The 8 Biggest Failures With Social Media Marketing

social media marketing success

The 8 biggest failures with social media marketing efforts?

Maybe you tried social media and didn’t see much lift (lift is a term that goes back to traditional advertising and refers to an increase in metrics, usually sales, after running a campaign). Social media seemed like a lot of work — learning the idiosyncracies of different social networks, creating and scraping content, and engaging your network — yet, you’re seeing very little ROI (Return on Investment) for your efforts. Well, here are some benchmarks for e-commerce conversion rates to see if you’re doing as well as others in your industry.

Image courtesy of GrowCode

Ever think maybe you were doing social media marketing wrong??????

Well, we’re here to help you by identifying the 8 biggest failures with social media marketing that you might be making and offer solutions to improve performance.

Why you need social media marketing

It should be obvious to even the most naive business owner that social media marketing is a critical element of your overall marketing campaign, but if you need a little push to help you reach that conclusion, here are some numbers:

time on social media
Image courtesy of Oberlo

While the numbers appear to have reached a plateau, the amount of time spent on social media is massive and social media now reaches the farthest corners of the globe and nearly every demographic from 13 (even younger kids create profiles despite rules against that) to 65+. Social media use crosses genders and income levels, it involves both consumers and B2B buyers, and niche platforms as well as enhanced targeting allow you to selectively reach any market you think profitable.

Social media not only contributes to improved conversion on your website and in stores, but it also improves other metrics that meaningfully improve your bottom line, such as creating greater awareness, improving brand image, and keeping your brand top-of-mind.

Obviously, you need to make informed decisions about which platforms to choose for your social media campaigns, as there are demographic and geographic differences across them, but regardless of your target market, there’s a platform ripe for your efforts.

So, what should you use social media marketing for:

  • Social media is a great tool for creating awareness of your brand among targeted consumers and is very economical compared to traditional media options that lack significant targeting opportunities. This is especially important for small brands and those with a narrow target market.
  • You can build a dedicated community on social media platforms to help spread the word about your brand and support your efforts through recommendations. These consumer-to-consumer messages have much more impact on brand image and purchase intentions than commercial messages from the brand.
  • Corporate social responsibility is a key decision variable for many consumers, especially younger ones. Social media gives you a vehicle to highlight your efforts to help the community through charitable donations and volunteerism by your employees.
  • Sharing insider information with your community helps them feel more in touch with your brand and gives them a voice in improving the brand, which helps you make better product, advertising, and pricing decisions to support your brand.
  • Highlighting your employees personalizes your brand and improves transparency to bind consumers to your brand as well as makes employees feel valued, which improves performance and reduces turnover.

Biggest failures with social media marketing

1. Not spending enough time or money on social media marketing.

social media ad spending
Image courtesy of Insider Intelligence

Take a look at the survey above from Insider Intelligence that shows the US ad spend on social media marketing and its relationship with overall digital marketing spend. Note, that spending on social media continues to grow, while it remains about a quarter of all spending on digital marketing. For small businesses, that’s about $200 to $350 per day, on average. But, is that what your business is spending on social media?

That’s why I call this one of the biggest failures with social media marketing. Companies take a “wait and see” attitude toward social media marketing — we’ll test the waters with a small spend and see what happens. That’s like opening a store and only stocking a few items until you see if those sell. You’re just setting your social media marketing efforts up for failure.

I often counsel small businesses by using a funnel analogy — you have to reach a certain minimum spend before you get an overflow into increased sales. That’s because you must reach your target market several times before you can change attitudes. It takes money to ensure sufficient reach and frequency to achieve positive change.

Instead, most firms spend 90-100% of their marketing budget on traditional media. It boggles the mind as to why firms continue pouring money into a medium that no one watches, everyone hates and distrusts, and costs WAY too much money.

Fixing the problem

To fix the problem, you must use the benchmarks discussed above to devote sufficient budget to your social media marketing efforts but that doesn’t mean throwing money at the problem. Instead, set goals and monitor metrics to determine what is the best way to spend that money.

Also, allow time for your campaigns to generate returns. On average, it takes 6-9 months to see the full effects of your social media marketing efforts.

2. Not hiring the right people

Firms seem to think they can avoid failure in social media by hiring young kids — often simply interns. Firms assume that social media is simply knowing how to set up a Facebook page or a Twitter account and figure their interns all know this stuff. Every year I teach a social media marketing class to very bright marketing students at an elite private university and I can tell you these social network mavens know NOTHING about how social media marketing works. That’s why I call this one of the biggest failures with social media marketing.

