Social Media Etiquette for Businesses

It is commonplace to see businesses participating on social media, but many are failing to achieve the delicate balance between self-promotion and providing value.

Worse, businesses are misunderstanding what promotion on social media entails. They’re shouting at their audiences while failing to provide any reason for them to listen.

Imagine walking into a cocktail party and, without listening for even a moment to the various conversations taking place, shouting at the top of your lungs about your latest company promotion to no one in particular. If it’s an exceptionally valuable deal like, “We’re giving away free Macbook Pros tomorrow at noon,” you might get some attention because the guests will quickly recognize how it benefits them. However, your less-than-charming approach will not leave the most positive and lasting impression about yourself or your company.

Wouldn’t it be more effective to walk into the party, pause, look around, walk from group to group, listen and participate naturally in their conversations to find an appropriate group of people that might be more inclined to listen to your offer in more detail? It takes a little more time, but you will have the chance to build more business value for your offering. You might uncover a prominent blogger or journalist, prospective customer or influencer who might recommend you to their communities. You will also have the opportunity to dazzle them with your knowledge and personality, which will leave a good impression and encourage them to support you.

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If you’re shouting things of no value to the guests like, “Look at how great I am! Look at what I just did!” you’re going to do yourself more harm than good. Just picture that image in your mind for a moment. In my view, that person screams arrogance, presumption and disrespect and for that reason I would be reluctant to support him.

The same is true in social media. It’s the cocktail party of the digital world. To leave a lasting and positive impression, here is some etiquette training for your social engagements:


Listen to your community members before you start engaging them in discussion to uncover their values and provide context for your discussion. For example, if someone inquires about your product, have a dive into their personal social media streams to see if they have mentioned you or your products before, their profession, employer, and any obvious likes and dislikes. If you’re offering an Android product and you see “Apple fanboy” on the person’s Twitter bio, you’ll have a much better idea of how to approach the conversation to provide more valuable information.

Provide value

Building off the previous point, always think about the value of what you’re sharing and how it will benefit your community. If you’re offering a valuable promotion, it’s fine to share it with your community at large on your social media streams. But you’ll want to balance promotional pieces with helpful and thoughtful one-on-one engagements with individuals, other important industry news, and participate in the conversations started by your community members so as to avoid becoming the shouting, self-indulgent person at the party.

Be relevant

As in media relations, you will want to target certain messaging to relevant individuals. Again, while it’s fine to share company news and other promotions to your community at large through your accounts, don’t spam your community members with unsolicited personal messages.

Respect personal space

Keep out of people’s personal bubbles unless you’re invited in. By personal bubbles I mean private sections of accounts, such as direct message boxes, but also conversations that are more personal. It’s a fine line between appropriate and inappropriate. For instance, if you’re a bike retailer and you listen in on a conversation between two friends about their weekend bike trip, don’t interject with a comment that they should check out your store. However, if that conversation includes a comment that one of those individuals is in the market for a new bike, that might be an appropriate opportunity to introduce yourself, ask specifically what he/she is looking for and, if relevant, offer a valuable promotion or helpful suggestion on where to look.

My biggest peeve is Twitter direct messages telling me to also follow an individual or company on Facebook or LinkedIn or to check out their blog. If I followed you on Twitter, I want your Twitter updates. If I want your Facebook updates too, I’ll follow you there in my own time, thankyouverymuch.

Modesty is beautiful

Don’t retweet or repost every single positive comment about your company. Thank people for their comments and share only the few that really hammer home how great you are. You’ll build integrity by listening to the achievements of your community members, congratulating them and graciously acknowledging any inbound praise, than by tooting your own horn at every opportunity.

What do you think? What did I miss?

Image: Someecards

Francis Moran and Associates is an associated team of seasoned practitioners of a number of different marketing disciplines, all of whom share a passion for technology and a proven record of driving revenue growth in markets across the globe. We work with B2B technology companies of all sizes and at every life stage and can engage as individuals or as a full team to provide quick counsel, a complete marketing strategy or the ongoing hands-on input of a virtual chief marketing officer. 

Comments: 2

  • Robert says:

    Good points. Only extra point i can think of is abusive language if the participants dont agree with each other.
    Nothing bugs me more than fowl or abusive langauge on a public space.
    Shows that you cannot argue constructively but have to resort to fowl langauge to try make you point.

  • Hi Robert. I couldn’t agree more. Abusive language has the power to break down an otherwise healthy discussion. Thanks for the comment!

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