3 Tips for Using Stock Photography Appropriately

As of late, the use (or misuse) of stock photography has been much talked about in the media. The Conservative Party of Canada has come under attack for what some feel as an inappropriate and/or ill-informed use of stock photography.

So, aside from the legal aspects involved in using stock photography (including: licensing agreements and assigning credit to photographers) what are some important things to consider before using stock photography?

Credit: ThinkStock / tanjavashchuk / 479767450

Stock Photography Tip #1: Consider Your Audience and the Context of the Message 

As with any marketing endeavour, in order to be effective, we must consider to whom we are speaking, what we are trying to get across, and how our market will interpret it. Visual storytelling works the same way, and you have to be particularly careful when using stock photography. As in the case above, you can end up offending your audience and casting yourself in a negative light.

In order to be successful, you must be sensitive to the needs, values, and beliefs of your audience. Take time to perform the research necessary on your audience and on the content you are planning on placing in your ad before allowing it to go live.

Lastly, if you have the resources, testing it against your market in a focus group or otherwise might be a wise final check.

Stock Photography Tip #2: Be Careful to Stay on Brand

It can be a challenge to stay on brand when using stock photography, as you are limited to the vision the photographer had at the time of taking the photograph. For example, you might find a photo that captures the right kind of person with the perfect expression, but the lighting in the background of the image is foreboding, while the message you’re trying to send about your brand is a cheery one.

Finding a piece of stock photography that fits in perfectly with your brand and message can be a challenge, but it is worth getting it right to maintain the integrity of your brand.

Stock Photography Tip #3: Strive to Maintain Authenticity

There is a lot of good stock photography out there. However, sometimes even the best stock photography can come off as less than authentic and genuine. People can appear too posed, with overly polished expressions, and are often found standing beneath unnatural, fluorescent lighting. If you want your current and potential customers to trust you, you need to establish and maintain a sense of authenticity.

People (young people, in particular) have become incredibly savvy and are able to detect and then distrust and even ridicule what they feel to be phony, posed photography. There are even contemporary celebrities who make fun of the truly terrible stock photography out there.

Also consider: is it even authentic for your brand to use stock photography at all? Many brands, depending on a variety of factors such as their target demographic may eschew stock photography altogether. The Instagram Generation in particular (i.e. Millenials and Gen Z) is one for which you should exercise caution when opting to use stock photography. This generation expects to see and responds positively to natural, organic-looking photography. Further, they can often tell when stock photography is being used and might not respond the way you would hope.

BONUS: Hire a Professional Photographer

When the budget allows, it is of course ideal to use a professional photographer. You have a much greater chance of successfully communicating the message you want to get across to your audience and getting the response you want. A professional photographer will work with you to help ensure you reach your goals, ensuring every detail works together to achieve the intended results.

Why You Should Use Marketing Automation to Gather and Use Analytics

Analytics. For many business owners and marketers, the word comes with mixed feelings: both excitement at the opportunities it could present, and intimidation, for the seemingly endless breadth of knowledge available on the subject.

First, what are analytics, in the context of marketing for your business?

Analytics: a collection of online data from which meaningful information and insights can be derived that can help you make better marketing and business decisions.

If you’re doing it properly, you’re not just collecting any data, but actionable data. Actionable data is useful, relevant, meaningful information that can be used to make intelligent, real-life marketing and business decisions. This is where marketing automation platforms such as SharpSpring come in.

Analytics-ThinkstockPhotos-473265020 Photo: Thinkstock / iStock / pingingz / 473265020

The Power of Marketing Automation

One of the best ways to not only acquire useful analytics, but to act on them, is to invest in marketing automation. Marketing automation allows you to do so much more than simply accumulate and store analytics and look at graphs, it allows you to take the data and turn it into something useful that will help move your company forward!

For example, instead of simply sending out an e-newsletter to an email list and wondering how they responded to it, marketing automation platforms such as SharpSpring allows you to not only collect actionable data, but they allow you to act on it!

With SharpSpring:

You you get a real-time report on the amount of contacts who open the email and click on specific links, and finally, have the software automatically sort them into lists based on their behaviour and interests (i.e. what they click on)! Now, you’ve learned something about each contact that you can use in a variety of ways. Further, if certain links in the email haven’t performed well, you’ll know, and can adjust your tactics accordingly to improve engagement next time!

