The Byrne Blog

John Byrne Communicating About Communications

We all make silly mistakes.  We’re human, so we can be forgiven for them.  But sometimes silly mistakes make us look, well, silly.  And nowhere are little boo-boos more apparent than when it comes to social media.

Some are more egregious than others, obviously.  If you can avoid making them in the first place, though, why wouldn’t you.  Learn from others’ (including my) mistakes!

Here are five silly mistakes to avoid with social media:

Confusing “share” buttons with “follow” buttons
for social media on websites

There really is a difference.  Learn and remember it, because it’s really a biggie.  Easiest way to illustrate this is to give you examples.

First, say you’re on one of your favorite retail websites.  If you want to follow them on Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr, for example, to see their latest updates, then you would click on a “follow” button that usually takes you to their profile page on the social medium whose icon you clicked on.  You can then follow them, like them or whatever you want.

Now say that you found what will soon be your favorite scarf on the website, and you wanted all of your followers or friends to see it and admire it, too.  Then you would click on a “share” button that would (if you’re signed in properly on the browser) open a dialog box and allow you to tweet or share or post on your favorite social medium about the scarf.

If you prefer to think of it a different way:  “share” buttons broadcast your suggestions to others, while “follow” buttons allow others to broadcast to you when they have something they feel like sharing.  A simple distinction, really, but one that is often confused.  And you’d be amazed how many websites get it wrong (including more than a dozen of the largest law firms in America, as I reported last week).

Not leaving enough room for a proper retweet
or attribution on Twitter

Yes, you get 140 characters to say what you want to say on Twitter.  Except if you want others to repeat it to their followers, and maybe even comment on the retweet, leave some room.  At least as many as “RT” and the number of characters in your Twitter handle, plus one for a space, is the bare minimum of characters you should leave room for when you tweet.  So, for me, @johnmbyrne, that would be 14 characters, meaning my tweets should be 126 characters, max.  It’s tough to do sometimes, but it’s a good habit to learn.

Not acknowledging people’s comments as much as possible

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve now heard it a 100 times from social media gurus:  people like to know that they’ve been heard.  No one likes to be ignored.  Now, there are some differences of opinion on what you should or can do to acknowledge people who have taken the time to comment on your blog, or a post on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Most of the time, simply “liking” the comment might be enough.  A lot of times, simply a quick thank you or some other reply (like on a blog) might be a good thing.  The best practice, of course, is to reply with something substantive beyond a simple thanks.  I realize that this might be burdensome sometimes.  I think there are points for trying, and sometimes substantial compliance with this rule is sufficient.

But never liking or replying — in essence just being a one-way “publisher” — is not an option.  The essence of social media is the “social” part, as in interacting with those who have taken the time, however short, to acknowledge you.  You should return the favor as much as possible.

Not posting a picture with your profile on Twitter and/or LinkedIn

I’ve written here about the mistakes to avoid with your profile photo on LinkedIn.  Cheekiness aside, there’s no excuse for not posting a picture (and yes, your picture is best).  Looking at the “egg” on Twitter or a blank box on LinkedIn tells me (and, I assume, others) that you either have no idea what you’re doing on social media — and hey, it’s not that hard — or that you have no capacity to deal with details, in which case chances are that you are probably going to be difficult to interact with … But that’s just me.

Not being “social” on social media

I don’t really have a problem with “lurking” overall.  But social media was intended to be interactive, not just a one-way mirror into everyone else’s lives.  You don’t have to “like” everything you see (and you shouldn’t), and you don’t have to comment or reply to everything you read (and you really shouldn’t — it’s annoying).  But drop us a line every once in a while but posting something or responding to something.  Or share a link to something that you thought was interesting.  Maybe no one will notice what you’ve said or done, but not likely.

Social media can certainly be passive, but it’s so much more when it’s not.  I love journalism and most journalists, but one of the reasons I left the profession pretty early on in my work life is that I felt like I couldn’t ever have my own opinion.  Yeah, that’s a pretty quaint idea now, right?  Shows you how old I am, I guess.

In any event, social media in some ways is like the rebuilding of the town square, just virtually.  You can listen, sure, but things get better for everyone when all of us participate in one form or another.  You don’t have to do everything, on every medium, but you shouldn’t be invisible.  You’re missing out, otherwise.

*  *  *

So, what are some silly mistakes that you would tell people to avoid on websites and/or social media?  Share them in the comments, below!  And if I’m committing any of these, call me out on it!


4 thoughts on “Stop Making These 5 Silly Social Media Mistakes

  1. Bobbie says:

    Great post. Makes me realize how much WORK social media can be…

    1. Ann says:

      I second what Bobbie typed!

  2. I would be interested on your opinion of how lawyers should be social on social media, while supporting their brands and ethical guidelines.

    1. John Byrne says:

      Hi Donna! Funny you should mention that… planning to write a few blog posts on that very subject. There’s a lot to say. 🙂 Stay tuned? If you have a specific question, feel free to email offline at Hope you’re well!
      — John

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