Having a social media presence gives businesses more value for their dollar in advertising and marketing cost. But it can also undo even a thriving business when one is unaware of proper social media etiquette. So how can business owners tap into social media’s potential and avoid the pitfalls?
Here are 25 social media etiquette tips from the pros to help get you started.
1. Have the Courage to Be Nice
Mark Brinker, President, Mark Brinker & Associates
Have the courage to be nice. With so much meanness and negativity on social media, it can feel weird to post something positive or optimistic. No one wants to be labeled as a Pollyanna. But being nice or courteous doesn’t mean you’re weak—just the opposite. When in doubt, remember what Mom told you, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
2. Use Twitter to Provide Exceptional Customer Service
Kristin Tao, Account Executive, IT Retail
Give support and customer success access to Twitter. If your company ever receives a tweet with a complaint or question, respond as soon as possible to let your followers know you care! By giving support access, they can address any questions the customers may have. If there is a complaint, support can generally shed light on what happened. Find out the whole story and customer success can respond in an apologetic, understanding tone with next steps.
Maggie Aland, Marketing and Review Editor, Fit Small Business
Social media is a great way to spread more awareness about your business, but it’s easy to become overwhelmed with maintaining social media accounts that can lead to unintentional sharing of inappropriate posts. Make sure that your online presence always represents your brand in the best light by having an expert manage your social media marketing for you using freelance platforms like Fiverr. Starting as low as $5, freelancers on Fiverr will do everything from setting up your social media profiles to running entire ad campaigns. Click here to check it out.
4. Avoid Being Overly Promotional
Shelby Henderson, Social Media Coordinator, Home Business Magazine
Do not solely post about your products or services—people will find it overly promotional. Make sure to mix in informative articles, videos and memes related to your industry to keep things fresh and interesting. Engage your followers with positive content that makes them laugh. Business pages should be kept professional, i.e., don’t argue with commenters. In the same vein, respond promptly to all feedback with friendly dialogue, whether the input is praise or criticism. Never use your business page as a platform for your political views. Refrain from sharing your personal life on your business page, unless relevant to the growth of the business.
5. Stay Neutral
John Watkins, VP and CIO, inRsite IT
Unless you work for a political or religious organization, non-neutral topics should never show up on your feed. It’s the quickest way to alienate half your audience and lose followers. I worked with a guy who shared what he believed was a harmless joke about the pope late one night. The next morning, he had a few dozen angry comments on the post and even one small church that boycotted his company for a short time. Luckily for him, his social media reach was pretty small at that point, so the damage was minimal.
6. Set Up Away Messages on Messenger
Chris Palamidis, Head of Social Media & Google Advertising, Mindshare Greece
Set up “away” messages on Messenger to let people know that you have received their message and will respond as soon as possible. An increasing number of people choose to contact a business on Messenger instead of calling or sending an email. Small businesses, however, cannot afford 24/7 staff handling their Facebook page and monitoring comments and messages. That doesn’t mean that a business cannot remain friendly even when they are unavailable and reassure the sender that they have received their message and will respond as soon as possible.
Businesses can set up “away” messages on Messenger that give an automated reply which you provide and will be received by anyone who messages your Facebook Page while you are away. You will find the option to “Stay responsive when you don’t have access to your computer or phone” in your Page’s settings under “Messaging.”
7. Always Be Conscious of Privacy
Randolph Rice, Attorney and Owner, Law Offices of Randolph Rice
As an attorney, we have to be careful about what we share regarding our clients and their current legal matters. When we put information on our social media accounts, often it has to be topical or a general post about an area of the law. We strive to have some humor occasionally, but it’s a fine line we must walk. We don’t want to come off as not being serious, since we are lawyers. I do think there’s some value sharing personal information about yourself or maybe about your job, because we think our followers are interested about other professions and what it’s like to do the job.