Perhaps some of these same contacts have visited certain landing pages on your website, that show further interest in your company and/or specific services you offer – this criteria could be added to your list(s), too!

For example, you might create a list called “People who are Interested in Vintage Fashion” and have it automatically populate with contacts who have clicked on links to blogs about vintage fashion from your e-newsletter and have also visited product pages on your site devoted to vintage fashion.

From there, when it’s time for the next e-newsletter to be sent out, you’ll be able to send each new list a version of the e-newsletter that is tailored to their interests, perhaps with a link to a form with a new offer that they’ll appreciate (e.g. a free resource on vintage fashion). Of course, you’ll be able to automatically track all of this too, and to automatically save it with your contact’s profile. The more you learn about your contacts, the better equipped you’ll be to give them what they want and to continue to nurture them along the sales process.

This is just one example of the many ways in which marketing automation can enhance the value of your analytics and your ability to use analytics intelligently and profitably. Check out our other recent blog on what questions to ask when putting together an analytics report.

Why Marketing Automation?: Eliminate Blind Spots with Smart Lists and Lead Scoring

Your current situation: you have a database with your company’s contacts, leads, including past and potential customers. This database contains a bit of contact information about each one but, have you ever asked yourself: What do you truly know about them? In particular, what do you know about them that is meaningful to your company?

For example, what is their current interest (and degree of interest) in your products/services, and do they have the potential to ever be or should they be considered a qualified lead? These questions might leave you at a bit of a loss.

Lastly, how do you avoid wasting company time on a long list of contacts (by sending out generic bulk emails or cold-calling, for example) that might not be ready to buy, and instead identify and refocus most of your attention on those with the greatest potential?




Credit: iStock / Rawpixel Ltd


Forget Cold-Calling:
Use Smart Lists and Lead Scoring to Automatically Gather Meaningful, Actionable Information About Your Contacts’ Interests and Behaviour

Lead Scoring and Smart List are two features offered by many marketing automation platforms that help you to automatically and dynamically collect valuable information about your contacts’ online behaviour (e.g. what they click on, pages they visit from an email you send, forms they fill out etc.) resulting in actionable information for you and your company. Among other things, Lead Scoring and Smart Lists can let you know who is ready to buy, when they are ready to buy, and will provide you with the information you need about a contact’s behaviour and interests so you can tailor the appropriate message to close the deal.

And, if they’re not ready to buy, lead scoring and smart lists are a part of the marketing automation process that will help you (and the marketing automation platform) identify where they are in the buyer’s lifecycle, so those with potential can be moved closer to a sale.

How it Works

What is a Smart List?

A Smart List is a dynamic list of contacts and leads that self-populates and automatically updates over time based on “rules” you assign to it. If and when these “rules” match any of your contact’s or lead’s behaviour, they are added to the smart list. For example, you might include the following “rules” when setting up one of your smart lists: “Contacts in this list: have visited landing page ‘X’ on my site less than a week ago, and have visited my website’s pricing page less than a week ago.” Now, you can watch the list begin to populate with any contacts who have exhibited these behaviours! Depending on your current relationship with a contact or lead who appears on this smart list, their behaviour might indicate to you that they’re a hot lead who deserves more personalized attention. Armed with actionable information you wouldn’t have otherwise that will help you tailor your message (such as: their interests and stage in the buyer’s lifecycle), you might choose to give them a call or send them a personalized email to check-in on them.

Crucially, Smart Lists will keep you updated on: who you should invest your time in, when to act, and what the message should be, helping to increase the likelihood of closing a sale.

What is Lead Scoring?

Lead Scoring is a points-based system that allows you to automatically rank your contacts and leads based on variety of factors, including:

• Fit – How well a lead aligns to your target audience and ideal customer

• Completeness of Contact Information

• Engagement – # of page visits, # of clicks from emails sent to them, # of forms is filled out

• Specific Page Tracking – If they visit a specific page(s) on your website

You can then assign each factor any positive (+) or negative (-) number value you choose; depending on how important each is to you and your business (e.g. +5 for each webpage page visited, or -20 for people not living in Canada). The total is automatically calculated and updated automatically to make up each individual’s lead score.

