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7 Critical Mistakes You're (Almost Certainly) Making On Social Media

If you are marketing on social media (and you should be) you are probably making some of these mistakes. Here's how to recognize and fix them—from the gospel of Gary Vaynerchuk.

Social media is just like … boxing?

That’s the latest gospel out of Gary Vaynerchuk, the two-time bestselling author and the man known to many as the king of social media.

In his latest book, he breaks down social media strategy into five simple words: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.

Or in other words: Give Value, Give Value, Give Value, Make Your Ask.

The book goes into detail on how to navigate the often confusing and overwhelming world of social media and Vaynerchuk sheds much-needed light on the mistakes many of us make every day. Here are seven of them:

1. You're Speaking The Wrong Language

You wouldn’t speak Spanish in Iceland and you shouldn’t post essays on Instagram.

Vaynerchuk says the best social content is "native" to each platform, meaning the content speaks the right language in the right place. The goal should be to seamlessly blend your message into each platform’s unique style.

For example, Tumblr "attracts the artsy crowd and supports animated GIFs," whereas Twitter "speaks to an ironic, urban audience."

What’s the native language of the platform you’re trying to speak on? Is it possible that you’ve been speaking Spanish in Iceland?

2. Your Advertising Strategy is Out of The '50s

Back in the glory days of television, you’d be watching Bonanza and the show would abruptly cut to the Marlboro Man trying to sell you cigarettes. During that era, that kind of marketing worked.

Today? Not to so much.

"Marketers are on social media to sell stuff," Vaynerchuk says. "Consumers, however, are not … If you want to talk to people while they consume their entertainment, you have to be their entertainment."

If users are on Instagram to see beautiful pictures, don’t interrupt their experience by posting a picture of a coupon. Instead, post a beautiful picture of your product in a picturesque setting.

Are you interrupting the flow of entertainment or are you being the entertainment?

3. You’re All "Right Hook"

Vaynerchuk argues that customers appreciate brands that "Jab" often—that put out great content without explicitly making a sales pitch. The brand is sharing a moment, creating an emotional experience with each person.

Just like boxing, it’s the flurry of jabs that sets up the perfect right hook.

What’s your ratio of jabs to right hooks? If it’s not—Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, RIGHT HOOK—you’re doing something wrong.

4. You’re Trying to Create the Wave

Vaynerchuk says hashtags are like waves—and the best way to surf is to ride the wave, not create it.

"You’re not single-handedly getting a hashtag to trend on Twitter unless you’re the Biebs," Vaynerchuk wrote on his blog. "On the flip side, your ability to pay attention to what’s going on and jump into it, over-indexing the performance of a normal tweet, is pretty consistent even for people who are somewhat average social media users."

So how closely are you listening on Twitter and following what the population at large is talking about? Are you listening for the wave and jumping onto it or are you hopelessly kicking and splashing in the shallow end trying to create a wave of your own?

5. Your Tweets Are Invisible

In a recently published SlideShare, Vaynerchuk explains that many people are still making the mistake of starting tweets beginning with an "@"—which makes the tweet invisible on your follower’s stream unless they are following that other tagged handle as well.

If you insist on starting a tweet with tagging another account, put a period in front of the "@" so the tweet is visible to all of your followers.

6. You Think Snapchat Is a Fad

Maybe it is, but can you afford to ignore a social platform whose users send 400 million messages per day? With a core audience between the ages of 13 and 25, Snapchat has taken a foothold in the way the next generation shares and communicates.

Sure, it is harder for a brand to venture into uncharted territory, but it’s those who head out to sea first that catch the biggest fish.

Are you playing it safe and waiting for others to test the waters on these emerging platforms or are you rolling your pant-legs up and running into the water yourself?

7. You Think You’re Don Draper

"Forget Mad Men, and f*ck Don Draper," Vaynerchuk writes. "He lived in an easy world where … you could spend your whole career working to figure out how the print and television markets worked. This world, the one you and I live in, evolves every second, every day."

If you’re going to spend time telling your brand’s story on social media (which you should) and if you’re going to use that engagement to convert sales (which you will), then you need to accept the fact that this is not a slow-man’s game. This is a game of micro-content, of moments, of riding waves and kicking the Marlboro Man to the curb.