8. Be Genuinely Engaged
Keri Lindenmuth, Marketing Manager, The Kyle David Group, LLC
One important social media rule for businesses is to actually be engaged. Social media is not a platform for your business to have a one-sided conversation or a bombardment of ads intended to make a sale. To thrive on social media, you actually have to be social. This means responding to all comments on your Facebook or Twitter, whether good or bad. It’s especially important to respond to negative reviews, comments, or criticism right away. Ignoring a negative review comes across as unprofessional and immature, while deleting a negative review or comment makes your business look guilty, even if the negative comment is unfounded. Meanwhile, remember that your followers are coming to you to learn something, so engage with them, answer their questions, address their comments, and share other user-generated content that may be of value to them.
9. Focus on “Prevention over Cure”
Katelyn McCullough, Co-Founder and Beauty Planner, Elwynn + Cass, LLC
Beyond the basic politics, sex, religion, money, etc. (dependent on the business or industry), in general I follow the rule that if I have to think about it (is this appropriate?), then it’s not appropriate content. I always listen to my gut when it comes to those decisions, and it’s just better not to worry about whether or not it’s appropriate. It’s easier to not post/comment than it is to take it down after it’s already been out there.
10. Appoint a Content Manager
Tia-Marie Gagnon, Marketing Manager, Chalmers Insurance Group
Make sure that you have a marketing point person who is responsible for creating your content and who can say yes or no if others are helping to create content for your company. This person can create social media guidelines that everyone has access to. In this document, include your mission, values, and voice, as well as your logo and colors. Give examples of the kind of content that you want to share with your audience and some topics that you don’t touch.
11. Know Your Audience
Dawn Hoffman, VP of Digital Marketing, Wanashaker
Many small businesses do not fully understand the voice of their target market, and their social media efforts reflect this shortcoming. Knowing who your target market is and exactly to whom you are speaking helps to guide you in knowing what types of content to share and how far you can push the envelope. A simple example—the content you share and the voice you use for millennials should be different than the content and voice you use if your target market is Generation X. Using terms and subjects that relate to your audience help you to connect with them, and makes them more inclined to follow you on social media.
12. Have Your Brand Guidelines in Writing
Stephen Hart, CEO, Cardswitcher
All businesses, regardless of size, should have written brand guidelines for social media. These guidelines don’t have to be complicated—all they have to do is set out your social media persona. Explain what you want to talk about and (perhaps more importantly) how you want to talk about it. The best tip I can give for writing brand guidelines is to provide examples. Don’t just say, “We have a playful voice on Twitter.” Instead, provide examples of tweets you think demonstrate that quality. With just the description, it’s difficult to know where the line lies. With concrete examples, it’s much, much clearer.
13. Understand the Purpose of Hashtags
Maddy Sharkey, Digital Marketing Coordinator, Brainchild Studios
Never use hashtags on memorial holidays. Remember, hashtags are for searchability and optimization. You don’t want to be ridiculed for taking advantage of another’s misfortune to leverage your own business. This rule is especially true for Memorial Day, 9/11, and when a natural disaster or tragedy happens. Replace the hashtags with a link to a Veteran’s charity website or the American Red Cross instead. You shouldn’t be ridiculed for honoring these days on social media, but stay on the safe side and skip the #WeRemember.
14. Practice Authentic Community Management
Ellen Jackson, Social Influence Specialist, FerebeeLane
It’s not just about posting a cute photo on Instagram and walking away. As a business on social media, it is easy for your account to come across as a content-pushing robot. Practicing community management is essential to maintain an active social account. From responding to messages on your pages to reaching out to other users within your target audience, take 30 minutes every day to engage with people. Explore hashtags and geotags that are relevant to your brand, and engage with those users by liking and commenting on their posts with authenticity. Do not just copy and paste the same generic message on each post. Tailor your messages to each post to let users know you are listening to them. This practice shows that your business is intentional with its audience, and I highly recommend it.
