Doing Business Online: Five Tips For Proper Social Media Etiquette

Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen social media grow from a small-time phenomenon to a regular part of our everyday lives. It is estimated that there will be more than 3 billion social media online by 2021, so naturally social media has become a vital part of nearly every company’s marketing and customer outreach efforts. From small businesses looking to connect with their local community to industry giants offering a public face for their millions of customers, virtually any business can benefit from having a strong social media presence. 

However, just like any other type of marketing, promoting your business online can be difficult to pull off, and done poorly it can have a negative impact on your business. This is especially true with small businesses, as they often rely on social media to market their brand and engage with their audience, often lacking the resources to using other forms of marketing. If you are looking to make social media a stronger part of your marketing efforts, consider these five tips for proper social media etiquette.

Don’t Be A Salesperson 

One of the biggest mistakes that small business owners make when they branch out to social media is using it primarily to sell and promote their products. social media is a fantastic way to draw customer interest and makes sales, but that cannot and should not be the primary purpose for being online. People generally aren’t going to follow you if they think your social media presence is just a sales funnel where you try to convince people to buy things, and if you keep going into “salesperson mode,” it can quickly chase off the followers you do have. There are many different things you can do to keep your followers engaged, from sharing relevant content to answering customer queries. All of this can eventually lead to new sales, but it should come as a natural part of the online experience rather than the focus of the conversation. 

Don’t Be Self-Centered

Even if you are not a big social media person and are only active online because of your business, you still need to strike a balance between posting about yourself and posting about other things. Even if you aren’t specifically trying to sell your products or services, if all of your posts are about your business, then people will be less inclined to engage with you, resulting in missed opportunities to connect with your audience and take advantage of the benefits that come with social media market. Obviously, you do need to post about yourself, but try to balance it out with other content that would be relevant to your field and interesting to your customer base. One way to go about is to implement the 4-1-1- Rule. Originally popularized by Tippingpoint Labs and Joe Pulizzi as a guideline for Twitter, the 4-1-1 Rule suggests that you should follow a pattern where you post four pieces of new content, one relevant repost of and one “self-serving” post. This rule can be applied across many different social media platforms and helps to create a balance of content serves your company’s needs without upsetting your followers.   

Don’t Get Too Personal 

An important piece you’ll often see for small business owners is that they effectively ARE their brand, that they are selling themselves much as they are their products and services. People typically like seeing the more human side of a brand, so bringing your personal voice to your social media marketing is not only expected but a potential asset for your business. That said, there are certain boundaries that are important to maintaining when promoting your business online. It is easy to get into arguments on social media, especially if someone says something hurtful or emotionally charged, but airing personal grievances in what is a business-centric space can easily damage one’s reputation and come across as unprofessional. Whether you are running your social media accounts directly or have someone else monitoring them, it is important to maintain a degree of professionalism and avoid getting caught up in the fast-paced and sometimes heated nature of online discussion.  

Don’t Misrepresent Yourself

Though it’s important to not get overly personal on your company’s social media account, it is equally important that when you do put yourself out there, you are being truly genuine about who you are. It can be tempting to exaggerate on how big the turnout was as a promotional event or add a few embellishments to your personal profile, but it can lead to some tense or embarrassing situations if someone finds out that you aren’t being truthful. Also, don’t try to project a personality that doesn’t really match up with how you are in real life. It creates a disconnect between you and your business, which is the last thing you want as a small business owner. 

Don’t Treat All Platforms The Same

There are dozens upon dozens of social media platforms available right now, and different demographics tend to flock to different platforms. For this reason, you will likely have to be active on multiple social media sites in order to reach your target audience most effectively. With that in mind, it is important to remember that, although certain principles of social media etiquette are broadly applicable, others are more specific to certain platforms. For instance, Twitter encourages you to post more often than you would on other social media platforms since the reverse chronological order of a Twitter feed means that older posts will quickly become buried over time. Facebook operates differently though, as even content that was posted a few days earlier can still be found near the top of your feed. This means that if you “spam” posts, it will be much more noticeable on Facebook and can quickly become irritating for your followers. Always keep in mind how each social media platform you use works and try to tailor your content and posting habits based on their particular quirks. 

Social media is a powerful tool for business owners that can bolster brand reputation and strengthen connections with customers. Yet to make the most of it, one must follow proper etiquette in order when engaging with other users. Thankfully, despite the many technological considerations that come with doing business online, most of the best practices involved are just modernized versions of old-fashioned good manners. As long as you are considerate about how your words, pictures, and videos affect your followers, then you are sure to do fine!

Mark Buckner
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Mark Buckner is a freelance writer and editor from Hammond, Indiana. A recent graduate of Purdue University Northwest, he has edited two books and written on topics ranging from social media to science fiction film. At this time, he is open to other freelance writing and editing opportunities.

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