You might then create a smart list that will only include people (a) with lead scores over a certain number and (b) who have visited your website less than a week ago.

In this way, lead scoring in combination with smart lists can help you keep track of and sort your “top” contacts and leads – helping you to focus your energy, time, and money on those who are most likely to result in a sale.

Eliminate Blind Spots, Waste Fewer Resources, and Make More Sales by Using Lead Scoring and Smart Lists

Both smart lists and lead scoring help to eliminate “blind spots” you might have in regards to your contacts’ and leads’ behaviour. This previously unknown data empowers you and your sales team to make informed marketing decisions that increase sales and waste less time and money.  

Lead scoring and smart lists are just a couple of the powerful features offered by many marketing automation platforms like SharpSpring. Follow the PROSAR Blog to learn more about inbound marketing and marketing automation.

Recommended Related Reading: 

5 Reasons to Choose Marketing Automation for Your Inbound Marketing Business Solution 

How to Find Your Ideal Client

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5 Reasons to Choose Marketing Automation for Your Inbound Marketing Business Solution

There are many reasons to use automated marketing to improve the power of your inbound marketing. Automated marketing is proven to help you attract more potential customers, convert them to leads, close sales, and delight customers into repeat customers. Here are 5 reasons to invest in automated marketing today.

arrow cutting through maze diagonally
eabff / iStock / ThinkStock

1) Marketing Automation Will Allow You to Automatically Measure ROI

One of the greatest things about marketing automation is that it allows you to track ROI through analytics and reports, so you can easily and clearly prove its value. Analytics can include everything from tracking the results of email campaigns (opens, click-throughs, etc.), website and page visits, digital ad campaigns, eCommerce analytics, forms (new leads, new subscriptions, etc.) and more. Not only can you track results, you can take this data and act on it to improve results and move leads closer to a sale.


2) View and Act on Real-time Results

There is no need to wait for results. Marketing automation will automatically collect data and act on it according to workflows and automation tasks you set-up in advance.

It is exciting to deploy an email campaign and watch the email opens and click-through rate update in real-time and to see your automated workflows fire and do the work for you. It is even more so when you check back just hours later and the numbers have increased again. Finally, it is important to know that if you choose to, you have the power, to act on the intel you get immediately, at any time, in any way you wish and to change your course of action to optimize results.


3) Marketing Automation is Accessible

There are many affordable automated marketing solutions available today, offering a variety of different tools to suit any size of business, type of business, and budget.

Marketing automation is also accessible in the sense that it is user-friendly. Many automated marketing software companies offer plenty of resources and support to clients to help you learn: what the tools are for, how to use them, and how to improve results.


4) Marketing Automation is Reliable

Several automated marketing software companies have proven (and continue to prove) great strength and consistency in helping to generate results, intelligently keep track of data, and improve the marketing-to-sales process.

Because marketing automation is “smart”, as long as you pre-program the workflows, the software will “think” for you and act for you based on the behaviour of your contacts, leads, and customers (often) in real-time.


5) Marketing Automation Will Save You and Your Company Money and Time

By concentrating the efforts of your sales team on a greater number of warm leads acquired and nurtured through marketing automation, you’re likely to see a much greater number of sales. Your sales team will have to spend less time cold-calling and sending bulk emails to unqualified leads, and instead will have more time to invest in leads who are most likely to result in sales.

Marketing automation allows you to get a lot more business while having to invest a fraction of the money and time involved in the traditional marketing-to-sales process.

In addition, many affordable eCommerce-compatible solutions are available to optimize your online sales, such as SharpSpring’s eCommerce integrations, which will help you gather analytics and act on data to increase sales.


BONUS: Blend Traditional Media and Marketing Automation to Optimize Both 

Traditional media isn’t dead. In fact, with marketing automation you can mix traditional marketing with automated marketing in order to optimize the effects of traditional media. For example, (1) create a landing page on your website with a promotion and a form that must be filled out to access the promotion, (2) send a piece of direct mail to a qualified list with a clear call-to-action to the landing page, (3) monitor results, collect a list, send personalized emails to the list.

