Oversharing and spamming on social media. We’e seen it and have been guilty of it at some point as well. These are social media etiquettes we all know (but sometimes fail to follow). Personal accounts aside, businesses also should maintain certain etiquette in their social media presence.

Social media etiquette refers to both the spoken and unspoken set of social conventional rules of personal and business behavior online. It dictates how people conduct themselves on social media so they remain respectful and respectable.

Bad social media etiquette on your personal account will probably leave you with posts that make your future self cringe. But for businesses, it could affect their brand reputation and can deter customers from returning.

That’s why we’ll provide you with the best dos and don’ts to maintain proper social media etiquette for your business and why it’s important.

Why is social media etiquette important?

With an increasingly vigilant internet population, a single mistake on social media can make or break a business.

Outlining proper social media etiquette in your social media policy will help you:

  • Protect against legal and security issues: If your industry has stringent privacy and compliance laws, your system will keep you on the right side of the regulations.
  • Protect against privacy risks: Social media etiquette outlines what’s acceptable to share and what isn’t. This helps prevent privacy violations for your business and for others.
  • Empower staff: When your employees know how to share content safely online, they can represent and advocate for your organization, without harming your reputation.
  • Defend your brand: Social media etiquette ensures that everyone who interacts with your brand on social media will see a respectable, professional business.

1. Understand Each Platform’s Best Practices

Most social media etiquette principles are relevant across all platforms. But there are also best practices that are specific to each platform, such as:

  • Don’t use your Twitter character count to ask for Retweets; share valuable content and followers will Retweet organically
  • Know when and to whom you should send a LinkedIn connect request
  • Don’t post too frequently and flood your Instagram feed

Make sure you read up on the best practices of each platform, such as Facebook or Instagram, to understand platform-specific etiquette and expectations.

2. Don’t Be Overly Promotional

People may follow your brand on social media to learn more about your products or services. But that doesn’t mean you should constantly share advertisements or promotional content. According to the Sprout Social Index™, Edition XVI: Above & Beyond, 45% of consumers would even unfollow a brand if it posts too many ads.

Use the right blend of entertaining, educational and promotional content to keep your audience engaged. For example, Zoom’s Twitter feed has a healthy mix of informative and educational content, new feature updates and promotional posts.

3. Monitor Posts Frequently

It’s easy to fall into the habit of scheduling your posts and forgetting all about them. But failing to check how people react to your posts is poor social media etiquette. Otherwise, how would you know what kind of posts are resonating with your audience? How would you know if your posts are relevant?

Sprout Social gives you a robust set of social media analytics tools to monitor your social posts, uncovering insights such as likes, comments and saves. These insights give you a better understanding of what resonates with your audience and how to adjust your social strategy.

Sprout Social Analytics Dashboard showing cross-channel post performance.

4. Maintain Hashtag “Hygiene”

Using too many hashtags on a post can look messy and unappealing. Just because you can add 30 hashtags on Instagram, doesn’t mean you should.

Good social media etiquette is picking out only the most relevant hashtags for each post. Using branded hashtags can expand your brand awareness and create communities as well.

Trupanion keeps it short and sweet with just a couple of occasion-based hashtags.

5. Be Responsive; Not Reactive

One of the most dangerous things a brand can do is getting caught in an argument on social media. This will reflect poorly on your brand and may even chase away customers.

Rather than quickly reacting to every negative social media comment and brand mention, listen to understand the situation. Then come up with a response that fits the situation and your brand voice. If the conversation gets more heated online, despite your best efforts, try moving the conversation into DMs or have them email your customer support team directly.

In the following Tweet, Hershey’s does a great job of responding to the customer complaint with:

  • An explanation
  • A solution


6. Don’t Force a Connection

Most brands know the importance of forming a strong bond with their target audience. But some make the mistake of trying way too hard, coming across as inauthentic or even desperate.

Let a connection between you and your audience form naturally through consistent engagement. Post regularly, listen to your audience and respond to them. And don’t forget to stay true to your brand voice.

Employee advocacy and influential executives can also help your brand form a stronger, more authentic connection with followers. People may be more comfortable connecting with the human face behind your brand rather than the brand itself.

In our #BrandsGetReal survey, we found that 70% of consumers feel a better connection to a brand when its CEO is active on social media. And 72% of consumers also experience a similar connection when they see employees sharing information about a brand on social media.

PayPal’s Dan Schulman is the perfect example of an influential executive who can connect with the audience. He uses LinkedIn to share empathetic and timely messages as well as PayPal’s efforts to uplift minority business owners.

PayPal CEO Dan Schulman's articles posted on LinkedIn

7. Don’t Beg for (or Buy) Followers

Asking for followers at every single opportunity can come across as desperate and off-putting.

Don’t be in a hurry to gain a following. Instead, let it build naturally through consistent posting, authentic interactions and high-quality content. People who value your content will flock to your page over time.

8. Remember Humor Isn’t Universal

While jokes can add a fun, friendly tone to your message, always remember that humor isn’t universal. What works for one brand may not work so well for yours. And most people may not share your sense of humor.

So even if humor fits with your brand personality, make sure it’s appropriate and well-placed. You could also create a social media style guide that outlines the kind of voice and humor that works for your brand.

BarkBox goes for light-hearted and relatable humor involving dogs, which resonates with the target audience.


9. Play Nice with Competitors

How you interact with or talk about the competition says a lot about the brand you represent. Brands like Wendy’s have been riding the wave of social media fame with its unrelenting roasts and snarky comments about competitors. But this strategy doesn’t work for everyone.

Even if it fits with your brand style, you still need flawless execution and some level of social media presence to make it work. Otherwise, it will come off as rude and unappealing. In fact, 67% of consumers find it annoying when brands make fun of competitors.

So avoid bad-mouthing your competition as you could end up hurting your reputation more than it hurts theirs.

10. Give Credit to Sources

If your social content strategy involves content curation and user-generated posts, don’t forget to give credit where it’s due. When you’re reposting photos, quotes or videos from others, make sure you clearly attribute it to them.

This is easier on platforms like Twitter, where you can simply hit “Retweet.” For Instagram, using a repost app simplifies this process of capturing the original caption. Still, on platforms like Instagram or Facebook, it’s wise to reach out to the original poster for their permission before you use their image on your brand page.

See how BISSELL gives due credit even when it’s reposting Instagram content to Facebook.


11. Build a Positive Image

Social media gives you the perfect platform to strengthen your brand image. And proper social media etiquette will help you reach that goal.

To build a positive brand image, start by spreading positivity through your social media. Share inspirational news, create uplifting content and celebrate your employees. Even in the face of negativity and controversy, respond with patience and kindness.

Maintaining transparency on social media is also crucial for building a positive brand image. In fact, it could even cultivate brand loyalty. According to another #BrandsGetReal survey, 85% of consumers are more likely to stay loyal to a business during a brand crisis if there’s a history of transparency.

So own up to mistakes, give honest responses to customer questions and be transparent about your manufacturing practices.

Do it right on social media

Following all these “rules” may seem challenging. But it all boils down to caring about your audience and what they think. If you put their needs first, you can naturally maintain these social media etiquettes with minimal effort.

Want to learn more about what consumers think about brands’ social media behavior? Download the Sprout Social Index™ for more consumer insights.