Social Media 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Online Etiquette

By Stefanie Neyland, Small Business Content Developer at

While it may not always seem like it, the way you conduct yourself on your business’s social media channels is crucial to your brand’s identity, image and reputation. Social media has an unprecedented reach, and failure to understand the proper etiquette of each of the channels can potentially make you appear unprofessional and may even be damaging to your online success. With this in mind, for today’s final instalment of our January Social Media 101 series, we’ll be sharing all you need to know when it comes to best practices for online social media etiquette.


1. Keep your business separate from your personal life

While it’s a great idea to humanize your brand where possible, there is a line, and some businesses have a tendency to cross it. Avoid oversharing about your life, complaining, and writing generic ‘what I ate for breakfast’ posts. Some things are just best kept private.


2. Don’t overpost

With the sheer number of social media users nowadays, your fans’ news feeds are more cluttered than ever. This means that over posting and monopolizing their feed is a surefire way to lose them as followers. A good rule of thumb is to be consistent by posting once per day—but no more than twice.


3. Don’t over promote

Offer information of value—don’t just use social media as a blatant means of self-promotion. Stick to the 80/20 rule: 80 percent non-promotional content, and 20 percent business promotion.


4. Use proper spelling and grammar

Save emoticons, text speak and colloquialisms for your personal accounts. When sending an email to a client or customer you’d write in a professional manner, and your social media communication should be no different.


5. Follow the rules

Facebook has very specific rules for business Pages—particularly when it comes to running contests or giveaways. Ensure you're following each channel's specific guidelines to avoid landing yourself in hot water. You can view Facebook’s rules for business Pages by clicking here.


6. Play it safe

As anyone who emails or texts regularly will likely be aware, it’s very easy for the written word to be misinterpreted. To avoid your updates getting lost in translation, carefully consider how they may be perceived by others before posting. Avoid subjects which may be considered taboo, and always be sensitive to cultural sensitivities and current affairs.


7. Don’t publish your Twitter feed on your Facebook account

Not only does publishing your tweets to your Facebook account show a lack of thought, but it’s repetitive and will clog up your fans’ news feeds. That doesn’t mean to say that you can’t share the same content to your various social media accounts, but just ensure that you tailor your posts for each channel. For more information on how to adapt an update for each of the top social media sites, check out last week’s post on the subject.


8. Give credit where credit’s due

If you’re sharing content from a fan, fellow business, or any other source—always give credit. If you’re simply hitting the ‘share’ button, this will be done automatically; otherwise you’ll need to cite your sources.


9. Answer questions and address criticisms

Social media allows you to engage in open and direct communication with your customers, so when they contact you—whether they’re giving positive feedback, asking a question, or offering criticism—make every effort to respond to them promptly and professionally to show that you care.


10. Use hashtags sparingly

Sure, hashtags are useful and allow your posts to be discovered by people looking for content on a particular subject, but overusing them can come across as spammy. As a general rule try to stick to no more than two hashtags per post.

By Andrew Patricio

January 29, 2014