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 negligence.

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 significant. 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.

Google Will Ignore Your Link Building Efforts Unless You Focus on Quality

The foundation of Google’s success in providing relevant search results has been its ability to evaluate links.  They consider each link to your site to be a vote towards how relevant and important your web pages are.  These votes add up and contribute to how well you rank in the search results. Each vote, however, is not considered equal.


 A Vote Counted vs. A Vote Ignored

Google’s ideal link situation occurs when a web page with great content is published, then people who are authorities on a topic notice its value and decide to link to it from their websites because it will be helpful to their readers. Google would consider this a good-quality, natural link. The challenge for Google is evaluating every link on the Internet, and their solution is to program their automated system to recognize if:

  • a link is good quality and would work well as a vote towards authority, or
  • a link is of such low quality that it should be ignored in terms of conveying SEO benefit.

Like Sherlock Holmes, Google’s algorithm looks for clues.


Clue #1 – The Topics of Focus are Relevant

When a website has a topic of focus,and they link to one of your web pages which features either the same topic or a related topic, this sends a clear signal to Google that this link should count as a vote. Think of a fashion blogger linking to an up-and-coming clothing designer. Alternatively, if there’s no relationship in topics, this would signal that this link should either have an extremely weak vote or totally nullified vote.


Clue #2 – The Quality of the Source

Google’s system judges the importance of the website that’s linking to you, primarily by examining their inbound links.  If they are deemed to be authoritative, their link to you will be considered a strong vote.  A link from a fashion blogger who’s very popular will be regarded as a much stronger vote than a link from someone who’s just started their blog.


Clue #3 – How Natural the Link Appears To Be

Google examines the linking website for clues that indicate that links are for sale.  If this is suspected, that website’s outgoing links will, in all likelihood, not be counted as votes.  Same goes for links that can be generated by website visitors, such as links in comments sections. Google also examines the link itself.  Their algorithm has developed an eye for:

  • links that look natural, such as linking to a website by using the company name, product name or the URL, or even saying “hey check this out”.  This is how normal, unsolicited links tend to look.
  • links that look unnatural, such as linking to a website by using that company’s most desirable keyword. For example “cheap medications online”.

Focus on Quality

Link building remains a very important part of ranking well in the search results. Creating great content alone will only get you so far.  Getting noticed by the right websites, and getting links from them is essential.  Invest your link-building efforts towards quality links from quality websites because a few strong votes will far outweigh a multitude of low quality votes that are either extremely weak, or that don’t count for anything at all.