18 Social Media Etiquette Tips for Business Owners

Social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) have revolutionized the way that people communicate with each other and the way that businesses communicate with their customers.  It’s a great tool to use to keep customers instantly updated with what’s going on within a company.  For small businesses, it’s a great way to gain new customers.  Most large companies have a person (or usually a department) that is in charge of maintaining social media accounts (uploading new content and interacting with customers).  These companies have policies in place that restrict what employees can post using an official company profile.  For small business owners it can be harder to know what is and isn’t proper social media behavior

Follow these general guidelines to avoid any mishaps while managing business social media guidelines.

1.  Use good grammar.

This may seem like common sense to most of you, but social media has also changed the way people type.  To their friends and family, many people often don’t pay close attention to their grammar when sending messages over the phone or Facebook.  However, bad grammar or spelling can hurt a small business.  To some, it can seem very unprofessional and lazy.  Mistakes can happen, but do your best to use proper grammar and spelling.  There are many spell check options (and most browsers offer a spell checker).

2.  Don’t curse or use vulgar language.

Unless you’re a business that makes items with vulgar images or sayings, it’s best to steer clear.  You never know who you might offend, and it could cost you a customer.

Example: Stubhub’s twitter flub – http://mashable.com/2012/11/25/social-media-business-disasters-2012/#gallery/biggest-social-media-disasters-of-2012/518fae8797b2f876060d08b4

 3.  Don’t complain about personal things.

The link above also is a prime example of another things you shouldn’t do: complain.  Your customers don’t want to hear you complain about your day, the weather or how someone cut you off on the drive to work.  Chances are people don’t want to hear about it on your personal Facebook either, but that’s a whole other matter.  Stick to business matters.

4.  Don’t ignore complaints.

We’ve all seen “those” types of comments on business pages.  The comments where someone complains about a product they received or the service they had while interacting with a company.  We (as consumers) always want to feel like our feedback is being heard and that it matters to a company.  With social media, it’s easier to be heard. While good feedback goes a long way, bad feedback spreads like wildfire on the internet.  The last thing you want is to have someone bad-mouthing your company on your company’s Facebook page.  It can be oh so tempting to delete that comment, but stop right there.  This provides a golden opportunity for you to show the world (or more specifically, your followers) that you can take criticism and learn from it.  When someone complains on your page, don’t just ignore it; respond to it.  Make sure that customer knows that his or her complaint has been heard, and something is being done about it.  Tell him or her that you appreciate their business and that you want to keep them as a customer.  Have something to offer them -an incentive- to keep their business, but don’t try to bribe your way out of bad press though. Offer them a discount, AND ask them to come in to your place of business and discuss the ways they think you could make your business experience better for other customers.  Get your customers involved, and make them feel important.  Even if they don’t respond well to this, you can rest easy knowing that you did what you could to make their experience better.  It’s far better to have them be unresponsive than for you to ignore what they’re saying.  Customers make or break a business.  Remember that.

5.  Never, and I mean EVER, insult a customer.

I don’t care if they are insulting your mother with a ‘yo momma’ joke you thought had been left behind in the 90s. Don’t EVER insult a customer over social media.  Once it is online, it is there forever.  It doesn’t matter if you delete what you wrote 30 minutes later; chances are somebody took a screen-shot of it, and it is now immortalized and filed away in the virtual “reputation ruining material” vault of some Redditor.  It’s not worth the 10 seconds of satisfaction you got for returning that ‘yo momma’ joke in kind.  If you are ever unsure of how to respond to a customer, just take a look at how the folks at Amy’s Baking Company* handle their customers, and never do anything like it.


Oh, and if you do decide to have some sort of psychotic meltdown and verbally bash your customers (a la Amy's Baking Company) and decide you need to clean up the mess, don’t claim that every single one of your social media accounts has been hacked.  Be an adult, and just say you messed up.

*For those who don’t know about Amy’s Baking Company, here’s a nice little article to get you up to speed.


6.  #thinkbeforeyoutweet

Twitter is a great place to start a social media conversation or see what the world is talking about by looking at popular hash tags.  Businesses that want to promote themselves often invent new hash tags to get people talking about them.  This can go horribly wrong though if not thought out carefully.  Today’s disaster lesson comes from a big business, McDonald’s.

McDonald’s started two hash tag trends: #meetthefarmers and #mcdstories.  Well, the #mcdstories took off in a bad way.  Customers started sharing their McDonald's horror stories, and it turned into a PR nightmare.  It goes to show that, it’s always best to #thinkbeforeyoutweet.

7.  Facebook/Twitter/Social Media in general is not your personal pulpit.

It can be oh so tempting to use the audience you’ve gained through your business page to get your opinions heard, but before you dust off your old metaphorical soapbox, remember this: social media is not your personal pulpit.

It’s not a place to talk about your political or religious views (obvious exceptions aside).  You risk alienating customers by talking about such matters.  It’s best to leave it to your personal Facebook page, or just don’t post it on the Internet at all.


