If you are like 99% of businesses out there who know they need to do something on social media but have no idea where to start. Here’s a quick guide on what NOT to do. I’ve made most, if not all of these mistakes in the past so don’t worry if you have already made them because virtually every other business has too at one point or another.

  1. No clear objectives. I recently visited a Facebook page for a shared workspace business. They posted content every day about things going on in the area such as parades, concerts and Holidays. The highest number of likes I was able to see was 2 on any given post. I wondered how much time they were devoting to the creation of the content and why they were doing it at all. Even if someone engaged with the content, I’m not sure how it would help the business in any way. If your social strategy is not tied to a business goal with measurable success, then it’s a complete waste of time.
  2. Braggart! Have you ever been to a site that has nothing but press releases exclaiming how great they are, how big, all the problems they solved or awards won? It doesn’t feel very authentic or approachable. Without authenticity you are very likely to be overlooked and you may as well be purchasing an advertisement which will also be ignored by most of people who see it. Rather than talking about the award, talk about the struggles you faced or how the team helped in winning it. It’s far more interesting, makes you more approachable and will ultimately get you a higher engagement rate.
  3. No advertising budget. If you are going to spend the time, energy and resources to create content for your social media then you should certainly put some budget behind promoting it. I’ve seen time and time again where someone nails the content but very few people actually see it. Even a minimum $1/day budget to boost a post every day on Facebook will only cost you $30/mo. I would recommend putting a budget equal to the cost of producing the content. You will reach thousands or even hundreds of thousands of potential customers if you put even a minimal budget here.
  4. You left me hanging bro. If you have great content, put a budget behind it, get a lot of great engagement but never respond to it then you have missed a tremendous opportunity. The purpose of “SOCIAL” media is to scale the number of relationships you have. Imagine starting a conversation with someone on the street “Hey hello, how are you?” They respond “Doing great, how are you?”, and you never respond back. That’s essentially what you are doing online when you don’t respond to comments.
  5. Link to the Website generates an error. Yep, I’ve seen it more often than you might think. Check all of your links in the “About” page of all of your social profiles to make sure they go to your website without an error. Check your phone numbers while you’re at it.
  6. Buy Now! Have you ever had a friend who joined Amway or some other multi-tiered marketing program and they won’t shut up about it? That’s how you sound on social media when you only post ads. Use a buy post sparingly and only when there is truly a great deal.
  7. Finger in the Dike. I get asked all the time about how I can help a client remove bad reviews or block angry customers. I have one answer… It won’t work. Even if you successfully block the customer from your page, they can still post on their own page and share with all of their friends. If you successfully spam Google search to remove bad reviews from showing up when someone types in your company name, they will continue to post on other social channels. There’s no way out but to confront the bad or angry customers head-on and publicly. If a potential customer can see you responding and offering up a solution to every bad review, it can actually work in your favor. There will always be trolls and there’s no stopping them, just give them a polite and respectful response and let the chips fall where they may.
  8. Too many memes, not enough substance. Memes get a lot of attention, engagement and comments, but often times the user only remembers the meme and not the business posting it. It’s certainly OK to send out a few which validate your philosophy or message but sending out a business quote every day gets a little old and I question the business purpose. Instead, mix in relevant content which elicits an engagement such as “read more”, “download now” or “click for more info”. The goal should be to move someone from the top of the funnel down and memes generally don’t move a prospect any closer to a sale.
  9. Politics kill just about any conversation. I try not to talk politics with friends or family, unless of course I am ready to go home. It’s a sore topic for many especially in today’s climate. More importantly there are very few business cases where politics will actually move a prospect closer to a sale unless of course you are a politician in which case this makes a lot of sense.
  10. Consistency wins. I’ve seen countless pages where the owner will post a bunch of content for a short period of time, go AWOL for a few months then try to pick back up again. Most of the social channels have algorithms which track how often you are posting and the people who post more consistently tend to get more visibility. Choose a posting schedule you can keep up with for the long-haul. Don’t try to post multiple times per day unless you can keep that pace up.

