Social Media Etiquette: Don’t Be a Pain; Be the Relief

As an avid social media user, I’ve come to find that there are unwritten rules, or guidelines, that determine proper etiquette for our online social activity. As a result, I’ve developed my own interpretation on how these rules apply to professionals and their businesses or organizations.

I’m not an expert in this topic per se, but I am experienced. In my opinion, it’s people such as myself who provide the best input on the use of social media platforms because we are your audience. We are meant to be the focus point in all content selection and release, so our input can prove valuable to social media marketing managers.

In the end, it’s up to you if you want to take this advice and implement it into your strategy, but I’m hoping you at least take some of it into consideration when continuing your activity.

Creating Accounts

  • Pick the platforms that your audience uses, not necessarily the ones that are most popular or convenient in general.
  • Make your account setups consistent by using the same logo or profile icon as well as a consistent message as your description.
  • If your time and staff are limited, but you want to be reachable on multiple platforms, create static accounts with your basic description, your contact info, and any links to other resources, ideally your website.
  • Choose a Twitter handle that fits your actual name or purpose, and avoid being too creative by choosing something that no one can recognize or search for.
  • Keep your Twitter handle as short as possible so that it’s easier to include it in tweets and doesn’t take up a lot of characters.
  • If you’re new to a platform, don’t create your account until you’re ready to begin.
  • Don’t start your activity until you have an established, written social media strategy.

Content Development

  • Ask your audience for their experiences with your products or services, and always thank them for sharing.
  • Ask your audience a targeted question that’ll give you ideas for content topics.
  • Provide contests that give you material to work with/share and encourages audience participation, but don’t disappoint by failing to follow through.
  • On Twitter and Google+, search popular #hashtags for other users’ tweets and posts on that topic.
  • Create custom lists on Twitter for different topics and organization types in order to monitor your chosen category and find 3rd-party content to share.

Publishing Content

  • Never link multiple accounts together, including social networks and your blog, because they are each unique in how people share.
  • Always customize the content for each platform, and never share the same exact format of text on every platform.

Twitter has a 140 character limit, and hashtags are common. Use creativity to make tweets noticeable and shareable by adding customized input and keeping them short.

Facebook allows for longer posts, but if you make it too long, the platform cuts you off with a “Read More” link that many people do not click on. Use pictures and links, but remove the link text after you see the preview appear in the post.

Google+ also allows, and encourages, longer posts, and the use of hashtags and formatting help your posts get seen. However, don’t try to use the same content on both Google+ and Facebook. They are two different platforms with different trends and techniques.

LinkedIn has a character limit, and posts get cut off if too long, similar to Facebook. It’s best to share links in LinkedIn posts, but always remove the link text after the preview appears. Leaving the link text there looks sloppy. Also, it’s best to include a description or other input in the post to go along with the link to give followers an idea of what the link leads to.

  • Don’t automate posts/tweets during the workweek if that can be avoided because you want to sound human and be responsive to interactions.
  • Attempt to manually post content in real-time during the workweek.
  • On Facebook and Google+, if you have multiple people posting content, have them add their name to the posts to assist with humanizing your activity.
  • When sharing content, always include your own input or other customization on what you’re sharing instead of just providing the title and link to the source.
  • Always attempt to follow the 80/20 rule where 80% of your content is from other sources and 20% is self-serving.
  • Keep it simple silly (KISS) and make sure to have short content for all platforms, i.e. pretend there’s a character limit everywhere because readers have a tendency to scan.
  • Never use #hashtags without researching their use first.
  • Avoid misusing Twitter mentions.
  • Always vary your content types to range from photos, to news stories (links), to shared content from others.
  • Always keep in mind what your audience wants to see and not necessarily what you want to share.
  • Always interact with your audience at every opportunity or when able by responding to replies, comments, direct messages, etc, and try to thank your audience every time for sharing, retweeting, and following you and your content.

Other Ethics to Consider

  • Always ALWAYS give credit where it’s due by providing the author and source names using the @ symbol for platforms that use them, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ (Google’s platform uses a plus sign to tag users, not the @ symbol.)
  • Don’t post excessively, and focus on providing high quality content instead of lots more mediocre content.

With Twitter, you can tweet more than 5x a day because the platform feeds move so rapidly, and that’s the only way your content has a chance to be seen.

With Facebook, posting more than 2-3x a day can aggravate your audience, and you could end up losing fans as a result.

With Google+, posting amounts are similar to Facebook because of the slower feeds and denser posts.

With LinkedIn, there really is no need to post more than once or twice a day. It’s better to publish articles through LinkedIn Pulse anyway.

  • Never send out direct, blunt sales pitches or irrelevant content, and always stay devoted to your audience’s needs and the industry you’re in.

Automated direct messages on Twitter are rarely helpful and often annoy your followers very quickly. If you’re going to use DMs, make them personable introductions and not sales pitches. You need to build a relationship first before you try to land a sale. Otherwise, you’re just spam.

  • Always stay professional amidst adversity by responding appropriately to angry users as quickly as possible and never ignoring their complaints when they’re relevant. Stay calm and professional throughout the controversy.

Further Reading

A PR Pro’s Guide to Social Media Etiquette via Vocus

Getting Started with Social Media: A Resource Guide via Social Media Examiner

How To Use Hashtags Effectively In Your Social Media Marketing via SocialBro

How to Get Started with Social Media Marketing via Jeff Bullas

How to Write a Tweet: 8 Formulas to Get You Started via HubSpot

If there’s anything you think should be added to this post, or if you have any opinions on it, please leave a comment below. I’d love to get your input!

Coming up…

  • Keep Your Audience Engaged: Avoid These 7 Marketing No-Nos
  • Social Media Marketing: A Platform Guide
  • The Essential Marketing Toolkit: Be Ready for Anything


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Image courtesy of Vertical Response.