Your Social Media Etiquette Handbook (Business Edition)

Entrepreneurs are inherently rule-breakers. And as an entrepreneur, you likely throw aside conventional rules and take the road less traveled.

As a fellow entrepreneur, I’m much like you. I’ve marched to the beat of my own drum, pushed the boundaries of what’s been done, and thrown how-to guidebooks out the window.

But there is one thing that I try to follow, and that’s social media etiquette.

4 Social media etiquette guidelines to follow

Ah, social media etiquette—the unofficial rulebook on how you should behave while interacting on social media.

Most businesses have some sort of guidelines when it comes to posting online. These guidelines may be included in your company’s handbook or might be committed to memory.

If you don’t have any rules yet or need to freshen them up, take a look at my social media etiquette tips below.

1. Never turn your profiles into sales machines

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: when it comes to social media, it’s the word “sell” that tends to get all of us entrepreneurs in trouble. Yes, we’re sincere about our product and service offerings. Yes, we know that our wares are good for people. In fact, we are compelled to tell people about how we can help them! We can’t contain ourselves.

After all, that whole social media thing is … well … it’s filled with lots of people who need what we have. Zillions of people … and we’ve just got to tell them about what we sell.

But then there’s that pesky voice of reason … from my co-workers. I call it the “Mike, don’t be the jerk at the party” rule.

Social media is about building relationships and being social. People don’t go on social media to get incessant sales pitches. They go on to engage with others—joke, laugh, ask questions.

I like to think of it like a little party. Don’t show up to the party and sell your wares all the time.

So, how often should you be sales-y? There are three commonly accepted posting rules to help you reel in your desire to make social media all about sales:

  • 80/20 rule
  • 4-1-1 rule
  • 60/30/10 rule

Head spinning yet? These rules may involve different numbers, but their main focus is the same. Each rule suggests how often you should be posting certain categories of content. That way, your posts aren’t all advertisements.

Even though the rules all pertain to content categories, they are different. Without further adieu, here’s what each means…

The 80/20 rule says that 80% of what a business posts on social media should be non-promotional (e.g., news, entertainment, etc.) and 20% should be brand promotion. This translates to 80% of things being interesting to them (i.e., consumers) and 20% being interesting to you (i.e., your business’s bottom line). Basically, be sure to give before trying to take.

The 4-1-1 rule works similarly to the 80/20 rule, but breaks it down further. Under the 4-1-1 rule, every six posts should consist of:

  • 4 new content posts (e.g., an article that’s relevant to your audience)
  • 1 repost (a retweet or share from another user’s page)
  • 1 self-serving post (i.e., promotion)

And last by not least, we have the 60/30/10 rule as another viable guideline. The 60/30/10 rule is very close to the 4-1-1 rule, but it uses percentages. Under the 60/30/10 rule, you post interesting content 60%, shared content 30%, and promotions 10% of the time.

So whether you’re using the 80/20, 4-1-1, 60/30/10, 5-4-3-2-1, 2-1-2, 0/0/0, or whatever numerical rule your heart desires, just remember to balance your posts.

2. Don’t go overboard with posts

We’ve all seen the social media users who post status updates a little too often. When it comes to posting for your business, you don’t want to make the same mistake.

Reign in your instinct to post anything and everything by creating a posting schedule. Your posting schedule should be spaced enough that your followers don’t get annoyed, but often enough that you don’t fade into the background.

Remember to make a posting schedule for each social platform you use. How often you should post on Facebook won’t be the same as how often you should post on a more quick-paced platform, like Twitter.

According to some studies, here’s an idea of how often you should post on your business’s social media pages:

  • Facebook: 1-2 times per day
  • Twitter: 5-10 times per day
  • Pinterest: 5-30 pins per day
  • LinkedIn: 1 time per day
  • Instagram: 1-2 times per day

And I know you’re thinking, Where’s the other part of this equation, Mike? Shouldn’t a posting schedule show me when to post?

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the importance of when you post. Part of having good etiquette (and ROI) is knowing when to get in front of your audience.

One study found that, globally, people are consistently most engaged:

  • Facebook: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Twitter: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • LinkedIn: Tuesday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Keep in mind that when you post and how often you post may depend on your business. Pay attention to social media analytics to learn when your audience engages with your content most. And, don’t be afraid to A/B test.

3. Have a consistent voice

You might have two, four, nine, or even 20 different people managing your business’s social media accounts. But regardless of who is posting or responding, you need a consistent voice.

I’ve seen some businesses use a signoff from their employees, which adds a nice personalization touch (e.g., “Thanks for contacting us! –Sally). I’m not saying anything against doing this. But, your business’s brand should be consistently represented.

The employees who run your business’s social media pages must understand that your business accounts aren’t their personal accounts. Vocabulary should reflect that (ahem, no need for “your business” to be swearing like a sailor on social media).

Social media followers should expect seamless interactions with your business, regardless of what day they engage with you.

Just imagine the confusion if something like this happened on social media:

  • Customer 1 (Monday morning): “Hello! I had an issue with something I recently purchased. What should I do?”
    • Business: “I’m sorry to hear about your issue. We’ll be more than happy to return or exchange it with your receipt. We look forward to seeing you soon and making this right! Thank you.”
  • Customer 2 (Tuesday morning): “Hello! I had an issue with a recent purchase. What should I do?”
    • Business: “If you want to return it, we need a receipt.”

Two employees. Two different responses. But your business’s name is listed as the responder for both. Keep that in mind when letting your employees know about the importance of consistency.

4. Communicate similarly to how you would in person
The last guideline I’ll leave you with is pretty obvious: treat customers on social media how you treat them in person. This means four things:

  1. Be nice
  2. Be professional
  3. Be quick to answer comments, questions, and concerns
  4. Be personable

You may be communicating with someone online, but that doesn’t mean you should forget your manners. One instance of poor judgment could live on forever…

Happy Tweeting! And Facebooking. And LinkedIning. You get the picture—happy social networking.

Digital & Social Articles on Business 2 Community

Author: Mike Kappel

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