Do you have that one friend you follow on Instagram who floods your feed with pictures of Simba and Nala from The Lion King, with captions like "OMG Relationship Goals #singlenow #definitelylovabletho #HakunaMatata" all the time?

I'm willing to bet, after a while, it gets a little frustrating.

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On the other hand, you're probably onboard with influencers and friends who post top-notch memes, like the one below, to get you through your Monday morning:

Good social media meme exampleSource: Reddit

There's a certain degree of etiquette to social media — and there's often a fine line between making someone smile with your content, or making them annoyed because you're posting too often, or you're posting content that doesn't resonate with them.

Additionally, social media etiquette isn't specific to personal accounts. Businesses have unspoken rules to abide by, as well. In this post, we'll explore those guidelines and some definitive do's and don'ts of social media marketing.

Social Media Etiquette for Business

When you're posting on behalf of your business, there are some general guidelines you should follow. All of which amount to one golden rule: help your audience, above all else. Of course, that can mean a lot of things.

You can help your audience by not being invasive and obnoxious. You can help them by offering meaningful content with actionable insight. And you can help them by literally helping them — for instance, you might give them answers to their questions, or reasonable advice for their business-related problems.

That's how you get the most out of your social media marketing efforts. Here are some specific principles to follow to make sure you do just that. 

1. Do focus on the content you create, and its purpose.

To a lot of people on social media, your business is the content it produces. Prospects might not have any concept of your brand identity, what your company does, and how your products or services can help them until they engage with your content. That's why there has to be some weight and intent behind it.

If you're constantly sharing mindless, effortless, or irrelevant content over social media, you'll likely lose out on the potential followers most interested in your space or industry. Those prospects want high-quality material about your area of expertise. If they're not getting anything out of your content, they're not going to stick around for more.

If you want to make the most of your social media marketing efforts, you have to put a lot of effort and thought into the content you produce.

2. Don't overstay your welcome.

Your followers are likely on social media to see a wide range of content from an equally wide range of sources. If you're dominating their feeds with constant re-posts and an endless digital stream of consciousness, they're going to ignore or unfollow you. You need to post mindfully.

You should post on a consistent basis, but there's a difference between being consistent and posting at an overwhelming rate (like six times per day … ) regardless of how relevant to your space it may be.

3. Do be human.

Social media, as a concept, is incredibly personal. People are sharing pictures of their dogs, intimate posts about their personal lives, and talking to friends and family. If you want to be welcome in that space, your posts have to be in keeping with that tone.

People don't want some cold, calculated, distant interaction when they connect with you over social media. They want authenticity. They want your brand to be genuine. They want to know that the business, brand, or organization you represent is approachable and will care about them if, and when, they need it to.

4. Don't get fixated on follower count.

The operative word in the term "social media marketing" is "marketing." You're not just trying to entertain digital strangers for likes and reaction gifs — you're trying to win customers. Your social media strategy is a means to an end, and that end is bringing in quality leads.

It's better to have 5,000 followers with 500 of them engaging with your content than to have 50,000 followers with 100 engaging with your content. This all ties back to the first point on the list. It's crucial to make sure your content is high-quality, relevant, and meaningful.

A dedicated following is valuable no matter the size. Cultivating one comes from producing the kind of content you know your target audience and prospects would value, rather than posting content aimed at receiving the highest number of likes.

5. Do make sure your profiles are complete and up-to-date.

Your social media profiles might be the first and only impression you get to make with thousands of prospects. Everything about those pages needs to look professional. All of your profiles should be fleshed out — profile pictures, company descriptions, contact information, and more should be filled out on every social media profile your company creates.

Halfway-finished company profiles can look low-effort and untrustworthy. You're projecting your brand to a world of potential customers. Looking clean and legitimate is one of the best ways to keep their attention once you've captured it.

6. Don't sweat the small stuff.

Social media marketers have a lot to consider when building and maintaining a solid social media presence. They have to stay on top of hashtags, post length, timing, and several other factors that may seem too crucial to mess up. Though it may seem like all of those aspects can make or break you, you should take a breath before stressing over them too much.

It would be awesome if you could always get all of those components right, but your business might not have the resources for that. Your first and most important focus should be on the big picture and your messaging as a whole.

Make sure the image you're projecting and content you're sharing are right for your business. The object of social media marketing is to connect with an audience that might be interested in your company and what you have to offer. That's more a product of great messaging than it is of funny hashtags.

7. Do have someone double-check your copy.

It can't hurt to have someone have your back when writing copy — for a couple of reasons. For one, you might have glossed over some grammatical errors. A big part of social media marketing is looking professional and legitimate. If your copy is riddled with misplaced punctuation and run-on sentences, some of your followers might end up mistrusting the message, as well..

You also need someone to check the tone, vocabulary, and humor you're using in your captions. Something you write might look refined or hilarious to you, but the social media platforms you plan on posting on might not be so charmed. An off-color joke that doesn't land or some strange slang no one gets could undermine why you wrote the post in the first place.

8. Don't always follow trends.

You want to establish yourself as a thought leader in your space. If all you're doing is blindly following the hottest social trends and re-posting the same kind of content everyone else is, you risk coming across as a follower.

If you can, you should try to find an opportunity to turn something into a trend and have others follow suit. At the very least, you're differentiating yourself. You can show you have more to offer than your followers can find elsewhere.

9. Do interact with your audience.

Like I said at the beginning of this article, the object of your social media efforts should be to help your audience, above all else. If you dedicate all your social media profiles strictly to plugging your product or service, you're going to lose out on the audience engagement you need to ultimately win customers.

If you see a question or concern you're qualified to address pop-up on Twitter, for instance, consider commenting with an answer. Alternatively, you might try asking your followers for recommendations or suggestions on what you could be doing better.

This tip ties back to the "be human" point. You want to be approachable and trustworthy. If you can establish yourself as a readily accessible, empathetic, knowledgeable presence on social media, you're putting yourself in a position to garner interest from prospects and retain loyalty from customers.

10. Don't overthink the wording of every post.

Tasteful, clever social media posts are great, but you need to remember the nature of the platforms you're on. Your followers aren't on Twitter or Facebook to painstakingly analyze every last word you put in your tweet. And you don't have to treat everything in your Instagram post like your dissertation.

There's a good chance your post is going to turn up on someone's feed between a SpongeBob meme and a video of a squirrel breakdancing. Ultimately, it's important you don't get too hung up on the details. Focus on creating great content above all else. Writing copy for posts should take a backseat to that.

Prospects on social media want to be worked with more than they want to be sold to. Your first priority should be providing them with the content, resources, and advice necessary to better understand your field. Offering material that keeps them interested and helps them grow is going to pay off more than product advertising to momentarily grab their attention.

Help your audience. That's the golden rule.

Now — if you'll excuse me — my Instagram post about trying to find a love as pure and honest as Simba and Nala's didn't do so great. I'm going to try another one with Jasmine and Aladdin. Wish me luck.

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Originally published May 6, 2013 9:00:00 AM, updated February 03 2020

Topics:

Social Media Marketing