Social media has grown beyond being just another piece of the marketing puzzle.

In the 2018 online landscape, social media platforms make up one of the core elements of the internet – and whether you’re a Fortune 500 or a budding influencer, social media can be life or death for your business.

Unfortunately, though, social media is easy to mess up. Even brands with years of experience on social can hurt themselves by making a few simple mistakes, and with algorithms changing almost daily, knowing the best practices to follow is a challenge.

So how do you succeed on social media? We sat down with Will Deane, a bona fide social media expert and founder of digital marketing agency Unstoppable, to find out the 6 biggest things not to do on social.

Throwing Paint at the Wall

The social media landscape is crowded. That means that to stand out, you have to find your niche.

“Pick a theme for your content and stick to it,” Will explains. “If you post consistent, high-value content that always covers the same basic themes or concepts, your audience will see you as a source for that kind of content. If it’s content they want, that’s the key to growth.”

Ignoring Analytics

Hand in hand with the first mistake, many social media marketers fail to fully utilize analytics data.

“Almost every network now gives you a treasure trove of analytic data. So use it! You can use analytics to identify your highest-performing content, choose topics based on demographics and interest data, and find out the best times to post when the majority of your audience is online,” says Will. “The more you can have data influence your decisions, the faster you’ll grow.”

Posting Manually

On a more technical note, Will recommends against manually posting content every time you want something to go up:

“It’s just an unconscionable waste of time. There are tons of tools that make it so easy to schedule posts weeks ahead of time. Hootsuite is great for Twitter, Later is excellent for Instagram, and there are plenty more besides that.”

He continues, “A great idea is to go into your analytics to see when most of your audience is online, then schedule posts during that window every day. I usually schedule out posts in week-long blocks, but there’s nothing wrong with going longer.”

Going with Your Gut

“One of the first things I ask my clients is what they’re posting, and why they’re posting it,” says Will. “Most people either don’t have an answer for the second question or respond with something akin to ‘because I think it’s cool.’ The problem with that is it doesn’t matter what you think – what matters is your audience. That’s what you should base your content decisions on.”

In the modern social media landscape, it’s critical to publish content your audience and customers will love – and that means creating and curating content based on their preferences, not yours. Avoid making the mistake of posting content because you think it works. Instead, get feedback from your audience and tailor your profile to their interests.

Forgetting to Diversify

“I saw a figure recently that receives more than 50% of its traffic from social media. That can be ok, but it’s dangerous,” Will cautions. “It’s all well and good to build a big following on social, but you need to be diversifying your traffic and revenue. Just look what happened with the March 1st Facebook update – publishers literally went out of business from one algorithm change. The only way to protect yourself is to diversify.”

It’s as true on social media as it in investment: diversification is the only path to security. Spreading your traffic across different social platforms, as well as other traffic sources, can protect you from algorithmic changes and all the other inevitable black swans.

Equating Likes with Revenue

Finally, Will cautions business owners to remember what they’re really after:

“Sometimes I’ll get clients who show me really great visibility or engagement, but then their actual conversion numbers are abysmal,” he explains. “And the thing is, that doesn’t do you any good. Likes do not always mean revenue, and you need to track conversions beyond social media engagements to really see the impact your efforts are having on your business.”

Stay Flexible

In the end, the top social media mistakes will always change. What really matters is to keep learning, keep testing new strategies, and stay flexible to new changes. Take it from Will:

“Social changes every day. No one can keep up with all those changes, but by continuously testing your best content and iterating your strategy in response to the market, you can keep growing no matter how things changing.”

That’s good advice on any algorithm.