You're probably wasting your social media marketing budget... but you already knew that.


Last week, our strategist Emily gave a talk at Maine Social Media Breakfast on the common digital marketing mistakes that waste money. Here are some notes.


People are starting to see through the BS of vanity metrics that have helped mediocre social media strategies become the norm. New apps and trends are moving faster than most social strategists can keep up with. Yet, social is still one of the most effective ways of reaching a broad audience and one of the most cost effective ways of building a brand.

So how can you tell which tactics are working and which are wasting money? 

By thinking like a startup and taking on a lean approach to marketing, you can hone a social media strategy that tests everything and iterates on what works so your instagram will hum along like a finely tuned machine and you can focus on creating better content. But falling into outdated habits can kill your effectiveness.

Here are some of the most common ways you are wasting your money on social media.


MISTAKE ONE: Being a content optimist. 

When I first started in social media, we built "strategies" and "plans" that were glorified calendars outlining content with idealistic projections of 6 months of tweets and FB posts. They were designed to ease our bosses into new technologies and tell them exactly what was being posted and when.

Unfortunately, this outdated model for projecting social media content requires dozens of hours to build and organize, and becomes obsolete before it even gets approved. When the reality of busyness hits, the logistics of maintaining a strategy can be impossible. For those with the willpower to stick to a plan for months at a time, the content quickly becomes outdated and irrelevant.

Solution: Plan for the worst-case scenario. Build in as much automation as possible. And instead of creating content calendars, build repeatable workflows. Plan on testing each new idea, tweaking the process and then promoting and scaling with confidence.


MISTAKE TWO: Hiring the wrong person for the job.

Salaries are the biggest line item in your marketing budget. And hiring for social media can be next to impossible. There are no consistent metrics to gauge past success and there is no standard job title to help differentiate someone who has years of experience from someone who decided last week to become a "social media guru". And to make it worst, the people we ask for advice on hiring are often the people who are trying to sell us services.

If you ask a PR expert to recommend a marketing plan, they'll pitch PR. If you ask a graphic designer friend, they'll say you need a new website and brand update.

Be careful of self-proclaimed "social media experts" who are often generalists and lack the creative skills to deliver the core content needed to deliver a successful campaign. They may know how to build Facebook Ads, but they can't write blog posts, take photos or design graphics needed to even begin the process.

Solution: Hire an agnostic marketing consultant to give you direction and advice unique to your business. Make sure they don't have any skin in the game and hire them for a set cost, with set expectations and deliverables. Then hire an internal creative to do the ongoing work. Hire a journalist if blogging is your content focus, hire a photographer or designer if you have a visual brand. Most creatives can manage social networks easily and deliver badass content.

(FYI - We offer a 3-week Digital Marketing Bootcamp that gives you everything you need to launch a complete marketing plan)



MISTAKE THREE: Assume that people care about your brand.

We obsess about our own companies. It's our job to think about the exact pantone color in our logo and the minute details of our competitive advantage. While this is a necessity for building the best business model, it can sink a social media campaign. Too many businesses post content that is irrelevant to their customers. Even worst, many social media strategists recommend posting consistently just for the sake of posting to social media. While staying top of mind is important, posting high quality content always wins. If you don't have something interesting to say, don't say anything at all.

Too many businesses post about the weather, holidays, and pop culture, just to have something to post. This makes it easy for people to ignore important messages about your services or products and adds to the noise that is driving users mad.

Solution: Create content like nobody’s watching. Because they aren’t. And not just content that is valuable to you- it should be valuable to your customer. Before creating content, do market research to identify pain points and needs. Test everything and screen for BS that will turn off customers.



MISTAKE FOUR: Chasing trends. Doing what the big brands are doing.

When you look at the largest international brands and try to replicate their strategy to grow your small business, it's unlikely to have the same effect. Your business goals are drastically different. But it's tempting to see businesses succeeding on new platforms like Snapchat or podcasts and wonder if it would work for your business. 

There are new ideas and platforms coming out all the time. Trying to do too much spreads your effort and money thin across many platforms.

Walk before you run. If you are wondering whether something is right for your business, test it, Don't ask around. Just test it. Do extensive market research and when you finally find something that works, invest!

Solution: Test everything.  Use an 80/20 approach to social media budgeting - 80% should contribute to core strategy and ads, but set aside 20% for experimentation and testing.


MISTAKE FIVE: Expecting too much, too soon. 

Anxiety kills marketing campaigns.

So you've created awesome content and rolled out an amazing launch plan. Now you have to wait. It sucks. But it takes months of testing and tweaking a social campaign before it's truly effective. It's tempting to think a new campaign isn't successful because it doesn't have the clicks and impressions you expected.

Before dumping the strategy and starting over again - test it using AB testing or market research techniques. Take what you learn and apply it to the strategy. Like any agile software development process, the end product will be different than what you anticipated. And that's a good thing.

When you constantly change strategies and don't let campaigns evolve, you will spend more money on strategy than on execution. This will bring your social to a grinding halt and waste a ton of cash, time and effort. It will also wear out your staff and they will quickly become disheartened when none of their ideas are validated.

You should be bored with your content - your brand should annoy you, your tagline should seem old to you. Because it’s not old to the people who are seeing it for the first time. Remember that your consumers need repetition and consistency to build a relationship with your products and brand. 

Solution: repetition. Create great content once and tweak, iterative, elaborate and test for months. When you are happy with the results, put it on automate and build another piece of great content. 


Interested in talking about Social Media Marketing for your company? Check out our Infinity (3-week Digital Marketing Bootcamp) or email to learn about her agnostic opinions about what's right for your company. 

Share this post