Social Media Business Etiquette Tips
A crowdsourced guide for everyone


Every new form of communication creates new rules of engagement. Unfortunately, these rules are often unspoken. In the early days, the rules might be hotly disputed, too.

So, in the spirit of practicing what we preach, we decided to ask people in social channels (LinkedIn groups, Quora, Focus and Twitter) to contribute their tips for social media business etiquette. As you can see, we got a fantastic response.

Here’s a word cloud of all the responses (from Wordle):

Happy browsing – and thanks to everyone who participated in this crowdsourced stream: we couldn’t have done it without you!

What Social Media business etiquette tip would you add to this list? Don't forget to add yours.

Jump down to the comment comments section and get involved in the conversation.

All of the Social Media Business Etiquette Tips

Restraint. Engage with people on social networks, talk to them, listen twice as much as you speak, and market half as much as you think you should.

It's tempting to respond to everything with a pitch, but a modicum of restraint will yield more opportunity and less disengagement. Save the pitch for the right time, rather than every other message, which may mean you'll have to get away from those canned responses and really, really chat it up.

Len Schneyder, IBM

 

Give credit where it's due/share the wealth. Whether sharing ideas, suggestions, or stats, be sure to mention the originator if it wasn't you.

Stephanie Tilton, Content Marketing Consultant

 

Respond to people. I find it incredibly rude when I go out of my way to respond to people on G+ or Twitter . . . and hear crickets. If you were at a cocktail party and someone struck up a conversation with you, would you walk away?

Diane Huff, DH Communications

 

Don't be all business all the time. Mix in a bit of the personal (and some personality)... people like doing business with human beings.

Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute

 

 

"Humanizing the brand" shouldn't be code for "it's ok to be frivolous." Humanizing the brand means cheering successes, acknowledging others, responding individually, and admitting when you’re wrong. It doesn't mean embracing a general goofiness in the name of brand-building.

Joe Chernov, Eloqua

 

Here’s everything we collected by the time we had to publish this article.
By the time you read this, there will be many more on LinkedIn, Focus, Quora and Twitter…

  1. Don't: No sales pitches whatsoever. Those are verboten on social media.
  2. Do: Share interesting info, especially quality content.
  3. Don't: Talk too much. 80% listening / 20% talking. Be responsive. Help others.
  4. Do: Be timely. Respond to messages quickly. Don't let things fester.

Jeff Ogden, Find New Customers

 

  • Always have a clear audience in mind. What are they interested in? What do they care about?
  • Always educate, never promote
  • Think about them, not about you
  • Don't be boring. Keep it short
  • When commenting on other's articles, keep it short and to the point
  • Don't engage in endless rounds of point proving – no-one else is interested
  • By all means be provocative, but not at the expense of others
  • What do you want to reader to do or feel after reading your article?
  • Don't say anything you wouldn't say face to face

Bob Apollo, Inflexion Point

 

For LinkedIn – Send a short note of congratulations and good luck when "Status Update" tells you someone has a new job.

John Sweeney, DemandGen

 

When creating content keep your headlines short. I use the 65-character rule. Any more than that and it can become difficult for people to comment on your shared links, especially on Twitter, where there is a 140-character limit. This is beneficial for SEO too, as Google only shows around 65–70 characters of your page title.

Chris Lake

More here on the Econsultancy blog

 

Keep producing great quality FREE unique content, if they like what you write, you have a follower.

Sonia Hoque, Social Marketing Advisor

 

  • Do write about what your target audience might find interesting.
  • Don't just write about what you think is interesting.
  • Focus on strategy before getting down to tactics.
  • Don't sweat the small stuff, get the big picture over.
  • Look like you are giving, not selling.
  • Ask questions and provide answers.
  • Think of posts as storytelling, make them want to 'turn the page'.

Jonathan Simnett, CEO, The Reptile Group

 

 

Some companies bring their customer services to open social media channels. This can be great to show that you transparently and effectively deal with customers. But it can backfire if your customer services stumble.

  • Frequency needs to be right. If you tweet/post too often, people will unfollow or unlike.
  • Try to offer exclusive things of value.
  • If you can generate new and interesting information, people are likely to share this content, and you can gain a larger readership.
  • Try to cross post across your channels.
  • Tone needs to be consistent.
  • Tools like CoTweet can be useful to maintain a frequent social presence maintained by a small team of people.