This is one of the most common questions I get asked, especially when signing up a new client. Although I don’t have a clear cut and easy answer, I have put together a framework to help you determine an appropriate budget for your business:

1. Sustainability

The number one rule of thumb is that you have consistency in your digital presence. AdWords and Facebook advertising platforms learn over time about your business objectives and optimize your campaigns from data collected over time. Typically, the more an ad is run, the better it can perform so if you have a highly fluctuating budget it becomes more difficult for these algorithms to adjust and too many changes too quickly to your campaigns can have negative consequences.

Digital advertising is more efficient than any other traditional form of advertising. Your ability to target specific people at specific points in time along with the reporting capabilities of how many people viewed, interacted or purchased your product or service means that YOU NEED TO HAVE A BUDGET here. If it’s not working, then your message, targeting, product or service needs to be evaluated, not the medium. The good news is that digital marketing can be easily adjusted. If something isn’t working, then make some changes once you have collected enough data to confirm it’s not working.

If you are new to digital ads, then you should think about what you can afford to spend even if your campaign has some rough patches. A common mistake by business owners is that they say “I will give you a try for a month and if it’s not working I will cancel.” Instead, they should be thinking that if it’s not working, let’s figure out why, make adjustments and continue forward. The digital landscape is in a continuous state of change and your campaigns should also be looked at, adjusted and tested continuously.

2. Measurement

A common mistake by many business owners is to try a bunch of tactics without clearly attaching a business goal. As an example: You may be thinking “I know I need to be on Facebook, all of my competitors are on it and I have no social presence.” So, you go out and hire someone to add content to your Facebook page which increases the activity on the page, but it’s not helping sales so you eventually see it as a place to cut expenses down the road. A better way to think of it is: “Relationships drive my sales. I need more relationships and Facbook is a good place to start them. I’m going to add content to attract my primary demographic and measure success based on how the relationships are progressing, i.e. are they engaging in the content, asking pointed questions or requesting more information?

Set the goal, put a budget behind it that is sustainable and measure success of the business goal!

If you are an ecommerce company, it can be very easy to measure a direct impact on sales, but if you offer a product or service with a long lead time between 1 and 18 months, then you will need to make sure that you can track leads past the marketing funnel and into the sales funnel. This is where a good CRM can help you view a sale going all the way back to the original marketing campaign that attracted them to you. Without this information you will never be able to know which channels are providing the most customers and opportunity for your business. If you can’t answer these questions, then you should be looking to upgrade your CRM:

  1. What is my conversion rate from lead to sale?
  2. What is the lifetime value of a client and who are my most profitable clients
  3. Who are my most productive sales people: what are their conversion rates from lead to sale, which sales people get me the most profitable clients?
  4. How much in advertising budget do I spend to get me a new sale on average and which campaigns drive the lowest cost per sale?

3. Profitability

Once your sustainable budget becomes profitable, then it’s time to begin thinking about increasing your budget. If you are an ecommerce company with visibility from top-of-funnel image and awareness down to the final sale, then it will be a much easier task than someone who sells a product or service with a long lead time.

Here are some different ways to look at the data and determine where you should increase or decrease budgets. This will get a little technical, so I recommend speaking to someone with experience or hiring an agency.

  1. Break out your campaigns into Top, Mid and Bottom Funnel first. Typically your social postings and boosts will fall under top, user engagement such as adding someone to your email list would be Mid and clear intent ads such as Google AdWords search ads will fall to the bottom of the funnel.
  2. Look at your stages of the funnel to get a cost per acquisition by dividing the total dollar spent by the number of sales you have (total sales, not just from digital ads) for any given month (use weekly if you have less than 1 year’s worth of data.) Add them into an excel spreadsheet and run a correlation function which will show you the correlation of the ad spend to the number of sales you are getting. A 1.0 result means that you have perfect correlation and that for every dollar in new ad spend would get you one new customer while a 0 means that it makes no difference how much you spend, it has no impact on your sales.

    For top-of-funnel, it can be a bit trickier since the lead cycle is longer so the correlation of the sale won’t match to the time period you placed the ad. In these cases, move the correlation out a month, two or however long your lead-cycle is to find the best correlation to the time period. The same can hold true for Mid-Funnel.

