Common Mistakes Made by Businesses Online and How to Avoid Them

Updated on June 11, 2020
Inter Jonny Wills profile image

Jonny has been a B2B journalist and editor and is currently a website developer while co-running a business networking organization.

Don't Forget Your Community

Here's the first mistake I see too often with businesses: They think they can take on the world. This may be true, I'm not trying to dash your dreams. The thing is, if you run a local business, you need to start by keeping your audience focus near and niche. Your community has to be the priority. Of course, keep the door open to global sales, but for the sake of footfall and local reputation—and therefore sustainability—you've got to be in touch with those around you.

For support and good, immediate recommendations try local forums but realise users are after cheap deals, free stuff and 'down the road' assistance. Perhaps you can offer that lift or walk that dog on the way to what you do, posting, Instagramming and tweeting as you go. You can build a business page for sure, but on sites like Gumtree or FridayAd (UK second-hand bargain sites) you will have pay to post to their guaranteed local (random) audience, as though it's an advert.

Local Optimisation Is a Priority

Service your local area. Work outwards in circles you can manage for a great reputation
Service your local area. Work outwards in circles you can manage for a great reputation

Don't Mess With the Design

Keep your pics and branding consistent with design and quality. Here's a cheat sheet. Personally, I'm not averse to home-made clip-art because many equate it with saving money; but don't forget it will make you look cheap and attract only those annoying busybodies looking for a bargain.

Do try and keep things smart and listen to designers or printers that advise you improve the resolution or imagery. Also, don't do the graphics yourself and then expect professionals to respect you if you don't know what you're doing. It takes years of experience and skill to train the artistic eye and understand the true workload of quality work that will make your brand and marketing reflected in their best possible light. They know the difference between a brand colour that works and a colour we've loved since childhood that puts off customers.

If You're Not a Designer, Don't Touch It

Graphic design takes skill and experience worth paying for to save time and mistakes
Graphic design takes skill and experience worth paying for to save time and mistakes

Don't Take it Personally

You may feel your passion and business are inextricably entwined. That's nice. Give yourself a break and just don't be anti-social media with your behaviour. Don't let any kind of feedback—or you—rule your business out of getting to know and learning from anyone from associates to trollers and getting to know what you can provide.

Don't lose heart or get frustrated that you can't sell direct, or feel that people don't get what you're about. Yes, it may seem like networks and media have you over a barrel, but so much of it is as good as another free advert, especially if you play nicely. Ultimately, multiple platforms (or many shop fronts) mean that you can select and target ad infinitum to remind your audience you're there for them and always will be.

Don't Be Inappropriate

Within any post, blog, tweet or upload don't be out of your best business character. Meanwhile, within the site don't be out of social media etiquette.

Let's use an extreme example to show you what I mean: If the network site is the alternative lifestyle Fetlife (for two million+ kinky users) and you make and distribute condoms you still can't wade in with:

  • a (non-consensual) hard sell
  • an insensitive, presumptive biased opinion
  • cold price-lists

...just because the network is 'out there', not in your experience, or you believe the site-users are too 'broad-minded'.

Instead, an indirect, supportive approach is better: you may consider responding to condom-related posts, buying a pay-per-click ad campaign (for ads along the sidebar) or announcing an event, offering individual help or general advice.

Stay in Business Character and House Style

Stay friendly, courteous and professional and marry it with expertise and consistency of style
Stay friendly, courteous and professional and marry it with expertise and consistency of style

Don't Kill the Buzz

Being appropriate takes an awareness of the platform: Conversely, such delicate, untargeted info about the condom products we discussed above may not be welcome on many regular social media sites.

Posting or running campaigns has to be about setting the right tone or stirring up a buzz because you know what will be accepted or desired.

Wherever you are responding or reacting the trick then with feedback is to always be polite, informed and the 'expert' with your message. And again, stay consistent once you've decided on a reply policy to a common complaint. But bear in mind to adapt or go with the flow: social media can be an excellent barometer of cutting edge public opinion and cultural change. This means understanding when to be impartial and when to ride popular trends related to your offering. This may even mean accepting bad publicity and going with an apology or a self-deprecating joke, so turning it around.

