In today’s technologically advanced and fast-paced environment, reaching out to potential customers and securing their attention has never been more competitive.

With customers now spending more time on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, businesses need to change the way they engage their customers.

However, companies should not just jump on the social media bandwagon without first understanding what it is about.

Here are the top five “don’ts” of social media management.

1. Don't expect the social media  platform to manage itself

There is nothing more frustrating for the consumer than to leave a message and receive no feedback. When customers do not get a response, they may complain about it and a single complaint on a company’s blog, Facebook page or via Twitter, can quickly escalate, as others share their bad experiences.

Companies must engage in their customers’ online conversations in a timely manner. It is generally recommended that companies respond to customer queries within 24 hours.

2. Don't mishandle a social media crisis

With social media marketing being relatively new, mistakes are bound to happen. And while most customers can forgive a mistake (especially when the company apologises), they will not forgive a company that refuses to respond, blocks comments, censors public content or shows bad manners.

Companies that take a dogmatic and authoritative approach need to rethink how to better engage their audiences. For example, one company’s response of “Thank you for your comments, but we set the rules” to users’ questions on why their posts were deleted was highly criticised, resulting in them having to make a public apology for being rude. Remember, social media is about “being” social and not “doing” social!

3. Don't overpromise and under-deliver

In a world where communication to the masses occurs at the click of a button, be careful of what you say.

No company should say anything online that they would not be willing to say directly to customers. When launching a social media campaign, make sure you have done sufficient planning to ensure proper execution.

For example, if a fast food outlet announces that it is giving away free burger vouchers to the first 1,000 customers who “Like” or “Become a Fan” on their Facebook page, they must ensure that they have sufficient legitimate vouchers.

Running out of vouchers or changing the offer may affect brand confidence. This may result in a PR disaster, and you may lose loyal customers.

4. Don't hard sell

Social media is a two-way communication platform. Avoid advertising or traditional marketing tactics as these may be viewed as spam.

Social media is about engaging with the people, not selling your product. Tweets such as “Only 10 minutes left to get the 75 per cent discount!” are not conversational, but hard-selling, advertising pitches.

People go on social media platforms to connect with others. Receiving irrelevant messages will usually turn them off. Hard-selling within the social media space does not build trust, boost credibility or add any value.

5. Don't violate the game rules

Each social media platform has its own set of rules. When running campaigns and promotions, companies that do not abide by the rules risk having their social media assets and content removed.

For example, Facebook has various restrictions regarding cover photos on its pages. Price or purchase information such as “25 per cent off”, references to Facebook actions such as soliciting likes or any call to action such as “Book now!” are not to be included in cover photos.

When running contests, the use of Facebook functionalities and native features such as liking a page or commenting on a post are also prohibited.

While social media marketing can be a great asset, it is also a double-edged sword, with potential adverse consequences. Perhaps the easiest rule to remember is: Don’t use social media, unless you know how to.

Next: The five “dos” of social media management