In short, there are many reasons to choose automated marketing for your inbound marketing business solution. It is reliable, accessible, measurable, and can work together with traditional media to generate impressive results.

The New Mobile-Friendly Website Imperative: What All Top Businesses Already Know

A mobile-friendly website is more important for businesses now than ever. To be mobile-friendly, a website must be designed with Responsive Web Design (RWD) in mind – meaning the content is designed to automatically adapt and restructure itself to work on smaller mobile screens.

Until a couple weeks ago, it was simply considered good business practice to become mobile-friendly, but Google has officially made it an online imperative. A couple weeks ago, Google’s search engine made a change that strongly and automatically prioritizes mobile-friendly sites over those that are not. This means that those without a mobile-friendly site will be pushed down the search results pages, making them not only harder to find, but also potentially landing them beneath their mobile-friendly competitors. This change can result in less web traffic to non-mobile-friendly sites, potentially resulting in lost sales.

A non-mobile-friendly site now says one of a few things about a company, either: it cannot or will not spend the money to go mobile, it doesn’t care, or that it is completely oblivious to the needs of its market. The future is changing and its time to adapt or face losing out on missed opportunities.

If this hasn’t convinced the undecided, here are a few more of the many other reasons to become (and suggestions for becoming) mobile-friendly.



1)   Make it easy and straightforward.

A company should make navigating their website as effortless as possible. This will allow users to have a positive experience and encourage them to more fully engage with the brand. It will also encourage them learn about the company and allow them to easily find what they are looking for. Annoyance caused by a difficult to navigate site can translate to them leaving earlier than you would have liked (or expected).  Whether or not there is great content on the site, if it is difficult to find, view or interact with on mobile, it won’t matter. The great online content in the world won’t appear so wonderful if it is hard to access and difficult to read. It’s not just what you say, the method and framework you use to convey it is equally important.


2)  Focus on mCommerce: Don’t limit yourself to eCommerce

If you do eCommerce, it’s become even more of an imperative to focus on improving your mCommerce (mobile online commerce). In fact, by the end of 2015, mCommerce is projected to account for 40% of all global eCommerce transactions, and 1/3 of all U.S. eCommerce transactions. The numbers are on their way there already: in Q1 2015, smartphone share of mCommerce transactions has grown more than 10% in the U.S.

Importantly, in Q1 2015 in the U.S., while the conversion rates are higher with desktop, smartphones garner much more traffic than desktop, resulting in more paid online transactions overall.

Other non-western markets see mobile mCommerce conversions accounting for as much as 4x more transactions. Improvements are being made everyday in Western markets by companies to improve the mobile shopping experience and improve their mobile conversion rates. This Q1 2015 Criteo report on the State of Mobile Commerce says a focus will be placed improving the product browsing experience and mobile payment process in Western markets.

Another insight from the report: Mobile purchases tend to happen during consumers’ leisure hours before and after work, while desktop transactions tend to happen at work. So, if you want to capture consumers outside of work hours: be sure to go mobile-friendly.


3)  Heed the Rule of Thumb.

Two fingers (thumb and pointer finger) are required to expand small text and images on non-mobile-friendly sites. If people need to do this to navigate a site or consume online content on a smartphone (or tablet), then they will feel that it requires too much effort. If a company’s online content is not easy to select and use with a fat thumb (or single finger), then they should think about RWD. Today, more and more people prefer to use their thumb (sometimes thumbs) to text and to click on online content from a smartphone. (And, while a single pointer finger might be used more often on a tablet than a thumb would – a single digit doing less work is preferred).

Finally, think about how and where people use their smartphones. Many people hold their phone in one hand, and use the other hand to do other things, such as: hold onto the subway bars or carry a coffee. This makes using two fingers to expand and read text nearly impossible. It is key for companies to optimize their sites for this “in-between” time, as well – time that customers could be spending on their websites becoming more familiar with the company or making a purchase.

In short, the mobile imperative can no longer be ignored. Companies who were waiting for a time to act must do so now, in order to stay competitive in this ever-evolving online world.

Communicating with and Marketing to Millennials and Gen Z in 2015

It is important to be aware that every generation thinks differently. They have different shared experiences that often lead to different beliefs and different values. Accordingly, different generations communicate and want to be communicated to differently. Gen Y and Gen Z are no exception to this rule. Though, they are both different in many ways, they share many important similarities that should not be ignored by companies who want their attention.