 8.  Be aware of what’s going on the in the world.

You may not read the newspaper cover to cover everyday or watch the news every evening, but it’s important to be aware of at least the most major events happening in the nation, if not the world.  Not knowing about something can potentially lead to some awkward social media tension.  Some examples are below:

The NRA posted a pro-gun tweet the morning after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado.


Speaking of Aurora, a boutique obviously didn’t get the message about the shooting when they tweeted that everyone must be excited about their new dress (called the Aurora).


9.  Don’t use social media to promote something that capitalizes on a natural disaster, tragedy, etc.


American Apparel offered a discount to people in states affected by Hurricane Sandy.  The ad…”In case you’re bored during the storm…”


Gap cashes in on Hurricane Sandy…


10. Your business page is not your online dating profile.

It’s always exciting when you get a new “like” or follower on your business’ social media page.  Usually you can see who has liked your page or followed you, and you can see their profiles (depending on their privacy settings).  It might be tempting for some to check out who this “Bob Handsome” or “Julie Hotpants” is that’s liking your page, but you can easily enter the creeper zone checking out your followers. 

It’s important to know where your followers are coming from and how they came about liking your page, but it’s more important to not use your business page to contact your followers for personal reasons, such as romantic interest, etc.  It’s highly inappropriate, and you could get some bad press.  It’s best to keep your romantic life out of your business page.  That’s why it’s your business page and not your online dating profile.

11.  Speaking of....Keep your relationship out of your business pages.

Keeping on the same line as the first tip, it’s a good idea to keep your romantic life out of your business page completely.  I know you’re excited about getting engaged or about the phone number you scored from that attractive person you bumped into on the street in one of those cheesy rom-com style “meet cutes,” but it’s best to not share that story with your fans.

12.  Don’t make every post a sales pitch.

Social media is a great place to spread the word about your products and services.  You can highlight things using pictures, status updates, etc.  It’s also a great place to connect with your customers.  Customers don’t like advertisements clogging up their news feed.  So while it’s a great way to spread the news about what you do/sell, don’t make everything you post about that.  Use the opportunity to engage your customers.  Post a status asking them how their day is going or ask them what they want to see in your store.

13.  Don’t bogart another company’s #hashtag.  

Although anyone can #hashtag something on Twitter (and now Facebook), companies and brands have started creating unique hashtags to help promote their products and/or services.  It can be a useful tool and a great way to get followers to interact with you on your social media accounts.  However, if you’re looking to do the same thing for your company, don’t blatantly use another company’s hashtag campaign. This is called hashtag hijacking. Although it can prove difficult sometimes to come up with a completely unique hashtag because of the over-abundance of hashtags online, it’s disrespectful and tacky to just use another company’s campaign. Try to be respectful and come up with your own idea.  For more about “hashtag hijacking” check out this article from smallbiztrends.comhttp://smallbiztrends.com/2013/08/what-is-hashtag-hijacking-2.html.

14.  Don’t over abbreviate

When you only have 144 characters to say something to your Twitter followers, it can be stressful trying to make sure everything you want to write fits in the allotted space. It may be tempting to abbreviate as much as you can, but think of it as a creative writing assignment trying to articulate everything in a few short sentences.  It’s easier to abbreviate, and sometimes it’s unavoidable, but it’s more important to make sure that everyone can understand what you’re saying.

15. Use “appropriate” abbreviations

Can you imagine a huge company tweeting, “Our new products r totes flying off the shelves”?  Just…no.  Be professional.  You aren’t tweeting your BFF Jill.  Although it’s good for companies to be able to have a certain sense of camaraderie with their customers, it’s important to keep up the professional attitude.

16. Don’t overuse hashtags.

If you’re tweeting, and you want as many people as possible to see your tweet, it can be tempting to add on a huge list of hashtags, but it’s more annoying than helpful. You end up sounding a bit like this:

Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake show you what a Twitter conversation sounds like in real life.

17. Use relevant hashtags.

Make sure the hashtags you use are relevant to the content of your tweets. For example:

Do- For a tweet about social media etiquette use hashtags like #socialmedia #Facebook #Twitter

Don’t- For a tweet about social media etiquette don’t use hashtags like #GameofThrones or something completely unrelated to your topic. It might get some people to view your tweet, but it does nothing to elevate the quality of your content.

18. Answer customer comments/questions in a timely manner.

If you’re a business owner you’re probably not constantly glued to your computer like I am (or like anyone in the internet marketing business), so you may not be monitoring your social media pages around the clock. It’s important you can answer your customer questions asked via social media quickly. We are in the technology age where people want and expect things instantly. Unless you have a huge team of social media experts at your disposal, answering questions mere seconds after they’re asked isn’t realistic.

The ideal amount of time to respond to messages and comments is under 5 minutes. If you’re a one-person operation, or just small team, you should try to shoot for under 30 minutes. You should definitely be checking your pages once an hour. I can’t stress answering messages promptly enough, because you can lose potential sales if you don’t. 

What are some of your best tips and practices for managing business pages on social media? Let us know in the comments!