happy neighborhoodEvery day I come home from work and take my dogs for a walk. On the route, we pass by three kids on their bikes, the couple that always runs together, the guy that loves to wash his boat every day and the little girl that has a princess outfit for each day of the week.

We stop to talk to the neighborhood princess so she can tell us of her recent adventures and newest fashion accessory – yesterday she had a fork which she called a “dinglehopper”.

This has been my routine for years, and I’m embarrassed to say that I can only name two out of the six people mentioned. I’m a pretty social person and I just realized that getting to know your neighbors goes beyond daily greetings and small talk about the weather.

In the same thought, I could not ignore that my neighborhood predicament was remarkably similar to the challenges marketers face connecting with their social media communities.

I quickly came to the conclusion that the correlation between the two communities is social etiquette. The next time you schedule a post, take these common courtesies into consideration. By adding them your social media strategy you will create positive interactions within your community, promote the good stories and help you respond intuitively to the not-so-good ones.

1. Present a neat exterior

Posts with long urls and “text talk” have the same impact as an unkempt yard with unruly bushes, tall grass and makeshift lawn ornaments. Keep your brand image tidy by utilizing link shorteners like Bit.ly and spell checking tools like Grammarly Lite.

Tip: Each Bit.ly link can easily be turned into a QR code. If you attach a Google Analytics tracking link, you’ll be able to track the progress of the QR code in two places.

2. Community engagement is not mandatory

People do not have to accept your invite to a block party or Facebook event. Instead of flooding inboxes with multiple messages, receive a better response rate by making it personal and adding a note to the original invitation.

3. Decorate tastefully

There is a time and place for excessive holiday decorations and a collection of garden gnomes. When twenty five percent of your neighborhood has the same color palette, it is natural to branch out and add flair. Make sure your images are aesthetically pleasing and not offensive.

If a meme on your friend’s Facebook made you laugh, it does not mean you should share it professionally. Use free editing tools like PicMonkey to personalize images. You can apply text, borders and overlays to transform pictures and make collages.

Tip: Only edit pictures that you own or those that you have been granted creative permissions for. If you use programs like Creative Commons, pay attention to the credit source guidelines. If you purchase stock photos, in most cases, you can edit the picture as you see fit. When it comes to claiming images on the internet, do not forget to read the fine print!

4. Take time to say thank you

A community member that routinely shares your content and interacts with your posts is just like the neighbor that shovels your driveway or keeps an eye on your home while you are on vacation. Reward your most active community members with recognition or surprise them with a new book, coupon code or company t-shirt.

5. Keep the peace and avoid the tendency to over-share

Are you being too noisy and getting rowdy at the most inappropriate times? The quickest way to be “un-followed” or “hidden” is to crowd news feeds by posting too much in a short amount of time. Use suggestion tools like Tweriod and Facebook Insights to determine the best times to post to your social networks instead.

Tip: It is common courtesy to tell your neighbors that there will be 100 people at your house next week. If you will be participating in an event with a boost of social activity, let your virtual neighbors know. People will tolerate more if they know ahead of time, and you never know, they may even join the party!

6. Don’t be “that guy”

You know the neighbor that everyone avoids because you trap them with boring stories about yourself. Be conversational, ask questions, and share entertaining information that they would be interested in. If you are browsing the web and see something that your virtual neighbors would love, use bookmarking tools like Evernote and Pocket to clip the webpage and share later.

Tip: If you have a hard time finding relevant content, use free tools like Swayy and Topsy to discover content that is both trending and relevant to your network.

7. Get the scoop

People really like to talk and will share their experiences with the rest of their community. Get notified when people mention your brand and share your content with free monitoring tools like Mention and Google Alerts.

Tip: Find out what your virtual neighbors think about your competitors, too! Expand your monitoring efforts beyond your brand name. Add alerts for top company executives, variations of your brand name, products, potential clients, industry events and competitors.

Can you think of anything else to compare our communities to? Share your best parallels in the comments!