Will Ryan, Electric Labs

 

Some people simply retweet a lot of OTHER people's content and links. IMO retweets should make up no more than 25% of your Twitter stream.

Use Facebook differently than Twitter, and not just a traffic source. Many people will gladly and successfully experience your brand entirely within the walls of Facebook. The key then is to give them a consistent, branded experience within Facebook, including content and rich media optimized for the format.

Nils Menten, iMarc

 

When marketing using social media the best tip I have been given is to be consistent… guess what, it works!

Daniel Smith, Gibraltar

 

Be wary of crossing that line from business over to personal. At The Blogshop, we come across a lot of established business blogs and one of the main improvements that can be made instantly is to stop the personal blog posts. Feel free to blog and tweet as much as you like about your personal life, but do it on a personal account.

The occasional personal story on a business blog will generally be of benefit, as it shows the readers that they are able to communicate with a person, but stray too far and too often into the personal domain and it's likely to have only negative repercussions.

Dan Smith, The Blogshop

 

  • Don't talk about yourself constantly
  • Share information which has value
  • Be accessible and responsive
  • Help others for the sake of helping others
  • R-E-S-P-E-C-T others (competition or not)
  • Contribute to the conversation for the sake of the conversation

Jim Ducharme, Get Response

 

 

Understand what benefit you are providing to your followers and give them what they want! Social Media is an excellent vehicle for sharing content. Understanding what content your audience is looking for will guide a successful social campaign. Are your followers looking for company updates? Industry news? Promotions? The goal is to connect with your audience in a way that benefits both parties. This will grow your influence and help you better understand who your business is serving.

Michael McStavrock, Newlogic

 

If utilizing Twitter… ask your target audience to include #letstalk – this also assumes you include your #letstalk when beginning a conversation – as example – this helps with inclusion, customers like to feel that they are apart of your circle and the conversation. "They belong" – this also helps with tracking consumer sentiment.

Paul Alfred, Compu-Source

 

Don't just do social media, be social. Think globally but act locally and be truly interested in your community. High quality content will show if your purpose is to serve others.

Alonso Chehade, Confluence

 

 

It's important to acknowledge and say thank you when someone mentions you, RTs, comments or contributes to the conversation. To get a feel for community on Twitter, I recommend taking part in a Twitter Chat. It makes you realize that although the tools are digital, they enable old-fashioned conversation and relationship building.

Christine B. Whittemore, Simple Marketing

 

Add your website to blog comments by all means – but don't comment unless you have something to add to the conversation. Route social media discussions you've monitored to the company experts; not to the marketing department. Make engagement part of their job description. (SFDC will love this one!) HR teams: sweep forums for those looking for work, and also as a tool to find out more about applicants. Don't butt into a conversation if you wouldn't do that in real life. Self promo is a no-no. Let your talk do the walk.

Emma Dunstone, Bluewolf

 

 

Remember that the very benefits of social networking are also its greatest potential threats...depending on your organisation and markets. For example:

  • Transparency: It's fantastic in terms of relationship/brand building but also dangerous because certain information is best kept confidential.
  • Listening: Wonderful to be able to tune into what people are saying about you, but then the thorny dilemma of deciding which conversations to join and act upon...or should you not pick and choose? The Personal
  • Brand: Great that the lab rats and backroom boys now get the keys to the porsche but the one drawback is they are not professional communicators, usually for good reason.
  • Thought leadership: Great to build a reputation with influential opinion and all that good stuff but in these austere times is 'return on engagement' sufficient to justify all the effort?

Damon Crane, Nomad Communications

 

 

No, up yours! I wouldn't say that to your face, but sometimes online the temptation is to be abrupt or rude. Or to be the online equivalent of an annoying child repeatedly shouting "What about what I want! No-one listens to me"

I believe that for B2B marketing to have any relevance whatsoever our goal must be to be helpful to our target audience at all times. If not we're just wasting their time.

Same applies to posting blogs, re-tweeting, replying to tweets, whatever: Think of your audience first. What problems can you help them solve? Help them.

A great example of this happened to me the other day, I tweeted a message and a follower – someone I admire – took exception and tore a strip off me, but added nothing of any value except spite. I replied, "Thanks, that was a great help." The next response was a series of suggestions about how my campaign could be improved. I updated my blog, re-tweeted and this now very helpful person tweeted it on to their 10,000+ followers.