So, if you’re marketing to one of these younger audiences you should keep a few things in mind.


First, You Must Understand What They Mean.

Communicating clearly, succinctly, and in the style that best works with your audience has never been more important than it is now. Whether communicating in blog form, on social media, or through writing on your website – the wording you use matters. Younger audiences interpret words and phrases online quite differently than you might.

Certain words have evolved or mean something completely opposite of what they used to mean! “That’s sick!” can mean that’s disgusting and terrible in one context, but it can also mean, “that’s amazing!” in another, to a younger audience.

Additionally, the word “literally” means something completely opposite to its original meaning. Gen Z will say they, “literally can’t stand spinach.” The word means that you are not exaggerating at all, but the younger generation commonly uses it to mean extreme exaggeration.

This phenomenon has been taking place for a long time. To illustrate, generations preceding the baby boomers took the word “awful” to mean “generally good, impressive things”. “Awful things” were in fact, “worthy of awe”. This is where expressions such as, “the awful majesty of God” come from. The difference is that today, with the speed of the internet, words, phrases and cultural memes are morphing new meaning at a far accelerated pace, and it requires a lot more work to keep up.


They Will Only be Interested in Your Content if it is Great.

You’re in a competition with the rest of the content online. Because of the endless options of content to consume, your advertising content has to be as good as or better than the content (paid and unpaid) they find and are exposed to around the rest of the internet. Otherwise, they’ll easily and instantly tune out, clicking the “X” button.


They Want Information Quickly.

They have no patience for longer, time-consuming content. To be clear, when I say “time-consuming content”, I’m not talking about an hour or two, I’m talking about often a video that lasts more than 20 seconds, or a couple of paragraphs of text. They prefer to socialize, inform themselves, and entertain themselves in short bursts, in part because they have so many other great pieces of content competing for their attention.


They Like Images and Short Videos.

Consuming, sharing, and even creating content is easier than ever before and the younger generations are doing it more than ever before. Vine, Snapchat, and now Instagram are places where short video and/or images can be shared.

Instagram has recently launched the ability to advertise short 15-second videos to respond to this audience’s need for short video content. Many of the brands who have tried it have experienced great success on Instagram.


In Summary

Even if these younger generations aren’t your target audiences, understanding them can lead to major insights about the future of all older target markets.

The actions of younger generation cause a spill-over effect to older generations. Inevitably, the younger generations begin to shape everyone else’s consumption of media by affecting technologies and trends that are (and will be) formed. Older generations will play catch-up much like as was the case with Facebook: popular with college student by 2007-2008 but only widely adopted by older generations in 2010 and later. (Most recently, my 87 year old grandmother created a Facebook account and is on it everyday: responding to comments and sharing posts, pictures, articles, and even memes!)

National Associations: 3 Ways to Engage Your Members

As the staff of any national association knows, it is important to keep members informed, motivated and remind them of the importance/relevance of the association they belong to. Engaged members are members who care. Importantly, this engagement can also support your organization’s continued relevance and value to its members.

Though many members of associations automatically become members by default, meaning they don’t need to be persuaded to join or to remain members, associations should nevertheless strive to continuously prove their value to members. All members should feel like the association they are a part of is invested in them and that they matter. Further, it is important to provide members, new and old, with easy ways to relate to your association and find their place within it. Read on for three ways to engage members with their association.



1)   Use Social Media to Create an Engaged Community

The power of simple, instant communication afforded by social media to bring people together is incredibly impressive. A key strength of social media is that it enables the creation of communities  united by a commonality, in this case, a shared membership to an association. Your national association should see social media as an opportunity to create a community of engaged members.

Maintaining your social media accounts, with the help of a sound strategy, of course, will also aid your federation in appearing (and being) more relevant and approachable.

Once you’ve (a) made your social media accounts easy to find and (b) maintained activity on these accounts, you open the door for members to engage with you directly in an easy and convenient manner. Make sure to respond in a timely manner to show members that their national association values their input and cares about their needs.


2) Produce Visual Content to Engage

Large associations can seem complex to outsiders — even to their own members!