Here are some of the key skills needed to master social media marketing.

digital marketing skills

Fixing the problem

Hire social media employees with many of the skills shown above or send employees for training in these areas. You’ll find a host of companies offering online training. Alternatively, hire a social media company to implement a social media strategy for you. You may find it’s less expensive to hire a firm given that paying for software consumes a big chunk of your budget while a consulting company spreads the cost over multiple clients.

3. Duh – it’s marketing!

Often folks running your social media marketing are techies or design folks who don’t understand the first thing about marketing or consumer behavior. SEO folks may be able to get you on the first page of Google, but do they convert that traffic? And, your design team may create fancy webpages and beautiful Fan Pages, but DO THEY HELP CONVERT THAT TRAFFIC? I recently visited a client whose designer fought AGAINST having a newsletter sign-up on the home page because it didn’t work well on the mobile site. Not only is that a lame excuse (showing the designer hadn’t used a mobile-friendly design), but, as a B2B company, the firm likely didn’t have many folks in the TARGET MARKET trying to access their site from a mobile device. Email marketing, especially in this type of business, is critical for success as these decisions often take time, which requires multiple outreach efforts (termed lead nurturing).

And, don’t even get me started on what these guys don’t understand about branding.  That’s why I call this one of the biggest failures with social media marketing.

4. Using the wrong metrics

Tracking likes, fans, followers, etc causes you to make poor decisions – like running contests to get more Likes. Since these numbers often fail to generate increased sales for your firm, why measure them? That’s why I call this one of the biggest failures with social media marketing.

Fixing the problem

Set goals for your campaigns before you start. Think about intermediate goals such as lower bounce rates on your site (since users likely convert on your website after a social media campaign), improved engagement with your posts, more visits to landing pages, and more visitors entering the conversion process) as well as terminal goals such as sales, lower cart abandonment, and increased value of each sale.

Then, determine which metrics assess your performance toward reaching these goals. What you should measure are things that DO help convert visitors, such as sentiment, reach (ie. ReTweets, shares), and increased time on site.

5. Lack of consistency

Social media marketing doesn’t work like traditional advertising — you can’t flight it (spend a lot on a campaign then nothing) or pulse it (schedule multiple flights).  You’ve got to commit to creating great, engaging content 365 days a year.  You must develop a voice that represents your brand. That’s why I call this one of the biggest failures with social media marketing.

Consistency depends on the social network used, but plan to create at least 1 post on most social platforms each day. Exceptions are YouTube, where publishing once a week is great, and Twitter (now X), where you should publish 6-8 times per day. Some tools for keeping this schedule are:

  • A content marketing calendar that allows you to plan a month or so of posts
  • An automation tool like Buffer or Hootsuite so you can schedule a bunch of posts in one sitting to save time
  • Graphic design tools like Canva or Adobe Photoshop to help you easily craft posts and edit images

Below are some more suggestions for being most consistent with your social media efforts.

content consistency
Image courtesy of Inquivix


6. Lack of follow-up

When folks post comments or questions on your Facebook page or on Twitter, answer them quickly. Ignoring these interactions can cause complaints that might go viral. Facebook now assesses your performance and provides a metric to reflect your timeliness.

That’s why I call this one of the biggest failures with social media marketing.

Fixing the problem

It’s not just following up with questions but engaging your followers, as this engagement is a key metric determining your rank in search. You can ask your community for feedback. For instance,

  • ask a poll for a new brand logo (which is something Musk should have done before changing Twitter to X as this was the last straw for many Twitter users).
  • invite your online community to an in-person event to upload to the social media platform of your choice
  • start a Facebook group to encourage users to create content
  • run contests and giveaways
  • ask a question
  • use images in your posts
  • post compelling content
  • use emotional and attention-grabbing words in your headline
  • use emojis and hashtags
  • host live sessions

7. Say thank you

Saying thank you is so simple and easy, yet firms forget to use it enough. You’ll find if you consistently omit thank you’s when folks mention good things about you, they’ll stop. That’s why I call this one of the biggest failures with social media marketing.

I’m small enough that I thank folks for every like, share, and ReTweet …  Now, I can envision a day when that might not be possible, but I’ll still thank folks when they say something nice about me. Newer software tools allow you to automate these thank yous.

8. Listen more than you talk

A major difference between social media marketing and traditional marketing is the two-way communication offered in social networks. Consumers have great things to say, so listen to them. They’ll tell you what they want, how they feel, what they like, and what they don’t like. A smart marketer can turn this conversation into better products, better promotions, and increased sales. Failure to listen is one of the biggest failures with social media marketing.

Fixing the problem

New listening tools empowered by AI and natural language processing allow you to listen more effectively to conversations on your profile so you can engage with users who mention you or your competitors.


So, these are my 8 biggest failures with social media marketing and easy fixes so you don’t fall into the trap. Do you have any other mistakes you think belong on the list or solutions that you think work better? If so, enter them in the comments below.

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