Social media etiquette

Social media etiquette for small businesses

Almost every business out there these days understands the importance of having a social media presence. They have a Facebook page at minimum, and the savvier business owners have accounts with several other social platforms as well.

For those in the social media space, business owners need to know that the same social media etiquette that applies to individuals does not necessarily apply to business pages. Business accounts are held to a much higher standard in general and the public will give far less leeway for mistakes. Understanding online etiquette may just save your business from sending the wrong message out into the world and tarnishing your brand along with it.

Social media is constantly evolving and along with it, so are the ‘rules’. At the beginning it was pretty basic; don’t write or post anything on the internet that you wouldn’t want your own grandma to read. What this means, is that no one knows just how far or wide things on the internet might travel, so you have to be prepared for anyone to be reading what you write. This social rule is still relevant today, but there have been a few more guidelines added along the way:

Permission to ‘regram’ or use other people’s images

Always, always ask permission before re-posting someone’s Instagram image. Although you may not need to do this with your personal account (as long as you are tagging the image with full credit to the owner), it is considered very poor form for a company to use other people’s images without at least asking first.

If they say no, respect that and walk away. If they say yes, always give full credit and tag the person from whom the image came from. As well as being good Instagram etiquette, you are also protecting yourself and your business from any laws surrounding copyright, and the republishing of other people’s work without giving credit.

Get involved

Social media is not a one-way street. Businesses should never use any social media platform simply as a way of shouting their messages from the rooftops. It is viewed as distasteful to use platforms only for self-promotion. Instead, use your accounts as they were first intended to be used; to be social. Follow other pages, ‘like’ people’s posts, comment on them and get involved in discussions. Join relevant groups and immerse yourself in the conversations. Be as genuine as you can, it is obvious if you are only commenting in order to link to a product you happen to sell. If you are keeping active on social media, you’ll come across opportunities to mention your products or services in a sincere way.

Be helpful

Always try to bring something to the table when you are commenting or getting involved in groups. Honest advice or helpful information is appreciated by the general public and people will view your brand as authentic and trustworthy.

Don’t shout or be rude

Remember: Caps lock online = shouting. Also, be very careful with the use of sarcasm and watch how you phrase things. Always read through a post before publishing it to make sure it is coming across the way you intend. Be respectful that people all have different opinions, and whether you agree with them or not, they have a right to voice them. If someone is being offensive on your page you are well within your rights to delete their comments or block them, but if they are just offering a different view to you and you delete them you will need to be prepared for the backlash this can bring. Don’t get involved in arguments online when you are writing under your business account. And lastly, don’t write nasty things about your competitors. Stay polite and professional at all times to keep your brand in tact.

Know your brand guidelines

Before embarking on any social media marketing plan, sit down and work out what your brand guidelines are first. Every single thing you post or comment on will be a reflection of your brand. You most likely already have a company voice or brand footprint that you use in your communications, and social media shouldn’t be an exception to that. If you are going to have a team of people posting on behalf of your company, you need to make sure they are across these guidelines so that all posts are unified and don’t come across as being posted by several different people.

Another thing to think about before starting is what your business stance is on publishing opinions on politics or hot news topics. Know in advance if you are happy for your company to have an opinion on these things, or if you’d prefer to keep business as business and not get involved. If you wait until a newsworthy topic arises before making these decisions, you might end up writing a spur of the moment rant that you regret later.

Read the rules

Each social media platform will have a set of rules that you should become familiar with before you start posting. Some of these rules might be obvious ones, such as no nudity or offensive material. And some might not be obvious at all, such as having a certain text to image ratio in any ads you run.

If an individual breaks a rule on their personal page by mistake, they will be forgiven by their friends and followers. If a business slips up, the general public is not usually as fast to ignore it as businesses are expected to know better. Also, if you break the rules you are risking having your account suspended or deleted, meaning you lose all of your followers and means of communication to them in one hit.

By Bill Vasiliadis having written 63 posts for SEO for Small Business Pty Ltd. Bill Vasiliadis is an Australian SEO Consultant with over 20 years of online experience. He has helped businesses of all sizes increase the return on investment from their online marketing spend.