Social media offers a great opportunity to build your brand, increase engagement in authentic ways, show what your company is really about and totally screw things up. Case in point: American Apparel's 2014 social media gaffe. To promote a July 4th sale, the company tweeted what they thought was a picture of fireworks. It wasn't fireworks though -- it was the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding in mid-air in 1986. The public was not pleased, and many stopped following American Apparel online.

Though companies can recover from such a mistake, doing so wastes time and money that should be used to grow the company. So, before you pull an American Apparel-sized goof, here are five things entrepreneurs should never put on social media.

1. Politics and religion

There was a time when talking politics and religion was something you just didn't do in public. For entrepreneurs, that's still a good rule. If you're looking for a quick way to alienate some of your customer base, nothing does it like a political stance or politically incorrect statement. Just ask Roseanne Barr or Kathy Griffin.

Prefer to keep your customers loyal and happy to use your services or products? Then stay focused on their immediate concerns. What do your customers want? What do they dream of? What do they fear? By focusing your social media content on your customer and not your own beliefs, your business will keep moving in the right direction, which is toward more profit and less drama.

2. All you, all the time

Knowing you've got a big sale going on this weekend is important. However, no one wants to hear about it over and over and over. Just as you get tired of seeing pictures of your aunt's dinner on Facebook, people tire of hearing of your business. Mix it up.

When you're dealing with social media, you have to be more than a business -- you need to be a partner in improving your customers' lives. Talk about other trendsetters in your industry. Show people you realize there are other smart folks out there beside yourself. Provide information that is immediately useful to your customers, and/or entertaining.

You may have heard of this idea before as "content marketing." Well, here's the dirty little secret of content marketing: when you do it right, you can pitch as hard and as often as you want. As long as you keep the pitches soft and slip them in at the end of a solid piece of content, your followers won't mind and they'll actually be more likely to convert to buyers.

3. Negative stuff about clients or the world around you

People don't come to your page to be reminded of all the bad things happening in the world. They're looking for something refreshing, something to help them forget the 24/7 news that keeps telling them the sky is falling. As soon as you start talking about bad stuff, they forget about your products and services. Even worse, they associate you with negativity and drop you from their feeds. Let this happen, and your social media presence is dead.

If you can't find a positive angle for your posts, stay away. And that includes airing dirty laundry about clients or the competition. Keep that stuff in the boardroom and off of social media. That type of content is a major turnoff for social media users, and anything that turns them off will give them an excuse to turn you off.

4. Excessive updates

Every medium has its own post frequency tolerance. On Twitter, you can get away with several posts every day as long as they're spread out. Other options, such as Instagram and Facebook, have users who tolerate one feed post a day.

No matter how great your content, if you're clogging up your fans' feeds, you won't be doing it for long because they'll drop you without thinking twice. So, research best practices in posting frequency and follow them. If you get inspired and have a whole lot to say at once, use that as an opportunity to batch process content you can them drip over the next week or even month. This will guarantee your posts are fresh and useful and your fans will stick around to see them.

5. Non-social content

Social media was built to be social. It's not the place for press releases or boring content, lectures or any kind of one-way conversation. That stuff belongs on PRWeb.

If someone follows you on social media, it's safe to assume they know about your company and have already bought into the services or products you offer. So don't approach social media like a cold call or an infomercial. Treat it as a way to let customers behind the curtain to understand your company's personality.

Need an idea of what this looks like? Check out the Wendy's Twitter account. They don't talk hamburgers and fries all day. They give useful, funny stuff that gets people engaged and sharing. When they do talk fast food, it's often snarky. As a result, their posts get tons of reTweets and comments. And despite being a huge company, Wendy's responds to comments on their posts. This clever give and take has resulted in a huge and rabid fan base.

Bonus: stuff you can't validate

Okay, I know I promised five things entrepreneurs shouldn't share on social media, but I had to share an extra, because this almost bit me in the butt a few years ago.

In an era of fake news, you can't afford to post stuff that can't be verified. Everyone is on guard for fake stuff, and you should be too. This means no posting or sharing until you confirm whatever info it contains. That includes the picture you use. Remember American Apparel?

This doesn't mean you have to exhaustively research everything you post. Instead, just make sure you pay attention to your sources and only share or take inspiration from credible authorities.

Follow these tips, and you can build a rabid fanbase and cut out the drama that leaves so many social media users depressed and angry. Use social media as a tool for your business -- don't let the platforms use you. Stay focused on your positive message and use it to build your business empire.

Related:
The 5 Things Entrepreneurs Should Never Post on Social Media
4 Instagram Best Practices for Increasing Sales
Use This Simple Technique for a 25 Percent Conversion Rate Boost for Your Facebook and Instagram Campaigns

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