In no particular order, here are general rules of etiquette that can be applied across all social platforms…
- Complete all online profiles succinctly and use your real name/business name and a photograph of either yourself or your company logo. Create content on the main profile that details clearly who you are and who your target audience is.
- Choose a screen name that is representative of you and your business and the “face” you want to present to the world. Decide who you are and be consistent.
- Keep business and personal connections separate; have a unique account for your business page and a separate, unique personal account if you wish to use social media for personal purposes. Don’t share personal information on your business profile.
- Be, at all times, professional, respectful, personable and congenial. Be positive and encouraging of others as these values will be reflected back onto your brand
- When talking about or on behalf of your business and brand, use the first person plural (or the royal “we”) – even if your business consists of only you.
- Offer content that is valuable and in some way pertinent to your business and brand, and that is informative and entertaining. Content should not simply be sales-pitching or self-promotion; offer other content that your followers will appreciate. This is the content that will most likely be shared.
- Never approach and spam strangers via social media – let followers organically come to you.
- Don’t feel obliged to follow back everyone who follows you. Who you follow is another reflection of who you are and what your brand represents.
- Never post content when you are:
- Jet lagged
- Never post content that could be misconstrued or deemed offensive to any individual or group.
- Never post anything that you’d not be thrilled for a future employer, current employer, or potential clients, your mother-in-law, or your old grandmother to see.
- Be aware that you are judged by the company they keep – this applies online almost as much as it does in life. Keep track of who your followers are and the content they post to your page in the form of comments.
- Compose all content you post and share mindfully, paying strict attention to grammar and spelling. Use punctuation! Don’t use text-speak; unless this resonates with your target audience because they are teens.
- If you are presenting facts, confirm the veracity of these before posting. If you post content gleaned from another, give credit where it is due and reference it.
- Never share your personal political or religious views or agenda on a business social page.
- Never use profanity of any kind on a business social page.
- Don’t be “that” annoying poster. What is construed as tediously annoying on social media includes:
- Delivering a tsunami of posts – keep it to no more than one or two a day.
- Over-posting self-promotion or sales pitching – this should constitute no more than 20-30 per cent of your total content.
- Sending spam invites.
- Posting late into the evening or too early in the morning.
- Live tweeting conferences to a wide audience.
- Vague updates – these have no place on a business profile.
- Inappropriate hashtagging – too many hashtags, hashtags off Twitter, or ridiculous hashtags (a la, #so #glad #it’s #Friday, #whoisreadyfortheweekend or #OMG). Limit hashtags to Twitter in general, and include no more than two per post.
- Redundant cross-network updating.
- Checking in at insignificant places – this is over-sharing at its worst.
- Humble bragging.
- Tweeting via a long-winded multi-tweet.
- Liking your own status.
- Sharing chain letter photos, posts and memes.
- Updating in all CAPS.
- Posting too much information (TMI).
- Don’t send LinkedIn requests to strangers or people who you have never interacted with, spoken to or met. That’s, of course, unless you want to start a business relationship with them and want to introduce yourself.
- Don’t request likes or retweets – allow them to happen organically.
- Inspirational and motivational quotes have a definite place on business social media accounts – but again, limit these to one or two a week at most.
- Share humour by all means; this is a valuable part of content that garners the most shares and retweets. Make certain, though, that the humour will appeal to a wide audience as it is easy to misinterpret online.
- Misinterpretation is a common problem with online interaction, as tone and other conversational subtleties are lost in translation. Say clearly and concisely what you mean, and mean what you say.
- Respond to all comments, whatever their tone. Reciprocal engagement is crucial. Respond as promptly as you can and use the person’s name.
- Do not be aggressive in response to negative commentary. Take time to gather your thoughts and do not overreact (see point #21).
- Keep private dialogue private. Even if a consumer or follower posts to your comments wall, continue the conversation via private message or other means.
- Be classy. Even if your business relates to the latest sewer products or adults-only entertainment, have pride in your business and your brand and reflect that by being professional and “taking the high road” in your content and your tone.
Social media strategies that rely on networking via social platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, have changed the way consumers and businesses interact. Connection, collaboration and influence are very much driven by social media today. It is used to promote business, build careers and profiles, and enhance reputations. The way you as a business owner and brand conduct yourself on social media is a direct reflection of your business. By paying close attention to the basic etiquette of social networking, you are poised to make social media work positively for you, your business and your brand.
You may even benefit by applying them to your personal life as well.
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