Infographics are able to both clarify and disseminate sometimes complex information while engaging the reader. They do this by delivering valuable information such as statistics and facts in an organized, efficient, and visually engaging way. Breaking down the association’s key functions or highlighting achievements (for example), into simple, well-branded visuals can effectively present how the organization works and benefits its memebership. Done properly, infographics have the remarkable ability to make potentially confusing or bland information nearly painless and even enjoyable to consume!

The advantages of infographics for national associations are clear: from highlighting membership benefits to sharing important news or history.

Unlike a blog article (which has its own list of virtues), infographics are more immediately immersive. A well-designed visual arrangement of information will immediately create an appealing environment for the reader and requires less of a mental investment than multiple paragraphs of words on a page.

There is a reason infographics have been trending for a long time: they are easy to share on social media. People like them because they are seen as low-effort/high-pay-off pieces to both consume and share. For that reason they are also a great way to extend your message to places it hasn’t been before. Strong brand awareness for any national association is an on-going concern.


3) De-clutter Your Website for More Engagement

Try visiting (nearly) any national association’s homepage — choose one you have never visited before. How do you feel? A little overwhelmed?

If you don’t know exactly where to look and what you want, you’ll find that navigating many association websites can be overwhelming. There is often so much depth and breadth of information in such a compact space, that it can be difficult to figure out where to begin. Imagine how someone must feel who knows little about your organization. Pairing things down and organizing information in a clean and logical fashion makes good sense.(Not everything needs to be immediately accessible from your homepage.).



By using social media to nurture a stronger sense of community, infographics to communicate important information clearly and appealingly, and an easy to use and informative website, you will be more successful at engaging your members than ever before.

Truths and Myths About Going Viral

Every company dreams of “going viral.”

The ability to create a single piece of content (e.g. a YouTube video) and to simply wait until millions of people begin watching it and talking about it, saving thousands in paid media while gaining unprecedented publicity and interest for your company, seems almost too good to be true. Well, read on to learn some of the truths and myths about “going viral.”



Truth: No one can promise you viral content.

The fact is, nobody can promise you viral content. If your marketing company is being honest, they won’t claim that they can make you “go viral.”

Why is that?


Myth: The common belief that “If you build it, they will come.”

It might be tempting to believe that with the right amount of effort, time, knowledge and creativity (and, maybe even money), you will produce the latest meme. Going viral requires serendipity. It’s less of a formula and more of an ever-changing, imperfect recipe. It’s a recipe with far too many variables to control.

There is a lot of amazing content out there that most people never hear or talk about. Even if you’ve made the perfect piece of content for your audience and made it completely accessible and visible, luck still has a very important role to play.


Truth: It’s crucial to make great content that is not about you.

Before you can even entertain the possibility of creating viral content, make sure whatever you create is about more than your company. People have more media choices now than even before, so don’t abuse and toss away the privilege of their attention once you’ve got it.

Your target audience simply wants to experience things that interest them, and not feel bombarded by a clumsy brand message. Find out what their interests are, and deliver them in a way that will engage them.


Truth: Viral content takes insight.

Lots of deep insight. When you learn about what your audience is interested in, don’t just stop there. Viral content takes both great insight and a great idea; so, continue digging until you find something you can truly use to anchor a great idea that will cause people to take notice.


Truth: Becoming a go-to resource for great content will increase your odds.

Develop great content frequently so that you become known for it. It should be content that your target audience is not only interested in but will seek out. Nurturing an online brand for qualitative and relevant material will generate a larger audience, increasing the potential for one of your pieces to go viral.


In conclusion, “going viral” is a gamble, there are many things you can do to increase your odds, but you cannot predict whether you will succeed or not.

However, irrespective of your desire to go viral, never stop striving to make and share great content.

7 Common Dangers of Social Media Illiteracy to Your Business

Most people can agree that social media is a large part of modern culture. So much so, that it can be easy to make the mistake of thinking that (aside from the very young, old, or the counterculture) most people know everything they need to about social media.

While most people use social media on a regular basis, you may be surprised to find out how many people are, in fact social media illiterate.

Social Media Illiterate (def.): Individuals who may or may not use social media often, but do not understand all of the important nuances and subtleties that can make the difference between appearing either intelligent and clever or, thoughtless and idiotic.

