Using Proper Social Media Etiquette for Business
By Michael Cohn
It has been quite a while since we last discussed social media etiquette for business. However, there is a lot to be said on the subject. In this article, we will give you new insight into an extremely important aspect of professional behavior.
The rules to follow
At this point, social media is certainly not new or mysterious although it evolves at an extremely rapid pace. New aspects of the various social media channels are being introduced frequently. Of course, there are the basics of proper etiquette and then there is another layer that is certainly worth consideration. Just to think about the history of social media etiquette for a moment, it all started in the 1990s and just evolved from there to what it is today. In the beginning, nobody really had a clear sense of how to behave exactly. There was a bit of a trial and error situation initially but, at this point, the proper etiquette is pretty well established.
Undoubtedly, there are certain behaviors that are obviously wrong to everyone who experiences them. In those cases, it is easy to understand right from wrong. Then there are those behaviors that are more subtle and those are less obvious and more difficult to determine whether they are right or wrong or just a personal preference. One thing that makes it easier at times is that some of the social media channels will provide you with their rules of etiquette. That leaves no wiggle room on your part. Whether you agree with those rules or not, you have an obligation to follow them if you wish to be a part of that particular social media channel. It is the rules that have a subjective element to them that need to be determined. The sad fact is that if you can’t figure those out, you may get into uncomfortable situations that you are not entirely sure how to get out of. In addition to following the etiquette rules of other people’s choosing, you should also come up with your own rules as well. That will help to guide you and it will make things a lot easier on a day-to-day basis.
One thing that makes it easier at times is that some of the social media channels will provide you with their rules of etiquette. That leaves no wiggle room on your part. Whether you agree with those rules or not, you have an obligation to follow them if you wish to be a part of that particular social media channel. It is the rules that have a subjective element to them that need to be determined. The sad fact is that if you can’t figure those out, you may get into uncomfortable situations that you are not entirely sure how to get out of. In addition to following the etiquette rules of other people’s choosing, you should also come up with your own rules as well. That will help to guide you and it will make things a lot easier on a day-to-day basis.
Contribute something of value to others
When it comes to the content that you are sharing, you want it to be educational, valuable, compelling, and you want it to make your readers want to share it with other people whom they know and trust. In fact, your ultimate goal is to get your content to go viral through the actions of the people who are reading it. If you are going to achieve that, your content must not only be well-written but also exciting to read. You may think that having to meet all of those criteria is quite a burden. However, once you start to write and to share valuable content that other people have written, it will start to go much smoother. You will see! It is a really good idea to sit down and think about what you want to write before you actually do any writing at all. You want to write content that resonates with a large number of people, that the person reading your content can use to improve his or her business, is in the friendliest format, that fulfills the needs and wants of the people who read it, and that is available to your readers at a time when they will be inclined to read it. If you accomplish all of that with your content, you will succeed.
Write personal messages
Automating certain things is really valuable and convenient. However, when it comes to responding to other people online after they have made an effort to reach out to you, that must be done personally. After all, you are trying to build a human relationship with the other person. There is no way that offering a canned message will suffice. If you do that, the human/emotional element will definitely be missing. Without it, you will not get anywhere. People don’t appreciate being treated like they don’t matter and that is exactly how an automated message will make them feel. How would you feel about it?
Not only should you respond to other people personally but you should also respond to them quickly. You probably would not want to wait a long time for the other person’s response so why would you think that the other person would feel any differently about that? Again, it all goes back to building a relationship together. In order to do that, you need to interact as humans. If you are overwhelmed with work, you should ask someone else (who is connected to your business) to respond on your behalf. No matter what, the response needs to be the human kind. The fact is that the comments that you receive online will not all be positive. The negative comments are the ones that are even more urgent and critical to answer. That is all part of your relationship-building. If you address concerns quickly and manage to rectify them, you will be earning trust and credibility, which are two of the building blogs of a solid relationship.
Show some class
As a parallel, think about the divorced couple with children. The shared custody and each one speaks bitterly about the other to the children. We all know that to behave in that manner is inappropriate, destructive, and just plain wrong. Okay, now you can apply that concept to whether you choose to be respectful when you are speaking about your competitors. The fact is that your competitors are not doing anything wrong by giving you a run for your money. They are in exactly the same position as you. They have a brand and products and/or services that they believe in. Their wish is to improve someone else’s experience based on that brand and those products and/or services. Don’t you feel exactly the same way? Chances are that you do. Don’t say negative, disrespectful things about them. It makes you seem insecure and petty. If you have confidence in what you are doing and what you are offering to other people, there is no need for that. It all starts from within you.
Make your content as shareable as possible
The format of your content is very important when it comes to making it easy for other people to share it. If you follow the rules of the particular social media channel to which you are posting, it will be a lot easier to share your content. As you are probably aware, some of the social media channels have length restrictions. As difficult as that is, you need to do your best to respect those. Otherwise, your content will be truncated. That certainly will do you (or your content) any good.
Always put your professional foot forward
You are probably well aware of the fact that you have social media for personal reasons as well as for business. Of course, what we are discussing here is a business. You need to ensure that you keep any personal element out of your interactions on social media for business. It is just not appropriate. You should make sure to have separate accounts for personal and for business. Trust me when I say that if you don’t do that, your professional connections will not take you seriously. If that happens, you will not succeed in business.
Social media etiquette for business is critical to your success. The chances are great that you are already doing most of what would be considered proper etiquette. You may have to adjust some minor things that didn’t occur to you before but it really is no big deal. What should drive your behavior at all times is respect and admiration for your other people. Of course, you need to make sure that your content is in no way offensive to anyone and that it helps other people in some way. That should be another (and very important) motivator for you.
Michael Cohn is the founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of CompuKol Communications. He has over 25 years of experience in IT and web technologies. Mr. Cohn spent a significant amount of time at a major telecommunications company, where his main focus was on initiating and leading synergy efforts across all business units by dramatically improving efficiency, online collaboration, and the company’s Intranet capabilities, which accelerated gains in business productivity. He also reduced company travel and travel costs by introducing and implementing various collaboration technologies.
His expertise includes business analysis; project management; management of global cross-matrix teams; systems engineering and analysis, architecture, prototyping and integration; technology evaluation and assessment; systems development; performance evaluation; and management of off-shore development.
Mr. Cohn earned a Master’s degree in project management from George Washington University in Washington, DC; and a Master’s degree in computer science and a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ.
Mr. Cohn is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).