Social media offer great opportunities and benefits for the space business. This should not be a new message to corporate communication, customer service and public outreach professionals. Nevertheless, organizations big and small still get it wrong very often. If you can avoid the following five common mistakes, chances are that you will actually benefit from social media. And not just in the space sector…

Mistake 1 – Social media without strategy

Many organizations that adopted social media in the early days started by experimenting. “Let’s see what this social media thing really is.” These organizations went through a lot of trial and error and many became true industry leaders in the social media field. In 2013 social media have grown into a mature communication channel. Trial and error will no longer lead to success. Instead, the social media channel should be part of a multi-channel communication policy, in line with a well-defined corporate communication strategy. Social media will work only if it adds measurable value to this strategy.

Mistake 2 – Let the intern handle social media

Obvious? Maybe. Common? Absolutely! Social media is often regarded a channel for the young. So hiring a fresh (cheap) Facebook-savvy college intern may seem the best way to handle these trendy new media. The ‘real’ communication department can then continue to focus on ‘real’ corporate communication. Until pictures of department parties involving alcohol and funny hats (or worse), colleague’s pets and office coffee criticism become trending on Twitter and Facebook. Corporate social media are as serious communication messages as your carefully worded press releases. And they support the same corporate strategy and brand image as all other marketing. Treat it seriously!

Mistake 3 – Not being present on social media

Having the intern do social media for you is one thing, not being present at all is not the right thing either. Waiting for social media to become more mature? Too late! Social media are already a very mature channel. If you are not present now, chances are that your customers have already gone elsewhere to find their information or – worse – products. Is it too late to jump in now then? Absolutely not, but make sure you get in the right way (so see the other pitfalls in this article).

Mistake 4 – Being present – but not really – on social media

Perhaps even worse than being invisible on social media is being visible without content. You have a Twitter account, but stopped posting after a few weeks, leaving your last tweet (in the worst case saying ‘just testing Twitter’) two years in the past. Forgotten by you, but still very visible to the whole world. Or having a Facebook page that has only outdated Wikipedia data and your old company logo in it. If you say ‘A’ in social media, there is no way back and you will have to say ‘B’ to ‘Z’ too. You can no longer decide to ignore this social media ‘hype’. It isn’t.

Mistake 5 – Use only the ‘send’ function of social media

This is a hard social media nut to crack, even for many reputable companies that have been able to avoid the mistakes mentioned above. Social media is not ‘just another broadcast channel’. It is not a simple tool to spread your press releases and newsletters to your audience. Social media is very different in nature than traditional broadcast channels. It is much better than that! It offers you an unprecendented easy way to actually communicate with your supplier, client and peer base. If you want social media to help improve your brand image, if you want social media to actually make money for you, in other words, if you want to benefit from this exciting communication channel, you have to start communicating with your audience. No other corporate communication channel is as effective for actual communication than social media!