With social media, the personal is the professional. If you rely on your online presence as a means to earn money in any capacity, what you say and share on social media matters.

The fact that you might be using a personal account vs. a business account matters not. Rest assured that clients (and potential clients) are looking at both.

To maintain a reasonable level of professionalism, there are some things you should never share on social media. If you do choose to share these things, at the very least be aware of the potential risk.

Negative Posts About Customers or Clients

Recently, Denny’s released a negative Tweet about customers who don’t tip. While the company didn’t call out any customers specifically, the internet definitely clapped back.

Negative posts relating to customers or clients are always a bad idea. These include:

  • Arguing or Matching Wits With Customers Online
  • Recalling (Even Generically) Stories Where a Customer Behaved Foolishly
  • Encouraging Others to Argue With or Shame a Customer Online

If a negative experience with a customer motivates you to post something on social media, wait a few days before doing so. What may come off as a rant while emotions are high, may turn into a useful ‘here’s how you can help us help you’ after you’ve cooled down.

If an angry customer is engaging with you on social media, it’s tempting to fire back. Instead, view it as a customer service opportunity.

You may be able to convert a dissatisfied customer into a happy one simply by treating them professionally and politely, in spite of their behavior. If they’re a troll determined to cause trouble, others watching will notice your professionalism and poise under pressure.

Warnings, Special Offers, And Other Spammy Announcements

  • Take these steps by the end of the month to protect your privacy on Facebook!
  • If you receive an email from this company, you’ve been hacked!
  • A fast food chain is giving away free sandwiches if you Tweet this Hashtag!
  • A terrible injustice has occurred and you should be outraged!

These are just a few examples of trending things that may find their way down your news feed. If they are correct and current, you might be doing your friends and followers a favor by sharing.

However, if you are passing along old information or something that has been proven false, that’s pretty embarrassing. Do some fact checking. When in doubt, don’t share it.

Irrelevant Viral Content

Yes, we’ve all seen a picture of the angry cat swimming in the flood waters. Yes, it’s funny. That doesn’t mean it belongs on your social media pages.

Try to limit viral content to sharing posts that are interesting or funny, so long as it is relevant to your audience. Another option is to create a special time and place to share silly content. For example, you could designate Fridays as ‘Friday Funnies’ and share a few funny posts you’ve collected along the way.

Political or Religious Posts

In recent months, you’ve probably noticed many businesses violating this guideline on social media. It’s true that some companies are taking stands on political issues. Rest assured that those businesses are aware of the associated risks and are willing to accept possibly alienating some of their customer base.

When you choose to share your thoughts and opinions on political and/or religious issues, please do so with full knowledge of the risks.

Let’s say your audience, for example, is primarily left of center politically. You could be upsetting people by posting conservative memes or opinions. Obviously, the reverse is true as well.

If you absolutely must post political or religious content, have a plan for respectfully handling backlash or dissent. By all means, don’t argue with your audience. Also, ensure they treat one another with respect when dialogue ensues.

Content That Isn’t Properly Proofread or Edited

Social media may be a casual place. That doesn’t mean your posts can lack polish and professionalism.

Even a few errors can make your content seem amateurish and unprofessional. Be especially careful if you are translating your social media content for international audiences.

Consider consulting a firm such as TheWordPoint.com for additional advice. This will help ensure that your content remains presentable for all of your audience members.

Attempts to Capitalize on Tragedy

On the day that Carrie Fisher died, Cinnabon posted a tasteless Tweet of a picture depicting Princess Leia with a cinnamon roll in place of her signature buns. In fact, it seems as if every time there is a celebrity death, natural disaster, or other tragedy, some brand posts something self-serving, inappropriate, or grossly promotional.

While it may not be as bad as price gouging, this use of social media is at best poor judgment and at worst cynical exploitation. Keep posts to sincere wishes for goodwill and condolences. Or just avoid talking about tragedies altogether if you want to play it safe.

Too Much Overtly Promotional Content

The purpose of social media is to build influence, increase brand awareness, and develop great customer relationships. At least 80% of your social media content should be dedicated to that. Think in terms of informing, educating, entertaining, and engaging.

When you do post promotional content, make sure that there is something newsworthy about it. For example, if you are launching a new product line, holding a great sale, or opening a new location, by all means, let people know.

Content Inconsistent With Branding

Have you ever read something on social media and been confused as to why that company chose to post that content? It’s off-putting to see a familiar brand posting content that doesn’t match their brand message or tone/style.

If it helps, think of your brand as a person. Maybe that person is young, funny, into music, and irreverent. Maybe that person is distinguished, serious, and demanding of respect. If you can’t imagine your brand persona saying something in real life, maybe they shouldn’t say it on social media.

Misleading Posts

Headlines should be attention-grabbing. They shouldn’t be misleading.

The same thing goes for promoting your posts and mentioning your competitors. Avoid making claims that aren’t quite true in order to earn clicks.

If you are calling out your competitors or making claims about your own products and services, be sure they pass the truth test.

Unattributed Content

It’s okay to find and share relevant content to your followers. In fact, this is a brilliant strategy to fill in the holes in your content offerings.

However, be sure to give credit where credit is due. Remember that the poignant quote, brilliant life hack, comic, meme, work of art, or compelling social media post you shared was originally created by someone. They deserve credit for coming up with the idea.

It may take time to track down the original source of a piece to give proper credit. In fact, you will probably notice how rarely you see social media content that has been credited to the creator.

However, it is worth it in the goodwill that you will earn, and the scorn you will avoid in passing off content as your own.


What you put out on social media will play a key role in how you are judged as a person and a business professional. By avoiding certain content and behaviors entirely you are much more likely to create a successful social media presence.

Featured Image Credit: CC 0; Public Domain. View original image on Pixabay.com.