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7 Social Media Etiquette Tips for Small Businesses

img-1If you’re not in the digital marketing world, it can be hard to know what appropriate social media etiquette looks and sounds like as a solopreneur or small business. Outside of obvious defamatory behavior or offensive language, you may not be able to spot a faux pas until someone brings it to your attention

If you have a business, chances are you’re active on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. You may have also explored YouTube and SnapChat as options for communicating your brand’s message, depending on where your audience hangs out.

If you’re not in the digital marketing world, it can be hard to know what appropriate social media etiquette looks and sounds like as a solopreneur or small business. Outside of obvious defamatory behavior or offensive language, you may not be able to spot a faux pas until someone brings it to your attention — yikes! Let’s try to avoid that scenario.

Being proactive and protective of your brand can help you better navigate gray areas to avoid, inadvertently insulting others, or feeling embarrassed over something you could have never seen coming. After all, social media requires you to heavily deal with the public, and we all know how much mindfulness and responsibility come with that kind of reach.

Here are 7 do’s and don’ts for practicing great social media etiquette for your business:

1. Post about your business, but don’t over-post about your business. Mix it up!

The truth is, we all have products or services we want to try, but how many of us would like to purchase those items from someone we know and trust? Peer reviews are more important than ever with sites like Yelp, Amazon, and Facebook, which solicit nearly real-time feedback on a customer’s personal experience after every transaction.

When we consider the impact of such a process, it’s important to also consider how we get people to trust us more and to get to know us better. What greater way than to let people know the personal details of our lives and those who serve our businesses? Cue, personal branding. 

Oh, your employee Emily is a mom of 4 and competes in Roller Derby? Great! You’re a military dad from a family of 7 adopted children who enjoy vacationing internationally? Awesome. Your career is your passion, and you have 4 fur-babies that keep you on your toes, plus compete in local shows? Perfect. You enjoy skydiving? Amazing! You play basketball in your spare time? How fun! You like naps? ME TOO! 

Social media etiquette is about sharing your true authentic self with the world. The key is to be vulnerable, be real, and be ready to engage when someone has a moment of relatability or a question about one of your posts. Your product or offering should be a byproduct of who you are as an individual, business, and brand. 

2. Post at least daily, but don’t post just to post. Think carefully about your audience.

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Algorithms and paid advertising are big players in today’s social media game. With that in mind, frequently posting

without spamming in hopes of being seen, is a delicate balance. So, let your goal be to post with intention.

Pretty often, I see someone… Okay, who am I kidding? I do this on my own accounts, too. I'm on the go, in between meetings, and I haven’t posted for a day or two because I’m posting for everyone else. I start frantically searching for something, anything, to post.

Before you know it, you’re posting out of obligation and desperation without thought. Having a plan in place will help you make advanced decisions about your audience, your business plan, and your social media strategy to avoid on-the-fly posting.

One social media etiquette pro-tip to ensure you are posting the right amount is to pay attention to engagement. Sometimes, a post is better than no post at all. Just make meaningful decisions more often than not, and engagement will confirm that you’re on the right track.

3. Follow and connect with relevant accounts, but don’t follow with the intention of unfollowing to grow your account.

Have you ever been followed by an account with 0 followers on Instagram? Next thing you know, they post illusive comments and emojis on your latest photo. More often than not, that account will quickly unfollow you if you do not follow it back.

Companies do this as a tactic to grow their social media following.. This is not only bad social media etiquette, but it is considered to be untrustworthy, especially for brands where reputation is of high importance. On platforms like Instagram, you can actually be put into “social media jail” for these types of actions when done in high volumes. No bail will buy you out, only time.

Creating an authentic experience is the name of the social media game. If you’re representing a product or service, you want to connect with accounts that are relevant to your brand, but also accounts that you can identify as prospects for your business. Like their pages, shoot them a private message, and personalize comments on their posts, but don’t mention a product or service on the first contact.

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4. Share other people’s content and offerings to show support, but don’t do so without liking or commenting on the piece of content first.

This is a personal pet peeve of mine because I take a lot of time creating my own content, and the content for the businesses I provide social media management services for. I know other businesses spend a significant amount of time doing the same. Sharing a post is amazing! As social media users, we love when our posts get attention and engagement, but there is a caveat.

If you’re sharing other people’s content, make sure to first like or comment on the post. Don’t just screenshot it and repost it as your own. Share from the existing post or ask permission to use the content as a nicety. Then, add your own verbiage or opinion ahead of sharing for a good way to support, and avoid sharing blindly. If you don’t provide context, it can be perceived as someone taking your work and passing it off as their own. Here are some ways to show proper etiquette by platform:

  • Facebook - it would be okay to just add emojis ahead of sharing, but more meaningful to add context. Something as simple as, “I am really feeling this today” is perfectly acceptable.  

