Misuse of social media puts customers off

Small businesses that misuse social networking sites could be turning customers away and damaging their reputation, a business group has warned.

A Business Network International (BNI) survey that questioned around 1,000 SMEs found that three quarters of owners are 'fed-up' with social media sites that are overrun with sales messages.

Many businesses either bombard their followers with Tweets and Facebook posts or fail to use the sites at all.

BNI's national director Charlie Lawson admitted: "SMEs know they should market themselves through social media channels but are still far from understanding how the medium works best."

Research compiled in June this year found that social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have overtaken local directories as the primary tool for business marketing - with 36 per cent of businesses using them.

Both small and large businesses are increasingly shifting their marketing towards social media sites in order to create greater online visibility and attract new customers - the advantages of lower costs and the ability to target a large number of consumers instantaneously has seen its popularity grow rapidly.

However, according to Lawson, SMEs are using social media sites in three ineffective ways; by either not using social media at all, having various social media profiles and accounts but no regular content, or, at the other end of the scale, by bombarding their followers with promotional messages.

Talking to the Telegraph, he said that companies could be losing sales as a result of the lack of knowledge around social media.

BNI listed five of the main mistakes that small businesses make when using social media:

  1. 'Spamming' followers by posting the same sales messages sent out via email
  2. Posting a stream of info-heavy posts with little personality or interaction
  3. Failing to write a decent LinkedIn profile - the BNI says it is one of the largest 'people' search engines in the UK
  4. Engaging online only when there is an immediate sales opportunity
  5. Marketing to followers who simply want to chat