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Social networking sites: 10 mistakes organizations make

Making conversations one-way

As chair of the Northern Virginia Technology Council's social media committee, Evan Weisel sees the gamut of social media use. The Welz & Weisel Communications co-founder said too many companies see these tools as just another way to push out information. Bombarding people with advertisements or press releases won't earn many followers, he said; there has to be a dialogue that keeps the audience engaged.

Summoning your defense

The Internet can become a battleground if organizations don't handle social media with care, Fair cautioned. Companies and political organizations have to understand that criticism is likely to come in the form of tweets and comments, but an organization cannot become abrasive or defensive, she said. Even a mere 140 characters, the length of a tweet, can have the makings of a public relations blunder.

Missing out on event follow-up Fair said many companies or organizations will bring people together for a large event or conference, but fail to capture that audience for the long-term. She said Facebook or another social networking tool can give organizers the opportunity to engage with that crowd regularly, even after the festivities come to a close.

Making it about money, money, money

Most nonprofits and other donation-driven organizations recognize the potential to raise funds through social media, but Fair said it is too often viewed as a funnel to the organization's coffers. She said nonprofits stand to collect more money from a community that participates, through social media or otherwise, in an organization's cause. You can't initiate social media as part of a fundraising effort, she said; it has to happen beforehand.

So, now what? Even if your company is firing off tweets every hour and constantly tending to its Facebook page, how do you know if it's working? Dean Hua, owner of Bethesda-based Web consultant Sachi Studio, said an organization looking to use social media should first decide how measure whether its efforts are successful. That could be the number of hits on the company's Web site, donations to a nonprofit's campaign or many other metrics.

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