Here’s the terrifying reality: These people WORK IN YOUR COMPANY.

So, here are seven common dangers of social media illiteracy to look out for in your business.

Oops key on a keyboard

1) Most 20 year-olds aren’t the social media experts you think they are.

Be wary that most 20-somethings aren’t sufficiently well-equipped to build and safeguard brands. Conduct online research on your potential new employee before giving him or her this important title.

Even so-called social media specialists, whom you may have hired to helm your social media campaign, have been known to screw up on a very public scale due to oversights (as chosen by Digiday).

The importance of hiring someone who is fully social media literate cannot be over-emphasized.

2) Failing to realize that employees represent themselves AND you and your company.

Never underestimate the power of an employee to unwittingly take down your brand. This might seem utterly ridiculous, but humour me for a moment:

You know that a brand is a carefully curated perception based on what your company represents. It can take a good deal of time and effort to build it and should be safeguarded at all costs.

Both you and your employees (from the top executives to the most junior interns) need to be educated on the ins and outs of social media. Much of this can be accomplished by relaying researched best practices to employees but the remaining gaps should be filled by experts in inbound marketing who can teach the necessary skills and knowledge to avoid costly mistakes.

3) Failing to reread your tweet/post/blog before you publish it.

Once you write a post tailored to each of your buyer personas or target audiences, be sure to put yourself in their shoes and re-read your post. Consider how they would interpret it and how it would appeal to them or possibly turn them off.

The truth is that a bad social media post can spread like wildfire. Even if you manage to delete a terrible post once you realize your mistake, it may already be too late. Think of what a parent tells their kids (‘Look both way before you cross the street!’ – this is almost the modern equivalent). Once it’s posted to the Internet, it’s there.

The power of screenshots is real.They take less than a second and allow a mistake of yours to become immortalized on any computer or smartphone without your consent, knowledge, or control. And unfortunately, the screenshot is here to stay.

If your followers are very influential in their social media circles and a lot of people begin sharing or retweeting your post-gone-wrong – you or your employee can single-handedly, potentially irreparably, damage your brand.

4) This goes for spelling, too. STAHP MSPLLING THIINGS. DONT UZED POUR GRAMRR.

No matter who you are or what you represent, it simply does not reflect well. That is not to say you can’t use everyday, casual language (if it fits the context and the brand). Whether you like it or not, you WILL be judged, so be aware.

Of course, sometimes mistakes happen. Having someone on your side who is social media literate will minimize such accidents, and will ensure they are quickly and thoroughly cleaned up if they do arise.

5) Failing to apologize when you make a mistake (and to fully recognize and publicly acknowledge it when you have).

When making a post that you notice begins to garner negative feedback, here is exactly what not to do:

• Delete negative comments

• Ban loyal fans from your company’s social media pages, accounts, and online groups

• Tell those with negative feedback be quiet or leave

• Ignore desperate appeals from broken-hearted, loyal customers

Don’t be one of those companies who continues to dig themselves deeper and deeper. Be sure to admit your mistake as soon as you realize it. Ignore this warning at your peril.

This brings me to my next point.

6) Failing to listen to good advice and forgetting to stay humble.

Continue to research and listen: read blogs on the subject (clearly, you’re off to a good start), discuss grey-area topics with other industry professionals, subscribe to blogs, Twitter feeds, and LinkedIn groups with people who know more than you about social media.

Never forget to stay humble, we can all learn more and improve, and we never know when or where that education may come from. Pride too often creates crucial blind spots that can hurt your company’s edge, perceived intelligence and adaptability.

7) Failing to have an active presence on social media (A.K.A. giving your competition a leg up).

This is one of the biggest mistakes your company can make. Your competitors are getting an edge on you by *deep breath in* gathering intelligence on the industry and their customers; making important connections with other industry leaders, customers, and prospects; reading and analysing the market at large; establishing a presence to simply say “we’re here, we’re current, we matter”; giving customers that extra level of value-added service to make them feel that they matter; and generating leads and new business for their company – *PHEW*. There’s a lot you’d be missing out on without a good, consistent social media presence.

That’s the power of social media literacy.