothing.

You can definitely go a long way towards avoiding public wrath by understanding the seven deadly sins of social media marketing and doing everything you can to avoid them.

Deadly Sin #1: Talking too much

Or rather, posting too often.

Instagram users, for example, don’t like seeing photos from the same user over and over again. That includes you, brands! The same is also true on Facebook and Twitter. But the right number of posts per day can get fantastic engagement and can prove to be memorable.

Anthropologie is an example of a company with good balance. They post roughly two photos per day, while also taking time to like photos of their shoppers.

Anthropologie - Instagram

When you strike the right balance, your followers will be happy to see your photos (or tweets) and won’t tire of seeing pictures from your brand.

One way to solve this problem is to auto-schedule your tweets, shares, etc. Services like BufferHootsuite, and CoSchedule enable brands to auto-schedule sharing so posts get sent out at optimum times and so your followers don’t get inundated with too many posts at once. This is a great way to automate your sharing and to make sure you don’t overwhelm your followers.

Buffer App - Social Sharing


Deadly Sin #2: Not focusing on the customer

In 2011, research giant Porter Novelli conducted a pan-European study and found that…

“40% of UK social media users are “opportunists,” following brands out of self-interest for vouchers and competitions, and care more for “value” rather than “values.”

This helps to put your social media presence into perspective. Yes, followers are interested in relevant content, but they’re also interested in deals and special offers. Just because you don’t have the most interesting brand in the world doesn’t mean you can’t build an engaged social media audience by giving your customer’s what they want—coupons and competitions.

Deadly Sin #3: Not double checking before you post

Wait a minute! Did you double check to make sure you’re sending that tweet from the right account? Are you sure you know what that hashtag represents on Twitter?

Recently, Digiorno pizza really screwed up on Twitter. They used the hashtag #whyistayed You had pizza.” without knowing that hashtag was currently being used for what Tim Herrera at the Washington Post called “a resonant, emotive campaign to show support for women who stay in abusive relationships.”


Not only is it important to know in advance whether or not a hashtag is already in use, but some social media marketers have been fired for accidentally tweeting personal messages that were offensive through a corporate account.

These kinds of mistakes raise the stakes for businesses and social media marketers alike.

People will tolerate brands with average content. People will appreciate brands with great content. But say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and you’ll make the news in the wrong way.

Deadly Sin #4: Thinking every social media platform is the same

If you’re thinking that the same photo you used on Instagram works perfectly for Facebook, you could be very wrong.

Having a “one size fits all” mentality is a critical mistake and could cost you down the road.

Each social media platform is different. A savvy company takes the time to measure each platform and to find a good balance of what works on each.

Old Spice is an excellent example of a brand using different content for different social media platforms.

The innovative brand combines humorous statements and forum questions on Facebook such as, “If you could only take one book with you on a deserted island, what would it be? Keep in mind you would already have a bunch of video games and a TV in your island mansion.” Meanwhile they also create entertaining Youtube videos and engage celebrities like Super Bowl winning quarterback Drew Brees on Twitter.

4th and Touchdown

Keep in mind that every social network needs to be managed differently. What works on one will not necessarily work on the others.

In order to be successful with social media marketing, marketers need to be “fluent” in several different social networks so they know how to create content and interact on each.

 Deadly Sin #5: Failing to respond

When your social media users respond to your content, respond back! Even a simple showing of gratitude matters.

Remember, this is “social” media after all. Brands who simply post and fail to respond become a “billboard” and miss out on the social interaction that comes with social media platforms. Digiorno made an error with the aforementioned #whyistayed tweet, but to their credit, they went back and apologized, addressing every upset Twitter follower that lashed out in displeasure.

This is the right approach for businesses on social media. If you’re going to be active, then you need to respond to customers and interact. It’s not enough to just post content and to ignore customers when they respond or ask questions.


Deadly Sin #6: Not having a personality

Nobody likes interacting with a brand that’s too stodgy, and everyone knows when a brand is being too “brand-y.” Have some personality in those tweets!

Charmin does a fantastic job at this. They combine colorful pictures with humorous content that ties to their purpose. Charmin’s Twitter description for example reads, “We all go to the bathroom. Those who go with Charmin really enjoy the go!” It’s lighthearted, it’s humorous, and it lets your followers know you don’t take yourself too seriously, something customers all really appreciate.

Charmin Twitter Account

Deadly Sin #7: Getting too comfortable

The social media landscape is always changing. There are always new trends, cool hashtags, and great stories that circulate on the web. Platforms are more visual and the competition for creativity and engagement gets higher each day.

If you’re cruising along on autopilot, you can easily make a critical error or miss out on a new opportunity.

Not only is it necessary to keep up with the latest trends, but you also have to always keep your eyes open for new opportunities and for the latest social network that’s beginning to gain traction. It’s smart to only commit to social networks you can manage well, but you do want to stay on top of the latest trends so you can gain the maximum benefit for your business.


The defining philosophy for social media marketing is understanding that there are very few places to hide anymore. Customers are taking control of the way brands engage with their audience, and even call businesses out on social media when they have a problem.

The brands that are embracing this phenomenon are becoming one of the cool kids and are earning the respect of their customers. But every brand needs to remember the rules mentioned in this post to make sure they don’t fall behind or make a costly mistake.


Russel_Cooke 120X120Russel Cooke is a business consultant specializing in Customer Relationship Management. In his free time, he writes business-related articles, something he enjoys doing tremendously. You can follow Russel on Twitter @RusselCooke2.