  3. It’s easy to find correlation with Bottom funnel and the data will always tell you to move more into this category if you are profitable, but look at the Top and Mid and if you see correlation here. If there is a correlation then run the correlation from spend to cost per sale instead of number of sales. This should tell you how much you would have to spend to drive the cost per sale down further. If profitable, then you will want to spend more here. If it’s not, then you should consider changing up your message or strategy.
  4. Make sure you have enough data to make decisions! If you are spending under $1k a month in digital ads, then it could take many months or years to fully determine if your strategy is working. Sample data sizes are too small to make clear determinations at this spending level but the exercise can still provide you some deeper insights or give you some very rough idea of what is working or not working.

Early in my career as a business owner I would try to take the emotion out of the firing process and hold team members accountable to key performance metrics. I was able to separate myself emotionally from the process which allowed me to sleep at night. I would justify to myself that the business had to make money and if someone is below the pack, then they didn’t have the motivation or skill set to fit the position and that they would be better off finding a place which would be a better fit and in many cases this was true but every now and then I would have someone who I knew worked hard, was willing to do anything for the company and still did not perform. This would mostly happen to people in the sales role where productivity is very easy to measure. At the time, my business offered private jet charter flights so we would track; how many flights and how much Revenue are you generating? I would have to hire 10 people to find 2 or 3 good ones, 2 or three mediocre and the rest would underperform and eventually be let go.

I didn’t have the problem to the same degree in customer service or fulfillment positions. I definitely had some bad hires, but I never had to let someone go who worked hard and had a good attitude. What was the difference? Why is sales so much more difficult than other positions?

Customer service positions were much easier to train for, we had very specific tasks which needed to be completed in any given day such as tracking a flight and keeping a client informed of various aspects of the trip. We had a great computer system to track each step of the process with date and time stamps making it very easy to hold someone accountable.

By contrast our sales function was much more chaotic. A sales team member was responsible for following up with an incoming lead and would attempt to get an RFP. When not taking an incoming call or working on a trip we would tell them to get on the phone and find more customers. We had some training in place to teach them what to say and how to overcome objections but for the most part left them to their own devices.

It wasn’t until I started taking personal responsibility for my own failures rather than pushing off the emotional baggage associated with laying someone off by blaming them. I began asking myself prior to letting someone go: “did I hire wrong or did I train wrong.”

This forced me to look hard at the differences between the successful sales people and those who were underperforming. What I found was that there was some correlation between motivation/attitude and sales, but there was also a “luck” factor and a correlation between the size of the network/relationships which would indicate how successful someone was. We could clearly see that the successful sales person had a large network of flyers who they would regularly speak with, who would give them referrals, bring them to events where there were other flyers and many considered the sales people as personal friends.

Once I had the blueprint of a successful sales person, I could begin to work backwards to figure out how I could help an unproductive sales person become successful and it all started with measuring KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) which would help me watch a progression towards success rather than just the end number “Revenue.”

In my case the KPI’s were around the number of relationships a sales person was working and this required a good CRM. At the time, there were not many affordable, off-the-shelf systems so I programmed my own which would track and assign leads to a given sales person. The history of all communication with them would be recorded so I could see the level of engagement for each prospective client and we would capture information such as how often they flew (how much potential they had), what competitors they were using (how much potential margin we could make) and how many flight requests we quoted (how far down the funnel are they.)

With the new CRM we were also able to track which advertising campaigns generated the most leads, most qualified leads and best customers. We used this information to better target our prospective customers and add them to the funnel process in a much more efficient manner.

We began to hold weekly sales meetings where the successful team members could share tips and techniques for specific sales situations and we could all brainstorm marketing messaging to further optimize our advertising campaigns.

The new process not only improved the efficiency of the entire team but also had additional benefits;

  • We were able to transfer leads to new sales people when someone would leave which dramatically improved the time it took to get a new sales person to profitability;
  • The overall mood of the team was dramatically improved since they always knew where they stood with me, what they needed to be working on and had a plan in place to be successful;
  • I no longer had to advertise for sales positions since we became known as the place that had so many successful sales people.

I certainly made plenty of mistakes after setting up this process. I hired and trained wrong in plenty of cases, but I slept a whole lot better knowing I was doing absolutely everything I could to do both right.