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15 Expert Tips for Social Media Etiquette

With 65 percent of U.S. adults on social media, your business presence on these channels should be a given. But just being present isn’t enough.

Social media is about social interaction. Your goal should be to engage customers, build relationships and stay top of mind. That’s how you get repeat business and referrals.

But to do that successfully in 2016, you need a firm grasp of social media etiquette. Here are 15 tips to get you started.

1. Give your social profiles the attention they deserve.

Your social profiles often make your first impression on potential customers, so it’s important to present your brand in the most professional way possible. When you leave your profiles incomplete, you don’t come across as fully engaged. If you can’t be bothered to complete this simple task, why should a customer trust you to handle their business?

Set up and complete one profile per network, and be sure to use the same business name on all profiles. Keep branding as consistent as possible, using the same profile pictures, logos and color schemes whenever possible.

OutboundEngine on Twitter:
OutboundEngine Twitter page

OutboundEngine on Facebook:
OutboundEngine Facebook page

2. Always provide valuable, network-appropriate content for your audience.

This is one rule of social media etiquette you don’t want to break. If you’re spamming your followers with irrelevant content and advertisements, plan on losing them. Think about what your followers want and expect from your brand, and do your best to deliver it.

Keep in mind, each social network is different in format and tone. What works on Facebook may not work on Instagram. Even if your topic will work across networks, always be sure to tweak the message to suit the tone and format of the platform.

When in doubt, use this handy graphic from Hootsuite:

Should you post this content diagram

3. Respond thoughtfully to your audience.

No other rule of social media etiquette is broken quite as often as this one. If someone takes the time to reach out to your business on social media, whether it’s a comment, question or complaint, you should take the time to reply. As a rule of thumb, treat a customer who reaches out online with the same respect you’d treat someone who walks into your place of business.

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4. Don’t confuse your Facebook business page with your personal account.

There’s a reason Facebook has business pages.

Think of it this way. The prospect who “likes” your business page is opting into your brand and giving you permission to provide valuable content in their News Feed. Your friends and family added on your personal page, however, have not opted in. They may see that same valuable content as spam, which does nothing for your business reputation.

On the flip side, getting too personal on your business page can have a negative effect on your followers. They’re following you because they want your industry expertise. Unless you’re Gordon Ramsay or a restaurant owner, daily photos of your lunch and dinner are irrelevant – and you will lose followers.

5. Don’t beg for Facebook likes.

Continuously asking for “likes” on Facebook just reeks of desperation. Sure, it’s okay to ask your friends and family to like your business page once, but don’t harass them about it. The same thing goes for industry influencers, business colleagues and potential customers.

Instead of begging for their approval, try to earn their likes by providing valuable, shareable content. As that content is appreciated and shared by new contacts, your audience will expand organically.

Remember, you don’t need to ask followers to like individual posts, either. If they genuinely enjoy your content, they’ll like or share it without prompting.

6. Stay active on Facebook, but don’t overdo it.

Don’t let your profile sit dormant for extended periods of time. Staying active helps maintain interest and keep you top of mind. However, be reasonable about your posting schedule. If you post too often, your followers may tire of your updates. Remember, your followers are looking for quality, not quantity.

7. Use your Twitter character count wisely.

According to Re/code, Twitter may expand their character limit, but – for now – the limit still stands at 140 characters. But don’t try to use them all. Instead, keep your messages to 100 characters or fewer whenever possible. This allows other users to retweet your comments without editing your message.

8. Don’t get carried away with retweets.

Retweeting interesting content is fine, but if that’s all you do, you’re not really contributing to the conversation. Eventually, your followers are going to cut out the middle man and get their content directly from the source. Focus on providing original content. When you do retweet, give it a personal touch by adding a short comment.

Oprah you get a retweet meme

9. Don’t #go #crazy with the #hashtags.

While hashtags are common on Instagram and even Facebook, they originated on Twitter. The idea was to link your tweet to a relevant search term, making it easy for users to find. Somewhere along the way, logic was abandoned and people started adding hashtags to practically everything.

Hashtag overkill not only makes your tweets unattractive, it can also irritate your audience. Studies have shown that using more than two hashtags on Twitter can actually result in a 17 percent drop in engagement.

10. Always send a personal message when connecting on LinkedIn.

If you want to make a professional connection, a personal message trumps a generic template every time. Where the template request leaves the recipient guessing as to how they know you, a personal message allows you to provide some context – who you are and why the connection might be beneficial. Remember, this is the beginning of a beautiful, albeit business-oriented, friendship. Make the extra effort!

Old movie screenshot

11. LinkedIn isn’t Twitter, so keep the posts to a minimum.

Posting relevant content on LinkedIn is a great way to cement your status as an industry thought leader. But if you get carried away and start clogging up your contacts’ feeds, you can go from hero to zero in no time flat. Avoid excessive posting, and keep your shares meaningful.

12. Don’t hand out LinkedIn endorsements like candy.

We’ve all received LinkedIn endorsements from friends and family who have no idea what we actually do at our jobs. Hang around on LinkedIn long enough, and you’ll receive similar endorsements from people you haven’t even met. Maybe they think you’ll return the favor?

At any rate, you don’t want to become one of those people. Your endorsement should mean something. Only endorse connections you’ve actually worked with in some capacity.

And if you do endorse a business connection, don’t ask for an endorsement in return. You shouldn’t have to. Legitimate endorsements will come, and they’ll mean that much more.

LinkedIn endorsement meme

13. Always provide context to your Instagram photos.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Of course, the true value of that proposition depends heavily on the words that are chosen.

Don’t leave your followers guessing. Take advantage of captions. Use them to add context to your posts and to tell your brand’s story. You can also leverage relevant hashtags and when location matters, geotags – like this one of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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14. Don’t use irrelevant hashtags on Instagram.

We touched on this with Twitter, but it’s worth mentioning again. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, so it’s easy to go overboard. Remember, less is more. Focus on relevant hashtags for a better response.

15. Have fun with Snapchat.

Since Snapchat allows only up to 10 seconds for photos and videos to be seen by your followers, it’s okay to have a more lighthearted and fun approach. It’s commonly used to go behind the scenes or give an insider’s view into a brand.

And if you want to share more content, you can always use the Story feature. This lets you add Snaps together to form a narrative that lasts for 24 hours.

And with that — tweet, post and be merry! We hope these 15 rules of social media etiquette will help you make more meaningful social connections in 2016. But remember, if you need any help, we’re always here to automate the process.

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Erin Myers
erin.myers@outboundengine.com

Erin is the Content Marketing Manager at OutboundEngine. She's passionate about tracking the latest trends in social media and marketing to help business owners build relationships and reach new customers online.