How you use social media in your personal life should have little to do with how you use it in business. Most people seem to understand that they should act professionally when it comes to their careers, but unfortunately many entrepreneurs don’t realize that what they say in social networks (for the world to see) can reflect on how their peers and employees view them.
Beyond that, too many small business owners take the same approach used in their personal social media accounts and apply it to their official business accounts. This is absolutely the wrong way to go.
While customers definitely want to feel like you are engaging with them as human beings, they most likely don’t want to know what you had for breakfast or that “people are jerks – you know who you are!”
Still, in contrast some businesses can also make the mistake of sounding too formal or sales oriented when they embark on social media forays. With this in mind, here are eight business etiquette tips for small businesses when engaging in social media.
1. Don’t air your dirty laundry.
Whether it’s a personal Facebook account that might be seen by peers or your company’s Twitter page, it’s important to keep any problems or grievances to yourself – and off your social networks. If you have to vent, make absolutely sure that you change your privacy settings so that it’s only seen by the people you want to see it.
2. Don’t be pushy.
No one likes friends who make you feel like a jerk if you don’t want to hang out every night, and no one likes companies who are constantly pushing their products on you the second you walk into a store. Social media platforms are no different. If your company’s social media accounts are used to do nothing but promote products, you’ll quickly find yourself without an audience.
3. Don’t be inappropriate.
Unless that kind of thing flies in your corporate culture or resonates with the audience your company is trying to reach, generally speaking you should refrain from vulgarity, inappropriate humor and disparaging content.
4. Never be argumentative.
The entire point of social media for business is that it gives companies the ability to interact and engage with fans and customers. Don’t ruin this by fighting online the first time someone disagrees with a post or tweet. Even if they are in the wrong, by coming out swinging it’s going to be you – and your company – that looks entirely foolish.
5. Don’t waste people’s time.
If you’ve hired a social media manager, community liaison or manage your social media accounts personally, it’s important to realize that no one wants to spend their time reading something they could care less about. That means that your company’s Facebook page shouldn’t act as your personal diary or a place to publish meeting minutes. If you’re going to post content, make sure that it is useful and valuable.
6. Update regularly.
Just creating a social media account isn’t enough. In order to keep fans engaged, your company should provide content on a regular basis. If you’re having trouble with this, consider creating a reminder on your calendar, connecting your social networks to your blog if you are updating that regularly, or hiring a social media manager.
7. Let your expertise shine.
Many companies are wary about showcasing what they know online because they’re “giving it away for free.” However, this way of thinking is a mistake. If you can establish yourself as the go-to expert or organization on a particular subject matter, people will seek you out regularly and even pay for your specialized knowledge.
8. Be yourself.
Just because it’s a company social network account doesn’t mean it has to be dry, dull and boring. Just like you can be yourself at industry events, networking parties and at your office, you can also share a little about who you are. But use common sense. Don’t conduct yourself in a way that can potentially harm your reputation.
Photo: Free People
Mathew Ellis is a freelance business writer. When he isn’t writing about social media topics he’s busy covering outsourced sales and marketing or training for his upcoming triathlon.