15. Respond to Comments Promptly
Alexandra Zelenko, Marketing and Technical Writer, DDI Development Company
Being on social media means your business has opened up a direct and highly public communication channel between you and your customers. Assign messages to members of your team to ensure they all get a prompt response, whether those messages are positive or negative. You should not ignore a negative review that can lead to the loss of a customer or a major PR disaster. Addressing negative feedback in a timely manner can help you turn a critic into a brand advocate.
16. Alter Your Message for Each Platform
Teresa Walsh, Marketing Executive, Cazana
Don’t share the exact same content on each social profile. It’s lazy and will come across robotic to company followers/fans. Alter your message for each platform. If you have a strong piece of content you wish to share, spend an extra 10-15 minutes tweaking the message for each social platform. For example, it’s wise to use two to three hashtags on Twitter but not necessary to use that many (if any) on Facebook. You would also want a more professional snappy tagline on LinkedIn than you would on Facebook, and so on. Be smart and write taglines that are suited to the audience of each social platform to maximize performance.
17. Connect with Your Audience on a Personal Level
Ethan Heller, Guitarist, Booking Agent, Manager, The Snozzberries (band)
Running the social media for my psychedelic-rock band The Snozzberries is both fun and challenging, as I am continuously walking a tightrope between being genuine to the band’s oddity while remaining professional. Sharing live videos and high-quality live photos is always a safe bet, with a short sentence or two to engage fans. It is important for bands (and any brand) to remain humble and authentic while posting on social media. For example, saying “We are so thankful for your support” as a caption for a crowd shot is perfect, while the same picture with a caption like “The band is killin’ it” gives an air of arrogance and detachment. Bands, and all businesses, should strive to sound personal and address communication directly to the individual audience member. Unless your brand includes a political agenda, it is best to avoid any politicizing or current events commentary, as this will likely turn away potential engagement.
18. Don’t Feed the Trolls
Zach Pittman, Founder and CEO, OrionsGuard LLC
One tip often overlooked when it comes to social media etiquette for businesses is the saying: Don’t Feed the Trolls. A troll is someone online who has nothing better to do than to be an instigator. They “troll” the internet looking for people and businesses to put down by making rude comments, spamming feeds, and giving false reviews.
The more you are involved on social media, the more often you will run into them. Trolls can do real damage to your business if not managed appropriately with the correct etiquette. Our immediate human reaction to a ridiculous, false comment is to respond back to correct the person so other readers don’t get the wrong idea. However, do not feed the trolls! Responding only entices them more to flood your comment space with lies and deception. The corrective action is to delete comments from trolls if it’s against your online policy or if the statement could be considered slander.
19. Remember Your Voice
Lauren Crain, Social Media Manager, HealthLabs.com
Each brand has a unique voice, and that’s the feeling that you want to convey to your audience overall. Is your brand fun? Is it caring? Is it snarky? What voice does your brand have and why? Once you’ve discovered your voice, keep it in mind every time you make a social media post. If your brand tends to be more fun-loving and care-free, it may not be best to share a lot of sad, somber articles—it will contradict the voice that you’re going for, and your followers won’t be too keen on the post or your brand.
20. Make Sure Your Content Doesn’t Promote a Competitor
Shelby Rogers, Content Marketing Strategist, Solodev
When using a service like Quuu for content curation, do make sure the content you’re putting out doesn’t promote a competitor. Check your social media feeds often if you’re using an automated service—algorithms still make mistakes. We’re constantly culling promotional articles written by our competitors that blatantly promote their product.
Curating content for your social media accounts should be filled with quality articles that align with your brand voice and organizational goals. For example, if you’re a local mechanic looking to build an online presence, retweeting or reposting the blog posts of your competitors will be counterproductive to your end goal. However, you could repost articles on what to look for in a towing company or how to stay safe on the road during holiday travels. Effective content curation with organizations aligned with your own can even help you build partnerships with other social media accounts—and maybe even lead to some real-life collaboration.