So last tip from me. If someone does come at you, don't take it lying down. Think of it as an opportunity to turn them around.

Stephen Millard, Cracking Markets

 

I have to agree with Dan Smith: Keep your accounts well defined, and keep the content adequate to your target. And another good business tip for Social Media is to leave no comment without response, whether you're talking about Facebook, LinkedIn, even Twitter (many celebrities make it a habit to answer most or all posts on their pages). This helps engage users and build trust in your person. And it's also good manners.

Constanza Orías, Student

 

 

It's important to remember social media is really about the conversation. I've generally been struck by the level of politeness – sometimes too polite in various discussion groups. Often more polite than in real world discussions. As has been mentioned – listening is key, being open to other points of view, challenging them politely, learning from them – it increases the value of the discussion for everyone. People who are dogmatic, or solely out for self-promotion are generally not impactful or effective. People who take themselves too seriously struggle. The quality of the contribution is generally more recognized than the quantity or volume (meaning noise level). The most effective promotion is actually no promotion, but thoughtful participation in the discussion.

Dave Brock, Partners in Excellence

 

Understand the importance of human connection. Leverage the opportunities for damage control – turning an otherwise negative or mistaken moment into a fast, positive response. Every moment is an opportunity for good customer service. Large organizations can easily connect on a very personal, one-on-one level and show they really care about their customers.

Tim deSilva, Culture Pilot

 

Use customer service strategies to better engage your followers. Create content that is not solely on self-promotion but rather invites followers to interact with you.

Amanda B. Nguyen, Student

 

For Twitter especially whilst it can be a challenge to work within the confines of 140 characters a business should never adopt teenage / text style abbreviations. I've seen this happen and that company just comes across as unprofessional and poor at communicating. There are other ways to work with that limit of characters

.

Linsay Duncan, Marketing Consultant

 

 

Social media represents a huge opportunity for businesses to give a human voice to their brand. And thus in turn very much the same manners apply for businesses as for individuals.

Anand Kumar, ValueLeaf Services

 

Do: Be personal, be quick, be honest, be helpful. Don’t: Mass-market / broadcast or spam. In essence, it's about intimate interaction – not monolithic monologue.

Pär Almqvist, Cultivat3

 

 

No matter what subject you engage people on, never take it personally and always have a sense of humour. Especially be able to laugh at yourself! I once made a joke on Twitter about how we consider Santa's workshop at the north pole to be in Canada (his postal code is H0H-0H0 – no kidding. I got a tweet from a gent who wasn't too impressed with Canada claiming the pole. My reaction was the key here. Had I chose to be petty and indignant, the result would have been negative. I chose to reply with humour and he laughed along with me. I told him the elves vacationed in Muskoka north of Toronto and I often played volleyball with them :) The only real control you have in this life is how you react to any given situation and that is a key thing to keep in mind online.

Jim Ducharme, Get Response

 

Here's one: Like useful comments. I don't see that enough. Thank your customers for their participation. Acknowledge how its helped your business and improved your performance. Be specific and personal in your interaction. Almost all feedback is valuable to the enterprise. Honor that.

Tom Barnes, MediaThink

 

I've always been taught that you should refrain from talking about politics or religion in polite society, and this is likely a good piece of advice for when you're promoting your business online. I've been vehemently and personally attacked by other posters when I've answered political questions. Logic and facts seem to go out the window in those "discussions". It's easy to get sucked into a downward spiral this way; the old adage about never arguing with an idiot, as people listening will start to wonder which is which, comes to mind :-D

Lynn Maria Thompson, Thompson Writing & Editing Inc

 

I like it when people are respectful, fun, generous in sharing information and avoid pitching me.

Anne Messenger, Messenger Associates

 

Don't annoy people. You're there to make friends and build trust, so keep that in mind. The more value you create, by sharing relevant content, asking good questions, etc, the more people will flock to you.

