There are etiquette guides for almost any situation, from table settings to international business meetings. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that a communication medium as culturally transformative as social media also comes with its own code of common courtesies and customs.
Businesses in particular need to adhere to this etiquette, since social media is such a public forum. One wrong move can spiral into a full blown crisis and have serious consequences for your brand reputation.
To ensure your business is a valuable, respectful, and welcomed presence on social media follow these essential etiquette rules.
Bonus: Get the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence with Hootsuite.
8 social media etiquette tips for brands
1. Read the room
Using social media without knowing your audience is like going on a blind date and immediately bringing up a polarizing political issue. Social media is about two-way dialogue and your business needs to be a good conversation partner.
What this all boils down to is listening before talking. Social listening can help you better understand how to engage with your audience more effectively—it can also help you uncover gaps or opportunities that you can address before your competitors get a chance.
2. Don’t be a robot
While social media automation can come in handy at times, you should avoid it in direct interactions with your audience. This means no automated Twitter DMs, private Facebook messages, or Instagram comments. People are smart, and can easily sniff out automation on social media. They can also report it as spam, which isn’t good for your business. Put a human touch on everything you do, even when bulk scheduling messages across your social networks.
You should also switch up the type of content you post on a regular basis. Nobody follows a business on social media because they want a constant stream of annoyingly similar posts. They’ve given you the green light to appear in their personal feeds—make sure they don’t regret it.
3. Respond to comments, fast
According to Econsultancy, 53 percent of customers who ask a business a question on Twitter expect a response within one hour. If a customer makes a complaint, however, that figure goes up to 72 percent.
Being on social media means you’ve opened up a direct and highly public communication channel between your business and your customers—don’t leave them hanging. Assign messages to members of your team to ensure they all get a prompt response, whether those messages are positive or negative.
Ignoring a negative review can lead to the loss of a customer or a major PR disaster. Addressing negative feedback in a timely manner can help you turn a detractor into a brand advocate.
4. Don’t badmouth your peers
Playing nice with competing brands on social media goes a long way. Not only can it help establish a professional working relationship with others in your field, but it also improves your online reputation in the eyes of your followers, as well as your competitors’ social media audience.
But this doesn’t mean you should keep mum if another brand calls you out on social media. Take time to respond to their comments, just as you would with feedback from your customers—especially if those comments are negative. Their audience deserves to hear your side of the story, to decide for themselves if the negative messaging from your competitor is worth considering.
5. Tame your hashtags
Hashtags are a great way to give your social media messaging higher visibility and greater reach. But they can look distracting and desperate if you use too many of them.
It’s considered best practice to use your hashtags sparingly and choose them carefully. Your hashtags should help you join a larger discussion or target a specific audience, without forcing your audience to reconsider their decision to follow you.
Learn how one business started a hashtag that now attracts millions of users from around the world and get tips for creating your own branded hashtag in this post.
6. Be careful mixing professional and personal
Cornering an unsuspecting coworker and unloading your personal problems on them is poor etiquette in any business setting. But your personal life doesn’t belong on your company’s social media accounts either.
Accidentally posting something personal from your company’s account is every social media manager’s worst nightmare. To avoid it from ever becoming your reality, follow these tips:
- Use a social media management platform. Managing all of your accounts in one place is the easiest way to keep everything safe and separate. In Hootsuite, you can create separate tabs for your professional and personal accounts. Or, you could separate the two completely and only use a social media management platform for your professional accounts.
- Secure your company’s social media accounts. With Hootsuite Enterprise, you can designate certain accounts as “secure” profiles, which will help prevent messages being posted by accident. Any time you schedule or send a message to that account you’ll be required to confirm your intent to post, giving you that extra moment to ensure you’re posting to the right account.
- Double (or triple) check before you publish or schedule content. You’re busy, but taking the extra second or two to make sure you’re sending content from the right account is always worth your time. Think about it this way: having to delete a post, issue and apology, and explain what happened to your boss will take a lot longer.
You should also be aware of how connected you are online to your company’s brand. For example, mentioning where you work in the bio of your personal accounts is a great way to put a human face on your brand and connect with people in similar industries. But it also connects your company to anything you say and do on social media, so you should always act (and post) accordingly. To keep things entirely separate, you may want to keep your personal profiles set to private.
7. Don’t follow everyone and anyone
Following thousands of people with the hope they’ll follow you back will not only oversaturate your feed with irrelevant posts, it will tarnish your brand reputation and detract from the perceived value of your social media presence.
The number of followers you have shouldn’t be your main indicator of success on social media anyways. While it’s a good indicator of how much awareness there is of your brand on social media, your follower count doesn’t mean much without context.
Follow accounts that produce valuable content you would consider reposting as part of your content curation strategy—such as brand ambassadors, think tanks and watchdogs in your field, active fans, and fellow industry professionals.
8. Always give credit
For better or worse, social media is a recycling bin of content. This opens the door for your content to reach massive audiences in the blink of an eye, but it can also lead to plagiarism, copyright infringement, and the absence of credit where credit is due.
Sharing user-generated content (UGC) is a great way to give your followers a steady stream of fresh and engaging posts, but giving proper credit is an absolute must. Otherwise, you risk coming off as disrespectful and greedy. The easiest way to do this is to mention the creator’s handle in your post. Asking permission before sharing someone’s content is also a good way to score polite points for your business.
Following these social media etiquette rules is easy with Hootsuite. From one dashboard you can schedule and publish posts, engage your followers, and track the success of your efforts.