social media etiquetteWe have all seen those social media ‘moments’ – when a post on social media that was sent innocently suddenly erupts into something else entirely. This can turn into a worldwide trending problem, or be contained as an isolated local incident.

It is not easy to prevent such a situation from happening. But there are some etiquette rules and pointers to follow which can help to not only avoid disaster but actually get social media to work for your business. There are hundreds of them, but here are ten to help start your thought process.

Ask so what?

One of the most important lessons that I learnt when I started my career in marketing was to always be asking the question ‘so what?’ If you have written a draft of your post and are hovering your cursor over the send button, asking the question ‘so what’ will help you understand whether it is worth posting your update at all.

Right platform?

Different types and times of messages work well on different social networks. For example, you may not post the same information onto LinkedIn that you would onto your Facebook account. So firstly, make sure your message tone and content is appropriate for the mindset of the audience.

Platform quirks

Every social media platform has its quirks and if you are a business posting on that network, it is your job to understand at least the big ones. For example, you should not write a tweet that uses all 140 characters (you should always leave room for someone to share your tweet with their comments); and you should never like your own Facebook post. People notice these things and will take their attention away from your message.

Be polite

Your mom was right – please and thank you don’t cost a penny but they can go a long way. For a business to not be polite in its post or replies is just not on. You should also give credit where it is due – if you are sharing someone else’s content, say thanks. It’s nice to be nice.

Respect your audience

You have probably spent a lot of time and effort building your audience up, so treat them with respect. For example, don’t sell something that is completely unrelated to your audience (I experience this a lot on Facebook): it’s a short cut to a dislike.

Don’t mix your accounts

Personal and business rarely work well together, so if you want a social network for the business and one to talk about your passion for whatever it is you’re into, then create one for each – just because they love your product doesn’t mean they share your enthusiasm for train spotting.

Hashtag control

You see hashtags a lot – they are a great way of getting your message in front an audience that is following your topic but not aware of your existence. But like every great power comes great responsibility (thanks, Spiderman) – don’t over use hashtags, it is irritating and can make your message completely illegible. #qualityoverquantity

Respond quickly

If someone has gone to the effort of posting a social media comment to your business, you should respond promptly to them. Dealing with negative feedback in public is not easy but doing so will bolster your audience’s confidence in your business.

Take deep breaths

You know I said respond promptly in the last point? I deliberately didn’t choose the word ‘quickly.’ If someone has criticized your business or your product or service, it is very easy to respond quickly and aggressively – how dare they criticize your product, what do they know? But take deep breaths, draft the reply and take a minute to get the blood pressure down. There are lots of examples of people who haven’t heeded this advice and it never ends well.

Escalation process

Another reason why you may not be able to respond quickly is because you cannot actually answer the question asked. If you are in a large organization, this is a particular challenge. So, in the interests of your audience, make sure you have the right people available at very short notice to answer your queries. And if the answer will take a while, tell that to the enquirer.

These are just starters – you cannot sum up social media etiquette in just ten points. So what is the social media point of etiquette that you see broken all the time? What unwritten rule of social media do you stand by?