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5 worst online mistakes of 2009 Posted in Online Reputation Management, Concocted by Fred Roed, 8 comments
Published on 27 October 2009

It is hard to remember a time before the internet. It’s only a decade or so ago that the web went truly mainstream and billion dollar industries have sprung up in its wake. These are heady times for companies like ours, kinda like the Wild West gold prospectors 200 years ago – they’d hear the buzz, pack their bags and get in their wagons to follow the next big lead. The problem is that it’s risky business, and mistakes are being made on a daily business. When pitching to clients, it’s our job as marketers to try and mitigate that risk by learning from our predecessors’ mistakes. So, with that in mind, here is a quick snapshot of the top mistakes in our industry.


Mistake #1: Underestimate your audience

This is a biggie. Marketers have been doing this for a while. A classic case was South African ISP iBurst who were signing up 10’s of thousands of new subscribers a few years back and began to suffer major downtimes. Their response: Start a blog. The customer service guy, Ed, was vilified in public and was never heard from again. In remarkably similar circumstances, we’ve recently seen AT&T do the same thing with Seth the Blogger Guy, who was supposed to address customers complaining about dropped calls and poor service. The ‘community’ soon found out that Seth was actually an employee of AT&T’s PR company and took him to the cleaners.

Mistake #2: Neglect to plan (it’s a “conversation”, why should I plan?)

We see this often, and sometimes have fallen into this trap ourselves. An example is our own Heavy Chef Twitter account, which is lying painfully dormant* was set up without any clue as to who would run it and how we could optimise it. The problem is that it can backfire on you and represent you as unprofessional and inconsistent. The idea is to list your objectives, then select the Social Media channels that are most appropriate. Put deadlines and timelines to them, and keep measuring against your original benchmarks.

Mistake #3: Think people care (Why should I give away free stuff?)

“If you build it, they will come,” said Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams. Nope. They won’t. We’re too busy, and besides, “What’s in it for me?” Attention is valuable nowadays, so give me something in return. We now know that pure content is not enough, unless you’re giving something of real tangible value – it can be a way to make money, or an actual physical thing, or invitations to events. You’ll need to figure out what’s compelling about your Social Media offering to make people stick around.

Mistake #4: Not being authentic

The whole point of Social Media is that it’s, well, social. If you don’t want to be social, then don’t do it. The reason why links move so quickly around the social networks is because the medium magnifies normal conversations. Where you can 10 people sitting round a fire in reality, you can seat 10 million around the virtual version. Amazon’s Twitter account, for example, tweets automatically when the Amazon blog is updated – rather than a real person, or a team amalgamating into one Twitter account, conveying cool information, scoops, reviews and opinions. So, if you want to start a fire, make it authentic one (at least virtually).

Mistake #5: Ignore design and usability

After meeting leaders and CEO’s, marketing managers and brand custodians over the past year, it appears to me that the look n’ feel of Social Media channels often falls by the wayside. Set up a Facebook page? Sure! It’ll take 5 minutes. My company Twitter account? Heck, who cares if it has the default Twitter shade of turquoise? Companies often miss a trick here. As the adage goes, ‘you don’t judge a book by its cover, but you can tell a lot about whether you want to spend money buying it’. Usability testing, brand consistency, creative messaging, navigability, simplicity – all these things need to be carefully considered.

Marketers: here are some required reading links you’ll want to look at -

Also, try out this quiz to see How Literate You Are In Social Media

* Our Twitter account DOES feature in our future strategy, just for the record : )

Read more posts by Fred Roed

Fred Roed

Fred is the CEO of digital marketing agency World Wide Creative. Fred co-founded The Heavy Chef Project, as well as Ideate, a forum for African entrepreneurs. Fred focuses on online brand building, marketing strategy and loud Hawaiian shirts. Fred is famous for his sartorial excellence, long diatribes about music and fanatical attention to detail when making pizza. Follow Fred on Twitter:

Related posts:

  1. Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid in your Social Media Strategy
  2. Blogservations
  3. Top 10 Reasons for Building an Online Community in 2009
  4. Rockin’ 2009! 4 Things To Look Forward To In The New Year
  5. How to build your brand online

  1. Yolandi Janse van Rensburg says

    Great post Fred! These are by the book examples we don’t even notice that we’re making. Also, great links! They broaden the picture a bit :)

  2. Fred Roed says

    Thanks Yolandi – ! I also found those links fascinating… fortunately we don’t appear anywhere on those articles : )

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