Are you willing to stay up to speed and stay current with each new turn in the social media street race? There will be bumps, sharp rights, and many unexpected accelerations—but as long as you have the desire to play the game and you put in the effort—you’ve got a solid chance at winning.

Alex Banayan is an associate at San Francisco-based venture capital firm Alsop Louie Partners and the author of a highly anticipated business book being released by Crown Publishers (Penguin Random House, Inc.). For more, sign-up for Alex Banayan’s inner-circle email newsletter here.

[Boxing Gloves: Arun Roisri via Shutterstock]

Add New Comment


  • Interesting points on social media marketing. I think a lot of people use twitter the wrong way and don't understand how to leverage the Platform for clients.

  • Stephen Abbott

    "Marketers are on social media to sell stuff," Vaynerchuk says. "Consumers, however, are not" - Ironically, Gary uses his facebook account almost exclusively and consistently to ask (and/or beg) people to buy this new book.

  • Antonella Pezzarossa

    Great content, thanks! I'm Thinking about printing this list of useful suggestions and basic rules and show it to any boss, media agency, customer insisting to use the Malboro man to sell anything..

  • Jack05

    Everybody thinks they are working at the absolute bleeding edge of whatever their industry is. "Forget Don Draper...he lived in an easy world." Oh really? Sorry we can't all exist in the fast paced forward thinking future minded universe you must be master of!

  • Stickdogg

    The tip of including the . if your tweet starts with @ was a real eye opener to me.

  • Rob

    If you're on social media to find me and work your way toward asking me *for* something, you're an asshole. Feel free to ask me anything. Just don't ask me *for* things unless we grew up, went to school or worked with one another. I have too many damn debts to be paying attention to any kind of sales pitch. Go away.

  • Backspacez

    To me, it looks like a lot of people in the comment section got the wrong idea about this article. This article is for people with a brand that they're trying to advertise and market on social media. A lot of you posting the "Oh I'll write however I want on social media, I don't care what people think" type of comments missed the idea, this article isn't for you. It's for people trying to solidify their brand, not socialize.

    Great article.

  • Christopher R Weiss

    Whenever I see an article like this, my first question is where is the data to back this up? Run a control:

    Campaign A -> traditional approach, what is the consumer response?

    Campaign B -> Modified approach, what is the consumer response?

    I am not talking about focus groups. I am referring to actual campaigns. No one can doubt the impact of good advertising. However, the claims above have nothing to back them up other than "common sense."

  • Hola que tal

    "And you should be". Well that remains to be proven. So far there have been no ROI for companies who invest in social networking.

  • Varsity Fit

    Drake, Why didn't you do your homework before writing an incorrect OPENING statement? Powerlifting and powerlifters are not in the Olympics and are completely different than the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. Take a break from checking Facebook and stop tweeting and quit typing nonsense and go lift some weights to get your brain recharged.

  • Jim Crawford

    My favorite how-to post was the one titled, "13.5 Ways to do 7 Things Better, Half the Time." I know that Amex OPEN FORUM encourages this sort of by the numbers self-help stuff. I think I've written a few for them under duress. But honestly, isn't everyone sick and tired of this gimmick? What would be really appreciated: an article on the number of ways we can get media to stop publishing "X Ways to Succeed" posts.

  • MARco"13.5+Ways+to+do+7+Things+Better%2C+Half+the+Time."

    gives currently only your quote here, Jim.

    [This intervention do not intend to endorse the importance of the main article. This event should neither be counted as sign of interest because the article was read just to downtune, with accidental care, the reliability given to the source pointing to the article (linkedin newsletter).]

  • Mike Keller

    Boy, this sure drew a lot of haters. You can immediately discount any comments that start with "social media is BS" or "I do whatever I like on social media when I use it, which is seldom."

    These tips are nothing new, yet people need to be reminded of them. Social media really shouldn't be called "social media" because it's really just plain networking. And like old-fashioned networking, you have a limited amount of time to gain that other person's interest and trust, and to get them to pay attention to you. And a big part of that is helping them first, with info or tips, before asking them to help you.

  • Hola que tal

    Do you really think it's like plain networking ?? Wow. It tastes nothing like it. Anonymous people talking, message and feedback that you can't know if they reached their targets... Nothing like old fashioned networking when people were talking to people.

  • Martinez

    pointless post, and the reason I will be unsubscribing from linkedIn news feed