Susan Payton, Egg Marketing & Communications

 

Do's

  • Plan in advance. Agree service levels, KPIs and expectations of the SM Channel. Involve all stakeholders (but not too many chiefs!).
  • Match Your Brand. Agree the tone, language and culture of your written communication to match your brand's positioning. For example; do your audience understand/get acronyms?
  • Ownership. Give to one person who naturally best matches the brand's voice and has excellent natural written communications skills. Big teams doing it as an add-on duty will destroy it.
  • Copy. Find a comparable organisation that you all like their SM positioning, follow them and learn.
  • Evolve. Learn from tickets that go well and those that don’t. Template responses that get the best response approval, trash what doesn’t.

Don'ts

  • Spelling. Kinda obvious, but for me (a very poor speller), it’s so important to watch, it’s never acceptable.
  • Take the heat off line. I’m a firm believer in suggesting to ranting/emotive communications that they call you to ‘discuss the matter’ and end the thread there. Neutral observers (I think) see that a best response from an organisation.
  • Talk when you’ve something to say. Not just for the sake of it! I like to plan out my updates to one a week, scheduling your month’s updates all at once is a great way of balancing your activity.
  • Always thank people for following and feedback.
  • Stop. There is nothing more damning then a company’s SMM feeds showing a last update of a couple of months ago… if sends all the wrong messages about the customers’ expectations of service from the brand.

Finally, my top tip: use Hootsuite.

Karl Llewellyn, DMA

 

Always keep the conversation going in both directions. Your Social Media outlets are there for you to interact with your customers, not just talk at them. Communicate with dignity and humility. Never preach or talk down to people on your sites.

Amy-lynn Engelbrecht, Playnet

 

Never forget your manners! Always acknowledge those who mention you and/or repost (retweet) your items.

Arpi Nalbandian, BNP Media

 

Communicating with fans/critics alike as real people and building a relationship with them seems to be very important for brands

Cameron Carter, Venpop

 

Social Media is NOT Sales Media. Listen. Engage. Hold "meaningful" conversations.

Ambal Balakrishnan, ClickDocuments

 

  • Do provide a specific voice to all social media channels. Will you be funny? Poignant? Serious?
  • Do ask questions of your followers and let them be aware that you are listening and want to hear from them. Not just when things are bad.
  • Don't use swear words. It's just bad taste.
  • Don't post anything controversial that it can ruin your company's reputation. It only takes one post for people to misconstrue that you support something that you may not.

Donna Krech, Donna Krech & Co

 

Quality over quantity. Social media newbies think it's about having tons of followers, but a follower is meaningless unless related to your niche.
Engage. Have a dialog, not just a monologue.
Don't be overtly self-promotional.

Wendy Marx, Marx Communications

 

While our data indicates that more than 60 percent of B-to-B organizations are active in the social media space, fewer than 20 percent have a documented, well-defined strategy that drives this activity. As for social selling, the primary goal is to transition the prospect from a social relationship (1:N) to a human interaction (1:1) via email, telephone, video or in person as soon as possible.

John Ticehurst, Sirius Decisions

 

We've worked very hard on getting our tone right in our email content and found a lot of that worked, albeit with tweaking to suit the channel. We used templates, (sometimes pejoratively referred to as 'canned content'), but, as a result of the work we put in, they were very rarely recognized as such. This let members of our email team move easily to social media as they were very familiar with the content from handling emails and adapted that very quickly to this new channel, which helped with efficiencies and response time.

Peter Atkinson, St Thomas Library

 

Provide value to others. Strong content, tight messaging, with a dash of humor.

Terry Schmidt, MBA, PMP, SMP, StrategicPlanningAcademy.com

 

  • Do realize that you need to talk with your consumers via the channel that they prefer.
  • Don't try to force them into your desired channel.
  • Do realize that consumers airing their source of pain is valuable information. It's better than them just leaving and never saying why.
  • Don’t be defensive (it's out policy).
  • Do try to understand it, determine the scale (how any others feel this way?) and use the data to lower the cost of servicing clients.
  • Don’t use facts to prove that others are wrong or make them look stupid.
  • Do use examples / experience as the basis of your position.

Jim Beuoy, Incept Results

 

Social media etiquette is pretty the same as all other business etiquette. Be helpful and friendly... and never argue with crazy people, because outsiders can't tell who's who! You can be controversial, too, without being rude. It's one of the best ways to stir up some buzz.

Jeff Simmons, B2BMarketingPortal.com

 

My tip is simple: don't lose sight of the fact that social networking involves a person having a conversation with a person. Corporates don't tweet, people do.