Don't Confuse Stats With Data

Data helps you see how well you're doing. Statistics are often arbitrary figures pulled out to tell a story. You want stats? For social networking sites here you go. Just because a site has lots of users, does it mean it's profitable or fashionable?

The main thing to appreciate is that you only need a small number of interactions compared to these country-sized platforms, and we're talking way past-the-decimal point percentages. Once you have appreciated the focus analyse the data in the back-end of your social media pages and work out:

  • Who your target audience is: The demographics
  • If these people match your intended targets and consolidate accordingly
  • Why they are your audience: What makes them use both your services and the network site
  • Where they are and how they heard about your services
  • What made them click from the SM site to your website
  • What made these now 'tracked' SM users buy

Use Data to Help You Progress, Not Just to Impress

Wherever the clicks may come from practice your analytics to convert site visits to sales
Wherever the clicks may come from practice your analytics to convert site visits to sales

Don't Overreach for Your Target

So you think one billion people will like your service or product? An ad campaign with a network site like Facebook can be set to budget and help you aim for local customs and demographics. More importantly, this will keep your campaign aim manageable, realistic and reachable.

Even more importantly it will force you to sit down and work out who needs you most and why to inform how you are going to write ads and supportive 'promotional' profiles, posts, blogs, videos, free advice and tweets.

It sounds like a lot of work, but it's not as much as you think, it's more about quality than quantity.

Work out how many sites you want to manage. Two or three attended to once or twice a week is better than a dozen half-dead accounts. Plan a number you want to reach and adjust as you go, according to your target audience for each online social environment.

Once you have established where your SM followers who buy are coming from then look after them, making fans into big advocates and by offering them bespoke incentives and including them in your decision process. Why? Because they may know more than you and have profitable suggestions you hadn't thought about.

Keep Tabs With Social Network Innovations

Social media networks survive on new revenue streams from the users they've facilitated
Social media networks survive on new revenue streams from the users they've facilitated

Don't Forget a Social Network Is in Business

Note that the big social networking names are all vying to accumulate their knowledge and mix or consolidate platforms for better service and back-end financial return, mostly they work together well, but occasionally their formats, links or delivery of the original content clashes.

For you it's important to remember that social networks are in business too, so a keen eye on any of their news and developments will keep you ahead of the curve or stop you being led down a blind alley. You only have to think of Snapchat losing millions because they made changes or MySpace when it clogged up their pages with too many ads and moving parts.

Facebook gathers personal data and sells (your) ads based on searches of collected details; while Google, collects general data for organic and paid searches (of your listings) and cross-reference to say, map and image services. To gain more sway Google+ was launched in 2015 to try and capitalise on social networking. Reviews are mixed about the success of this endeavour, but it still has 400million+ users. My feeling is that it will move away from social networking and focus on business, media or both.

We Respond to Visual Content Better

The difference between authentic content and stock pictures: Which would you trust, so eat?
The difference between authentic content and stock pictures: Which would you trust, so eat?

Don't Forget to Make the Most of Your Content

Note that many new media sites can be automatically linked to other networks or social media brands using logo links or widgets.

As an addendum, it's important you are reminded to make the most of your content when you tweet, post, blog etc. This means at the very least:

  • Linking it within your network with hashtags and links
  • Staying consistent and quality-led (and proofed!)
  • Using a current or seasonal trend as a lynchpin
  • Being visual and using authentic pictures and videos where possible
  • Highlighting why the content is of interest to people
  • Not selling directly unless the offer is incredible and rare
  • Using content that loads quickly, clickable and works on phones
  • Sending to advocates or tagging influencers (with more followers)
  • Commenting on related posts or forums with a link back to yours

Good luck and enjoy building your reputation, don't forget it's largely free to do most of this and can only benefit your ambitions. Keep targeting and looking after your audience and the rest will, literally, follow.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Jonny Wills


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