blundersAlthough there are numerous actions a company can take to improve client outreach and interaction, there are also many things to avoid. Social media errors show a lack of competence and lower the fans’ and followers’ confidence.

“Social media is not much different than face-to-face interaction,” said Nailah Blades, co-founder of Donna+Nailah. “People want to know they are talking to a real human who cares about the interaction. The best way to succeed on social media and avoid embarrassing blunders is to be yourself — be real.”

Here are 7 social media blunders to avoid.

1. Ignoring the Brand’s Message. “Some of the worst social media blunders occur when the individuals who run a brand’s social media campaign forget that they are speaking on behalf of the brand,” said Jeromy Ko, social media strategist for The Social Firm. “This leads to the outbursts, rants and controversy, which seem so common nowadays. The challenge of working in social media is to maintain an objective manner.”

2. Going Silent. “One of the biggest mistakes in social media that companies make is not responding in a timely manner, especially to negative comments or customer service issues,” said Jennifer Donovan, founder of Nova Communications. “Many companies think they can ignore those because they don’t agree or think the person is being petty. Those are the most important ones to respond to as you could quickly salvage a customer relationship with a response, whereas no response almost guarantees the customer will go elsewhere.”

“A discontented customer who is responded to quickly, and made to feel heard, can become one of your strongest brand advocates,” added Nathan Tucker of Market-Based Solutions. “On the other hand, a dissatisfied customer, when neglected, can share his negative opinion to tens of thousands of people in just a few minutes.”

3. Not Engaging. “Most people who contact a company via social media have the expectation that the company will respond in one hour or less,” said Stephanie Ciccarelli, CMO of Voices.com. “If the company’s Facebook, Twitter account or other [site] is not being monitored regularly (at least a few times a day), they run the risk of missing out on new opportunities and their negligence may be a source of lost confidence and/or activity from customers and those in their online community.”

“An issue we have seen is not correcting inaccurate claims made by the fans or followers,” said Adam O’Leary, president of Encite Marketing. “In one client’s case, a fan posted a claim that a certain band was going to be playing at my client’s venue. The post took on a life of its own… and in a very short time was being re-posted and shared all over Facebook. We took the appropriate action to engage in the conversation and relay the accurate information. If not, [there] could have been a very negative backlash for the brand.”

4. Improper Hashtag Use. “There is nothing worse than associating yourself, organization or company with an existing hashtag that either has nothing to do with your brand or associates you with something completely opposite than what you represent,” said Christian Kendzierski, director of media relations at Mount St. Mary’s University. “When beginning a hashtag campaign, always check your hashtag to see what it is being used for or what it has been used for in the past. It is worth a few moments to search before you commit.”

5. Over-Automating. “Individuals and companies alike should avoid over-automating,” explained Kimberly Johnson, principal at KJPR. “While automation is an important part of any marketing strategy, it should be done with care and caution. For example, scheduling social media posts is fine, but make sure you are also posting in real time and also monitoring your pages for comments and discussions. If you are scheduling posts for Facebook, you may need to alter them a bit to fit the 140-character limit on Twitter and the more professional tone of LinkedIn. Social media is meant to be just that — social. So be sure that your content strategy allows for real interaction and ad hoc updates.”

6. Grammatical and Spelling Errors. “One social media blunder that some brands make on a consistent basis is not proofreading the posts that they’re sending out,” said Michael Tiscione, community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. “Often a brand will send out a tweet that contains grammatical errors or poor punctuation, and then not correct it by simply removing it, fixing it and reposting it. Foolish mistakes like this can go a long way in having a brand appear unprofessional, careless and amateur.”

7. Tasteless Content. “Companies need to avoid appearing tone deaf or insensitive when posting content on holidays or around news events,” said Gayle Weiswasser, VP of marketing and social engagement at Homesnap. “I always advise erring on the side of caution and going dark over a holiday, rather than trying to make your brand seem relevant to the event. There is so much more to lose than to gain, and the brands that misstep get a lot of negative attention.”

Keeping all of these in mind, perhaps the biggest blunder is ignoring a blunder. Be conscientious and careful, and learn from your mistakes.