When being used casually, social media can and should be implemented in any way you want it to be. Social media is supposed to be fun, a form of self expression, and a medium with no limits.
If you're a casual user, it's okay if your profile picture is a cartoon drawing of Harry Potter or John Wayne. If you haven't posted an update in over two years. If you share five cat photos and seven Buzzfeed recipe videos per day.
But here's the thing: If you're looking to drive business results on social, there are rules you've got to follow to be successful and relevant.
Here are eight common social media mistakes to avoid that will make you look out of touch in the eyes of your audience:
1. Irrelevant hashtags.
Hashtags are meant to aid in the discovery of your content--so it makes no sense to include hashtags no one else would search for. The only exception would be if you're creating a campaign to popularize the hashtag you're using.
Stop using hashtags like #WalmartIsWhereIGoToGetMyCereal or #UncleBenIsMyFavorite or #MyBusinessIsSoAwesome. No one will ever search for or use them unless you've told them to.
Instead, use hashtags that will enable you to get discovered by other accounts similar to your own or your target audience.
2. Outdated photos.
If you've completely switched up your appearance since you last updated your profile photo, it's time for a change. Having pictures that are ten years old will make you come across as inauthentic to your audience.
Profile pictures are meant to show the true you. If you grew a beard two years ago and still have it to this day, let your profile picture represent that.
3. Automated DMs on Twitter.
It's difficult to think of anything more spammy than automated Twitter DMs sent to you after you follow another account.
2-3 years ago, this strategy was borderline genius. Today, more than ever before, people want to connect with other people. An automated message sent through an otherwise intimate medium is the exact opposite of the human interaction you seek as a consumer.
4. A lopsided follower/following ratio.
If you're a brand or an influencer, it doesn't look good when you're following ten times more people than are following you back.
While numbers aren't everything, remember that it's human nature for people to always look for shortcuts. One of those shortcuts is social proofing: Seeing a person who has 20,000 followers and is following only 200 indicates they must have something of value to share with their audience.
5. Corny word art or stock photography.
How many times have you scrolled through and seen a header photo for a blog post or a thumbnail for a YouTube video that looks like it was made in 1996? If you're active on social media, this probably happens to you every day.
Use this rule of thumb when it comes to selecting a stock photo: If it looks like it could be in a school textbook, don't use it.
If you just can't tell the difference, ask a friend or loved one you trust if the photo looks corny or not.
6. Your last post was a year ago.
This is fine to do if you're not invested in a certain platform. For example, if you are focused solely on LinkedIn, it doesn't matter that much if your last tweet was from two years ago.
Just remember, if you're going to do something on social media, do it right. Don't half ass anything or you'll risk appearing out of touch. If you're investing time into LinkedIn or any other platform, be sure to post and engage on a regular basis.
7. You force trending topics into your posts.
Nothing looks more cheesy and self-serving than brands trying to take every single trending hashtag and relate back to themselves.
Don't do it.
If you're a popsicle company, don't try and force "LeBron James" or "Kendrick Lamar" into every one of your Tweets just because they're both trending on Twitter (unless, of course, you can do so in an extremely clever, seamless way).
Never force the issue. If you do, you'll look unoriginal and just plan bad in the eyes of most viewers.
8. You post too much irrelevant content
If you're trying to build a presence online, your audience is following you for a very specific reason. If you're a fitness entrepreneur, chances are your audience looks to you for fitness advice -- not for ten-paragraph political monologues.
It's okay, even beneficial, to show another side of yourself every once in a while unrelated to your business. That being said, you should use these opportunities sparingly and focus on providing your audience with the content they came to you for in the first place.
Originally Published Jun 9, 2017 on Inc.com