Five worst social media faux pas small businesses commit

Posted on Nov 18th, 2016 | Running a business

Five worst social media faux pas small businesses commit, image of two people using phones on the underground

Getting your small business’ online presence on the money can be a confusing prospect. Sure, you want your company to appear friendly and relaxed, but not at the expense of your professionalism. The priorities of selling, nurturing existing relationships, and reaching out to potential new customers can be tricky to juggle all at once, but it’s entirely possible if you know how to craft an effective post.

It’s fair to assume that small business owners who don’t spend hours and hours trawling through social media may not be particularly au fait with what might make them look out of touch in the seemingly scary world of social media marketing.

If this sounds like you, pay close attention to these five social faux pas worth avoiding.

Clickbaiting ruins credibility

Think way back to the first time that you naively thought you’d won a million pounds for being the millionth website visitor, and clicked through to collect your winnings – only to be vastly disappointed. It’s likely you can’t think of a second time you fell for it.

If you tell someone that they’re getting something – be it a special deal or an answer to a question – and then fail to deliver once they’ve clicked the link, they’ll probably think twice before wasting their time on the next occasion they see you posting.

Keep your content relevant, informative and entertaining, but don’t try and trick someone into clicking on it.

As former US President George W Bush once said…

Buying likes

Paying for targeted ads can greatly help you get in front of your target audience, but buying fake likes from dodgy clickfarms does the opposite. Don’t fall for them.

It might be nice to look like you have lots of followers or likes on social media, but paying to make yourself appear more popular by harvesting support from fake profiles can seriously backfire.

Not only will people start to smell a rat when hardly any of your hundreds of thousands of fans are engaging with your content, but said lack of engagement can also lead to Facebook reducing your organic reach – meaning you don’t get your message in front of as many people.

Condescending your target audience

Ever seen those daytime TV phone-in competitions with stupidly easy questions like “Who is Mickey Mouse’s friend – A) Donald Duck or B) Donald Trump?”

You may be tempted to use the same tactic of spoonfeeding your audience to spark some surefire engagement online, but in the transparent, feedback-heavy world of social media, you’ll be really tempting mass ridicule.

‘Treat your audience like adults’ shouldn’t really have to be on a list of social media tips – but it’s an easy trap to fall into.


Hashtags are, when used properly and effectively, meant for getting conversations flowing. They’re also seriously useful if you’re trying to find out what your potential customers are saying about a certain subject, or want to share your industry knowledge in an existing conversation to increase your brand awareness.

With that said, coming up with your own wacky hashtags that nobody will use (or completely overusing them) shows about as much social etiquette as eating a tuna sandwich on a crowded bus.

Check whether the platform you’re on actually acknowledges hashtags at all; for example, while Instagram users will happily hashtag until the cows come home, Linkedin doesn’t use them at all. Social media content specialists Buzzsumo found that Facebook posts without hashtags actually generated more engagement than those with them.

Twitter is where hashtags first rose to prominence, but even here, it’s better not to over-do it. Two hashtags in a tweet is commonplace, maybe three at a push. Any more and people will start taking you about as seriously as those oh-so-zany people who actually say “hashtag” in real-life conversations. #JustSayin.

Don’t promote your brand by piggybacking off a tragedy

Everyone understandably reacts to tragedies differently, but if your first reaction is to ask how your business can benefit, you’re really going to rub people up the wrong way.

Are you an artist or musician who has been inspired by the recently departed, and want to post a heartfelt tribute? Fill yer boots.

Want to raise funds for the people affected by a natural disaster? You’re awesome, well done.

Are you a butcher, piggybacking off Prince’s untimely death by releasing limited edition purple sausages… when the Artist himself was a vegan, no less? It probably would have been best to kibosh that one.

Then there are companies who actually pay to get their post of condolence seen by a wider audience, meanwhile slapping their own branding all over it. Not something we’d recommend…

Now you know what you definitely shouldn’t do, you might like to download our free beginners’ guide to getting your business started on social media. Find out which platforms are right for you, what you should be posting on them, and what tools you can use to get the best results.

Useful tools and resources

Business guides

From understanding expenses to starting a limited company, we've a range of jargon-free business guides for you to download and keep.

Invoicing software and templates

Create, send and store sole trader invoices in a snap with our free invoice software. You can also download a selection of invoice templates for all business types.

Take-home pay calculator

Use our Take-Home Pay Calculator to work out your true earnings and see if you could save money with a different company set up.