Before I became a copywriter for a web-marketing agency, I once ran social media for a great B2B company. As a recent college grad, I was tasked with creating and executing a social media strategy. At that point, I had some ideas I knew could work, but executing is more than just having ideas. As this was a smaller company with almost no existing social media presence, I had more social media knowledge than anyone else in the company, even as a recent grad. I was the social media presence.

That may sound great, until you realize that when you’re the social media presence, you need to educate everyone else about social media, earn buy-in for everything, and prove value at every turn. That’s a tall task, especially if you’re learning social media yourself. And let’s face it, social changes every day, so even the most expert social media professionals learn every day. Truthfully, social media may not make sense for some companies. Investing too much time into social is a pitfall in itself, and while social media can yield real results for most companies, we don’t recommend that every single company out there set up a Twitter account.

With that situation in mind, we’ve put these tips here for you. This post will help you prove value and earn buy-in, make a plan that’s simple and executable, and get up to speed on social media. This is the article I wish I had read when I was my company’s social media presence.

The unlucky 13 social media pitfalls

Here’s what not to do in B2B social media. The common theme here is define success the right way so you can prove value and earn respect. Stay focused on your company’s bottom line and don’t slow yourself down with unnecessary distractions.

1. Don’t assume you know what you’re doing.

Just having your own Facebook and LinkedIn accounts for years doesn’t make you an expert in social media marketing for B2B companies. And even if you are an expert, stay humble and read — a lot. Instead of leaning solely on your own knowledge, be a sponge and constantly soak up all the relevant information you can. We’ve reviewed a number of  books that would make great additions to your reading list, and we’ve created a number of guides in our resources section that we think you’ll find useful. We also recommend blogs such as Marketing Profs, Hubspot and Social Media B2B.

2. Don’t hang yourself on social media.

Unless you’ve been brought in specifically to handle social media and only social media, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. You’ll be effective at generating leads and make yourself valuable to your company by posting great content on your company blog and concentrating on excellent email marketing. Don’t focus all of your energy on Facebook Statuses, Tweets or even LinkedIn Posts. Spend far, far more of your time on blogging and email marketing.

3. Don’t ask for a social media budget till you prove value.

Odds are, if you’re reading this post, you either have a limited or nonexistent social media budget. If your boss is already paying you to do it, he probably thinks you are his budget. Prove your value and the value of web marketing before you ask for a social media marketing budget. I know, I know. Really succeeding on social can require a budget, but you can get results without one. This isn’t the first place to spend, and it’s not the first place where you should try to persuade your boss to spend.

4. Don’t send your bosses a super lengthy strategy document.

They have limited time. When you have a plan, make them a short presentation — in PowerPoint or Keynote; they probably don’t use Prezi. Yes, in your research, you may find it useful to write a long document for yourself, but you probably get less access to the decision makers than their mailman gets. I made the mistake of passing on a social media research report, and it slowed down the process considerably. Instead, make your managers an easy-to-absorb presentation and make your information straightforward and instantly understandable.

5. Don’t waste days or weeks making the perfect social media policy.

Yes, it’s possible that your boss will want you to make one because other people may use social media in the company’s name. Yes, it’s important to have guidelines, especially if you work in a regulated industry. But if you follow this 8-word social media policy, you’ll be on the right track. If you truly need to show your managers a lengthy document, tweak some existing ones.

6. Don’t come off like a cheerleader for social media.

As a marketer at a B2B company, your main goal is to increase sales through your marketing efforts. One sale or large purchase order will likely more than cover any time or material costs you incur on social media or web marketing. You want to prove value by providing leads to the sales guys in your company and helping them out. You don’t want to alienate them by putting yourself at odds with them.

Unfortunately, a lot of inside sales guys and corporate executives perceive social media marketers as cheerleaders for Twitter and Facebook. They think you play around online looking at pictures of puppies. While I love puppies as much as the next guy — how could anyone not? — that’s not what I do! I help Gorilla and Gorilla’s clients reach people who become contacts, customers and clients. As Kipp Bodnar and Jeffrey Cohen, authors of The Social Media B2B Book put it, your blood should be boiling when people regard you as a mere cheerleader for Facebook. We don’t blab away about how cool we are for working on social media; we get stuff done.

