By Scott Gerber, mashable.com
There are a few glaring marketing faux pas that crop up everywhere, from newsletters to email campaigns, over and over again. But what could seem like a small social media offense to you could actually be costing your business thousands of dollars — a price most early-stage startups can't afford to pay.
To find out which marketing mistakes are truly embarrassing, I asked a panel of entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) for major marketing don'ts. Their answers are below:
1. Using a hashtag for everything
There's been a lot of hashtag blacklash (hash-lash?) that I've seen on the marketing end of either established brands or emerging startups. Try to make sure your hashtags aren't already being used, and try not to overcrowd your messages with hashes — it'll seem like you're a teenage girl tweeting out to the world. You wanna appear professional, yet engaging. So be strategic with your social media choices.
2. Not engaging with your customers on social media
It drives me nuts when brands post so many things about themselves yet don't respond in the comments when people ask for more information. If you have time to write the post, talk to your people. As clichéd as it is, social media is all about connections. Your page should be entertaining, educational and a resource of inspiration with your own unique brand voice. The benefit of doing this right is creating the perceived value of your company. Having a high perceived value is a great recruiting tool.
3. Buying followers to boost credibility
It's a sad paradox really. You create a Twitter profile for your startup, but have no following to start with. Not good for social proof right? So, you do what you've heard some brands are doing: You go out shopping and buy 1,000 to 10,000 Twitter followers for a few bucks. Problem solved! How's that for instant credibility! But wait, is there a catch? Of course there is. The followers you just bought are not real. If they are, chances are they are not in your target audience. But you know the worst part? What do you think happens to your credibility when people find out you've cheated your way to "social media stardom?" Or Twitter suddenly filters out the fake followers? Take this lesson to heart: Build real relationships from the start. You'll be glad you did.
4. B2C incongruence
I saw one local restaurant come and go because it catered to a younger demographic with graffiti-style art and over-the-top innuendos on its menu. Although the food was top notch, that avant-garde environment was inconsistent with the demographics of the area.
5. Waiting to "go viral"
Web traffic, video views and RTs do not all come organically. First, marketers need to create compelling content. Second, they need to promote it to a highly targeted audience that may begin snowballing by word-of-mouth. Startups do not always realize that engagement is earned, and that there's a lot of marketing that goes into even the most innocent of viral videos. If you want anything to start getting traction, make sure you do your part in making people aware that your content even exists.
6. Looking to a PR firm for a quick media fix
PR firms are way too expensive for most startups and you do not get enough bang for your buck. Back in the day when media was centralized, I could understand how a PR firm could be useful. But now? Don't think you should go with a PR firm because "they can get you in Tech Crunch." Focus and build relationships on your vertical. Provide value to the community when you can. An industry-specific blog with 2,000 daily readers can be more valuable than a widely read broad website. Focus on these things and be your own cheerleader (even create a pseudonym if you'd like).