  • Twitter - when retweeting a tweet or image on Twitter, do so with the quote feature and add your thoughts. If you’re retweeting an article like a top 5 blog, read the article and then add your favorite takeaway ahead of retweeting. 

  • Instagram - sharing an image on Instagram is tempting, especially because there is so much excellent content, but consider downloading an app like “Repost” that gives appropriate credit where it is due. When copying the image through the app, you’ll notice a little symbol along with the handle of the account you got the image from. In that specific app, there is an option to copy the caption. I never quite feel right about that because I always want to put my own spin or hashtags on it. 

  • LinkedIn - sharing directly from a post is definitely encouraged on LinkedIn since it is the most professional of the four platforms discussed, and often has topics on controversial issues in the workplace. Make sure to post your view of the article and make sure not to add a passive-aggressive tone to your opinion. It’s okay to “rock the boat” on LinkedIn, but asserting yourself or your brand in a negative light will not be well-perceived. 

Please note that if you want to protect your own content, you can add a logo or handle into your design. That way, if someone screenshots it and shares, your identifying mark is still there. 

5. Invite people to follow your pages, but don’t spam them with constant products or sales posts. 

Always ask your circle to support you, and always invite relevant people and accounts to join you on your journey, but the old sales tactic of “Always Be Closing” is horrible social media etiquette. People do not want to be sold to. I repeat. People do not want to be sold to. Social media is a place where people go to escape and interact with loved ones. Brands need to entertain and delight followers.

In a time where we know that 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally, buyers are making purchasing decisions about a product or service without ever consulting a person, it is easier than ever to turn someone off with hard selling. In 2020, we have to focus more on attraction marketing — doing the right things for the right reasons to attract the right people. 

Depending on your line of work, the etiquette on how often you post sales-centric content varies.. For MLMs or companies in direct sales, I would recommend a 70/30 or a 60/40 split on the content of your posts. That means only 30% to 40% of your posts should mention a product or service. I have seen influencers in the fitness space not even make mention of the company they represent. They lead with their body condition, which is really interesting to me. That takes a lot of discipline when you believe in something. It may be an extreme example, but there is a happy balance to be struck.

6. Engage with your audience, but be sure to engage back with context. A "like" or emoji is simply not enough.

Let’s be honest, there are so many distractions competing for our attention daily. How many times have you seen a post on social media and thought, “I’m going to go back to that later” *bookmarks post, dies a slow digital death*

I wish I could tell you that a simple acknowledgment is enough. The truth is, the simple “like” or emoji response is quickly overlooked, and comparable to noise in the social media world. Take the extra 10 seconds when someone comments on your post and comment something back like, “I’m so glad you could relate to this message. I thought it was pretty special, too.” Done!

If someone shares your post on social media and you get the notification, a "like," love, laugh, etc. emoji is enough because you’ve already discussed it. You can always comment, “thanks for sharing.” Simple.as.that.

Another truth bomb is that non-responsiveness is unacceptable and horrible social media etiquette, especially for a brand. I’ll use this comparison, have you ever taken the time out to send someone a birthday card and never heard back? It’s the worst, right? Or is it just me? Maybe. It feels the same way when you’re a brand or business. The person who engages typically expects and enjoys a one-on-one acknowledgment from another person. If it’s missing, it could sour their opinion of the brand and how much it cares about its audience.

7. Share personal details about your life, but stay away from personal views on controversial topics.

As I mentioned before, it is vital to share details about your personal life on your business social media platforms, but what is considered an “overshare?” That is a really tough question to answer because, depending on your audience, you could feel obligated to share some uncomfortable stories to drive your message home. 

There are two topics that seem to ruffle everyone’s feathers. Can you guess what they are? Yep. Politics and religion. Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule, and I think if you’re in an industry where these items must be discussed, you are already aware that things can get a little heated under the collar when talking about these topics. If you’re clearly not in an industry that has to talk about controversial issues, my advice is to steer clear.

I say this with the disclaimer that this is a decision that must be considered carefully by the business or the brand. For example, one business may be okay layering faith into their message, and another may find that it’s absolutely irrelevant to their cause. Either is okay. The importance is being cautious and using forward-thinking about the risk of such a post and the short-and long-term consequences that could arise.

I hope these 7 tips have given you better insight into what social media etiquette looks and sounds like for the business world. In short, considering your audience, building personal relationships, and gathering engagement from others don’t always 100% dictate success. You never know who you’re inspiring by being present — even if they don’t let you know you’ve impacted them.

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