social media etiquette best practices

Social media etiquette and best practices for each channel are becoming more and more important with the increase of users and content posted on social channels. While some may see the Internet as a lost cause for civility and politeness, there’s still an unspoken responsibility for professionals in the industry to maintain some sense of order.

As social media/community managers there has probably been more than one instance where you’ve cringed at the format of a post. With knowledge of settings and algorithms, it’s hard not to critique every piece of content you see, as well as scrutinize all of your own posts for perfection.

Organizations have an even bigger duty to get social right. With a number of invested employees and investors, the perception of the brand through social is sometimes the most widely known.

During a few recent #SproutChat Twitter chats, the group discussed social media etiquette and best practices. Per our community’s insights, here are a few rules to memorize to get the most out of social media by being a welcome and respected contributor.

What Not to Do on Social Media

Being mindful of social media don’ts is a great place to start. Also, proper etiquette will get you off to a good start with your online reputation.

1. Don’t straight sell through direct message

When someone follows you, first establish a relationship. Find commonalities, bond and build trust. Offer your skills or services for free and be nice. Once you get to know each other a bit, then you can soft sell, but only if they’re a good fit.

2. Avoid automation

You should never use a robot to do a human’s job. There are certain things that just need to be done person-to-person. With automation, you run into the possibility of posting something when you really shouldn’t be. For example, when there’s a national tragedy, promotion of your brand looks bad. If you’re a well-known organization with company-related updates publically available, any scheduled content might seem awkward or ill-placed with ongoing announcement. And above all else, never schedule or post then fail to follow up on responses to it.

3. Show gratitude, but in moderation

You don’t need to thank everyone for sharing your content. It may actually seem too automated and even robotic. A few personal tweets of gratitude is much more genuine than thanking every single person.

4. Don’t go overboard on the hashtags

You’ll waste valuable characters and your message will get lost and appear confusing to the viewer. Sure they assist with the viral factor, but too many just kill your intention.

5. Never badmouth or talk smack about a competitor publically

You might think you can get away with the negative comments, but there’s likely always someone who will catch it. If they are bringing hate upon you, take the high road. Don’t let them bring you down and sink to their animosity. Or if you can think of an incredibly clever (clean) comeback, say that.

Social Media Best Practices

There are certain agreed upon practices that should be followed by just about all individuals and brands. Follow these and earn respect and attention of fellow professionals.

1. Be genuine and most importantly, be yourself

Don’t let social generate a different, disconnected version of your personality. People want to get the real deal. And if the opportunity arises to meet in person, you’ll want to be the person that your audience has had the pleasure of getting to know.

2. Be interesting by being interested in others

Something they didn’t teach you in kindergarten, but you should have learned along the way is that you should take an interest in other people. Everyone wants to talk about themselves. Listen instead of talking, you’d be surprised by how much more people like you when you show interest.

3. Use first names

The most beautiful sound in the world to anyone is his or her own name. Use someone’s name and you have his or her attention. Use it frequently and you’ve gained their trust. When you say someone’s name, it establishes that you’re acquainted. Use this to the benefit of your relationship.

4. The ratio of promoting others content to promoting your own should be thoroughly considered

While it’s hard to keep track of exactly what the spread is, providing value and relevance should be priority. Keep in mind your audience likely won’t see all of your content and do the math themselves, but visiting your page or profile should offer a decent mix of information.

How to be an Awesome Social Media Manager

There are a number of tactics that aren’t as widely used, but are still essential to success in social.

1. Research what kind of posts work best for your content

Use A/B testing to try different tactics to see what resonates with your audience. This can be as simple as changing a few words or sentence structure. Be sure to keep the factors of the experiment as constant as possible to ensure results that you can compare and then point to specific criteria of success.

2. Take note of others’ failures

Investigate why it failed and learn what not to do. There’s certainly no lack of examples of epic failures. Analyze these lapses in judgment and take mental note for content or copy to avoid. While the public and the media can blow these mistakes out of proportion, there typically is something glaring that led to all the negative attention.

3. Screw up

In the same vein, know it’s OK if you aren’t the perfect social media manager. Learning from your mistake the hard way can be an incredibly valuable lesson. Whether you hit a nerve with your audience or your post gets absolutely no engagement, it teaches you what to avoid for next time. Social media is still relatively new and no one has it down like a science yet.

4. Find an (experienced) mentor for advice or just to follow and learn from

Bonus points if that person has worked for several different organizations or started their own (either successfully or unsuccessfully). You’ll learn much more from them than someone with a straight and narrow path.

5. Be open to cross promotion

Though it can be a scary concept since there’s the fear that the same people will see it and then turn on the brand. I, personally, have never heard of this happening and especially with the vastness of each social channel and the number of brands and people each person is connected to, the likeliness of this happening is slim. Just be sure to strategize so you’re not just posting blindly (or in the wrong format) to different channels.

At the end of the day, practicing etiquette on social media is a responsibility to be kind and gracious to each other. Being a skilled social media manager means observing others and testing until you get it (close to) perfect. If everyone minded these common sense guidelines, all of social would be a better place.