7. Don’t try to use every social media network.

When you physically embody your company’s social media presence, and you have to prove value to earn buy-in from decision makers, you need results — now. It’s a lot easier to succeed if you focus on one or two social networks than it is to succeed on seven different platforms at the same time. Pick only the ones that are relevant to your business. LinkedIn generates more B2B leads than all of the other social networks combined. Engagement on Google Plus correlates directly to your website’s search rankings. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Slideshare, and Vine can probably take a back seat, at least for now.

8. Don’t let a total lack of content stop you.

Content from your blog gives you that all-important stepping stone to your website, where you will capture email addresses. It’s true, email marketing pays off your social media marketing, web marketing and blogging. But, amazingly, you can grow your reach and build relevant social media contacts by sharing other people’s content. You can increase reach even if you have an utter, total and complete lack of content, and your company has a highly bureaucratic process for publishing anything on your company website.

Yes, if you can Post and Tweet your own great content, you can bring people back to your site and capture email addresses, and that’s where we recommend you start. But even if you have great content, you still want to follow the 10-4-1 rule on Twitter: 10 shares of other people’s relevant content per four shares of your content and one share of your landing pages. Social media is all about making the most of your resources, so make the most of the vast ocean that is the Internet. Share other people’s content when you don’t have your own to share. Just make sure that content is relevant to your audience, and if you can actually build a relationship with other content creators, they may share your great content when you post it.

9. Don’t brag to your bosses in jargon.

You’re wasting your time if you make reports about Klout scores, Favorites, Likes, RePins and ReTweets. Yes, these are all important measures of influence and engagement, but your bosses probably care more about leads. To generate leads and sales, you have to reach a specific, targeted audience of your prospective clients and customers. Show your managers how you reach potential clients or customers and reach people who spread your message or refer you to clients or customers. Don’t speak a foreign language to them about ReTweets, RePins, Shares, Likes and Mentions.

10. Don’t get legal involved.

This is more of a concern that your boss is likely to have, but don’t bog down your social media posts by involving lawyers. Some traditional companies new to social media will actually have their legal departments review every single social media post. Lawyers charge expensive rates, they don’t care about your social media success and most of them know next to nothing about social media marketing.

If your managers tell you they want lawyers to review your social media posts, or even blog posts, make sure they know lawyers will make your efforts ineffective and far more expensive. If you face this obstacle, try presenting a solid social media policy to assuage their concerns.

11. Don’t create multiple accounts on one social media platform.

You’ll have a tough enough time building up one social media account, so don’t render yourself ineffective by diluting your efforts. Instead of making a separate Facebook Page for your various products and services, build up one Company Facebook Page that features all of them. The same goes for Twitter, LinkedIn and all the other networks.

Unless you’re at a huge company with a massively diverse product and service offering, think GE for instance, you’re not going to crank out so much content that it makes sense to have multiple branded Twitter accounts. You have limited content. Unify it all behind one account to give it more power.

12. Don’t design custom covers unless you’re a designer.

I realize Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter all allow you to add awesome, custom designed photos and art for truly kick-ass business pages. But, if you’re not a designer, it’s a massive time suck with little reward. To start out, you probably have yourself, no budget, and most likely, limited graphic design skills. Pick company photos, crop them to the right size using Cut My Pic, and upload them to your company pages. Keep your pages all unpublished, and ask for one, single review to get them live.

13. Don’t just ReTweet, don’t just sell and don’t post about every topic on earth.

This bullet briefly covers what to post about, and you’ve heard a lot of this before, so we’ll keep it as simple as possible (our form of ASAP). If you use Twitter, just pressing that ReTweet button is lazy! You share no opinions, no insights and none of yourself. It is highly important to ReTweet others, but do it the right way. The same idea applies to posting links on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google Plus. You want to share some form of valuable analysis. You’re not at a news organization that shares purely news updates; you’re at a company whose social media value lies in its expertise.

Share that expertise in a way that genuinely helps and interests your target audience. Social media is all about a two-way conversation where you connect with real people. Don’t make every post about selling something; instead share your opinions and analysis on issues, news and trends that relate to your industry. Share how-to information that helps people in your target audience do their jobs. Your Twitter account and other social media accounts should sound like a real person, not an academic white paper.

Blah blah blah. Lots of articles out there will help you establish your brand voice on social media, and you can read a lot of this stuff on Facebook’s Get Started page. Last but not least, don’t post about every topic under the sun. Find out what information your audience wants and give it to them, that way you stay focused and get results.

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