21. Use a Conversational Tone in Your Direct Messages
Nathaniel Butler, Marketing Manager, Washington Capital Partners
One often overlooked business tip for social media success is to always keep a conversational tone in your Direct Message strategy. In 2018, we’ve seen a large number of businesses turning to Instagram and Facebook DMs to reach out individually to leads that they have found using the social media platforms’ targeting tools.
The problem is that many businesses are sending a generic, catch-all message rather than using the DM function for what it was intended to do: strike up a conversation. The fact is that DMs are not emails, and if businesses want to be successful and avoid a high number of unfollows, they need to avoid using them like a drip campaign. If the DM being sent doesn’t start a conversation, then it’s just more spam in an area that consumers aren’t used to receiving spam in yet. This makes your business stand out—as the company that abused the privilege of DMing their followers.
22. Be Cautious When Sharing Major News
Sherry Holub, Creative Director, JVM Design
Be very cautious about posting about or during major news. For example, a celebrity passing away. It’s perfectly acceptable to tweet a RIP (person’s name) or share a good article about the life of the person. What’s not okay is to commit a faux pas like Cinnabon, tweeting that Carrie Fisher had the best buns in the galaxy (complete with a Photoshopped rendition of her likeness with Cinnabons replacing her trademark Princess Leia buns). Similarly, taking advantage of any sort of tragedy is a major no. If anything, a post concerning any news of that nature should be a very simple expression of sympathy. No matter how strong your urge is to cleverly tie any newsworthy event (past or present) into a promotion, it’s best to just resist it.
Lastly, pay attention to any automation you have set up. A scheduled post running about something fun and light when a tragic event has just taken place can be just as off-putting as using that event to market your business. Your best bet is to pause all automation in those cases. Remember, businesses can be shaken by a single tweet. Be mindful of what you’re posting.
23. Refrain from Using Your Personal Page as Your Business Page
Beth Pennington, Social Media Marketing Director and Owner, Embassy Decals
My best tip when it comes to a business being on social media (especially local family-owned businesses) is to have a separate page for your business and to make sure it is only showing your true brand. When asked if they can take their personal page and make it their business page, I tell them no, because you don’t know who is going to be looking at your business page. That means if you have your personal page and your business page be the one and the same, you have complete strangers looking at photos of your family and friends. Because think about it—once you go to a new page, the first place you look for is the photos, to see what they offer. However, the people on your personal page can be invited to like your business page.
24. Observe the 80/20 Rule
Jim Milan, Communications and SEO Manager, Auto Accessories Garage
Some businesses are tempted to use social media as “free advertising,” but the truth is that your social media followers did not follow you because they love ads, and they will quickly tune out (and unfollow) if that’s all you can offer. Followers will only stick around for content that they find entertaining, or at least interesting—and unfortunately, your 10 percent off sale is neither.
That’s not to say you can never share sales-oriented news and sales information to your followers. After all, chances are they do enjoy the products or services your business sells. 80/20 seems to be the golden ratio here. 80 percent of your content should be entertaining or informative, and no more than 20 percent should be strictly sales-focused. Any more than that will make your social channels feel boring at best, and spammy at worst.
25. Ask Permission Before Sharing Photos of Someone’s Child
Amanda G. Duff, Public Relations and Social Media, Duff PR
Don’t assume that just because someone tagged their business in a photo, they want their photo shared publicly. Yes, many people take being tagged as an unspoken OK to share, but not everyone is as seasoned in terms of social media culture. I oversee the PR and social media for a large resort in Florida that has over 45,000 Facebook fans. As far as fan favorites are concerned, a shot of a cute baby on the beach is up there with a shot of a manatee or dolphin, but not every parent wants their baby exposed to a public audience of that size.
Over to You
Your social media reputation plays a significant role in your company’s failure or success. So keep these social media tips for business in mind and watch your following grow in no time.
Did we miss out on your favorite social media etiquette tips? Share them with us in the comments.