7 Deadly Sins of Social: What Your Brand Is Doing Wrong

04/29/2015 10:34 am ET | Updated Jun 29, 2015

When social media first emerged marketers raced to be the first to master the new channel. We piled on in droves looking for ways to monetize and optimize before knowing exactly what social media really was. In the years since, marketers have learned that social is really just another way to communicate with your customers and prospects. Yes, it offers unique tactics, metrics and style but the fundamental rules of engagement still apply. So without further adieu, here you are, the seven deadly sins of social:

1. Pride -- Being all about ME on social media.

Social media works because people love to talk. The opportunity to share advice, build relationships, and hear from your customers is now possible at an unprecedented speed and scale. But be wary of the deadly sin of pride -- talking too much about your brand, company, and products. Nobody likes a bragger, and it's exponentially more obnoxious when the boaster in question is a brand.

Of course, you're allowed to share information about your company and products. But it should be firmly outweighed by things you share that have nothing to do with you at all. A good rule of thumb is the 80/20 rule -- 20 percent can be promotional, but 80 percent should be content that is helpful, interesting, and relevant to your customers, without mentioning your business or brand.

2. Greed -- Taking more than you give

Many marketers who have been disappointed in the results of social feel that way because they violated the golden rule -- always give more value than you seek. Yes, there is tremendous opportunity in social to extend your audience, build relationships, and gain insights. But in order for this to work you have to first prove your value as an altruistic purveyor of helpful information.

Not sure how to create value for your customers on social? Share tips, tricks, and secrets to help them do their job better. Offer discounts, insider information, or early access. You can even provide access to people high up in the company, via TweetChats or other conversation platforms. They key is to share something here that matters to them. Then and only then will your social media following return the favor and provide value to you in the form of increased eyeballs and investments.

3. Gluttony -- Filling your feed with junk

If you are what you eat, your brand is what it posts. This third deadly sin ensures one of the fastest ways to tank your social media strategy -- gluttonous posting of things that are irrelevant and uninteresting to your audience (save your cat videos for your personal list). The secret to a strong social media presence is a regular stream of content that is well tailored for your audience. This requires that you post judiciously, and don't stuff your streams with online content Kit Kats.

Posting good content requires understanding your audience and what they care about. If you work for a security company and are constantly posting about Kim Kardashian's new hair color, you're probably not going to resonate with your audience (at least I hope not). One way to get some quick insight into who you should be targeting is by talking to your Sales team. Which leads are they most excited to get? What are the most common objections they hear? What resonates with prospects? You can also send out a survey to your database or analyze recently closed deal data.

4. Sloth -- Neglecting your social streams

Lazy, irregular posting will not create a strong social presence for any brand. A key piece of building a strong following is developing a dependable cadence of relevant, interesting content. If you're posting so irregularly that your channels are beginning to grow cobwebs, your brand won't become known as a social source of credible information in your industry.

You should aim to post with regularity, although the exact right amount will vary by platform as well as your industry, audience, and the reputation you've established with them. Some general rules of thumb, according to Buffer research:

Facebook is best with five to ten posts per week.

To get the maximum engagement per Tweet, aim for five a day. To get the most value out of your Twitter account as a whole, up that number to 30.

Post to Linkedin 20 times a month, or once a workday.

Auto-scheduling can take some pressure off your load, but the best social feeds have a wizard behind the scenes, responding to customer questions and complaints, chiming in on relevant conversations, and reacting to the things they see in real time.

5. Wrath -- An eye for an eye and your brand goes blind

The frightening thing about social has always been its transparency. It's not a matter of if people will say negative things about your brand online, it's a matter of when. Those things might not be nice, fair, or even true. But you don't want to engage in an online cat fight, whether it's with a customer, competitor, or just plain anonymous troll. Get ahead of this potential PR nightmare by training everyone that posts online on behalf of your brand on proper protocol, brand voice, escalation policies, etc.

Negative customer comments can actually be big opportunities for your company. By showing that you're listening, you care, and are doing what it takes to make things right (that may be an apology, a discount, a free trial, or just a patient ear), you can actually turn many wrathful posters into longtime brand champions. We all make mistakes. The secret is to acknowledge them, apologize, and do what you can to make amends.

6. Envy -- Thou shalt not covet follower you didn't earn

Not only shalt thou not covet followers, thou also shalt not buy, trade, sell or steal them. The size of your social media audience is a direct reflection of the quality of your social media presence. It might be tempting to sidestep the hard work of building out an awesome social strategy, but the only followers who are going to be truly engaged with your brand and content online are those that you earn.

The professional email address is the currency today's customers pay for access to information they want. They're happy to hold up their end of the bargain,as long as you hold up yours. If you think your content is good and still aren't sure how to earn more new followers, consider where your target audience spends time on the internet. Are there LinkedIn groups they participate in? Hashtags they tend to follow? Online communities, forums, or web discussions? Meet them there and offer something of value (but don't be too sales-y -- remember the sin of Pride here). You can also host your own webinars or build out a resource center on your website which offers gated, helpful information.

7. Lust -- Seduction by the lascivious side of social

There's a lot of enticing stuff floating around on the internet -- scandal, sex appeal and mudslinging. It can be tempting to engage in trendjacking for the sake of eyeballs. After all, these subjects are magnets for conversations on social media. But don't be seduced by the dark underbellies of online content. Remember the backlash Kenneth Cole suffered from tactlessly trying to take advantage of the uproars in Egypt?

Be careful which issues, if any, you comment on. Stick with topics that make sense for your industry. And trust your instincts. If you think it may be polarizing or offensive, there is probably someone out there who will agree with you. When in doubt, refrain. You can delete a Tweet, but the internet remembers everything.