David Stevens, PA Consulting Group

 

  • Understand the difference between Twitter and Facebook audiences as well as the manner in which you engage them.
    • Tip: Twitter is conversational.
    • Tip: Never connect the two to post the same thing.
  • Educate... Educate... Educate. Don't use social media just to direct people to static content on your website. Engage with them. Share with them.
    • Tip: Create a 2–3 minute YouTube video about yourself and what you offer.
    • Tip: Use a QR code that goes to a blog post where I can learn something applicable to your online efforts.
  • Don't overwhelm yourself. It's easy to get lost in social media. Research the right social media avenues for your target audience. Knowing where your audience is online is half the battle.
    • Tip: Use Twitter search for keywords
  • Consider the amount of time you have to spend utilizing various social media avenues. Time management is just as important as finding your audience.

Nigel Ohrum, Jaz Design

 

Integration tools like Hootsuite are great for productivity, metrics & more, but don't simply blast each post across every platform at once because it's easy. It will cost you followers. This also wastes valuable 'social real estate'. You are sharing content everywhere at one point in time, when instead, you could get you more impressions when posted strategically over time, catered to each social platform's audience.

Sue Koch, Soaring Solutions

 

In using social media to market your expertise, stick with the 90/10 rule. You can't go wrong and it will serve you well!

Melanie Kissell, Verdugo Hills Hospital

 

One important thing to keep in mind is that while it is part of a greater marketing strategy, you shouldn't measure social media in the same way as other marketing methods. Instead of hard numbers, social media success should be measured through relationships and how audiences interact with a brand. Too often brands make the mistake of focusing on getting a large number of followers when they should be trying to develop a community that interacts with them, no matter the size. A small active group is in reality much more successful in terms of social media marketing than a large group that doesn't interact.

Brands should also provide their followers with a variety of different kinds of content. Unique content, such as competitions, discussions, special offers, and photos/videos, is great because it keeps people coming back to the page, however you also want to provide followers with content found elsewhere in your marketing. People like receiving information through their favourite channels, so make sure you provide this information across a variety of platforms, including social media. Mixing unique and duplicate content is the best way to move forward with a company social media strategy.

Finally, have fun. Social media is a great opportunity to reach people in a way no other medium allows. So get creative and see how your followers interact with your brand – this will help you navigate the future of your social media.

Ron Bagnole, Cite

 

From the Twitter for Business Best Practice Guide on Econsultancy:

  1. If you’re going to do it, do it. Once you’ve started your Twitter account, it’s important to follow through and post regular updates. If you stop tweeting, existing customers may still be looking for your Twitter presence and find a dead account. If you’re not prepared to commit to regular tweets, it’s better not to have a Twitter presence, rather than an account that hasn’t been updated in over a year. If you make a decision to stop tweeting, either tell your followers and say goodbye, or simply keep hold of your domain name for the future. There are various tools than can delete your tweets, so it looks like your account is dormant, as opposed to simply not updated.
  2. Be personal. It is important to have a balance between a corporate account that represents the face of the company and personal accounts for staff. This is because staff may change over time, but the brand should be consistent in the long-term. While the corporate account may not have an actual person associated with the account, it is still important to reply to individual tweets, and have a degree of personalisation, even in branded tweets. The tweets should fit the brand image and be a reflection of your core values.
  3. Be authentic. For example, if you mess up, then apologise, but don't say sorry for the sake of it. The customer is not always right, so only give an apology when it is merited.
  4. Be yourself. Avoid corporate jargon to ensure your tweets look like they’re coming from a real person.
  5. Be interesting. Give people a reason to follow you. Provide interesting content or unique bits of information to make your tweets more insightful.
  6. Occasionally go off-topic… not all your tweets should be about selling your product. Inject some personality into your tweets by sending messages about other subjects. There are guaranteed to be people with similar interests to you on Twitter, which is far more engaging than only tweeting about the business.
  7. …But also think about why people follow you. There’s a balance between personal tweets (such as asking people about their weekend) and tweets that are too focused on plugging your products. You need a balance between both, as people are following you because they are interested in your area of expertise, or in your product or service. For example, a Twitter account about food might also include fashion updates as this may be of interest to its core audience. However, it might be less interesting given that users do not associate the brand with that industry.

Linus Gregoriadi

 

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