Primum non nocere is a Latin phrase that means “First, do no harm.” It’s a central precept that prospective physicians are taught in medical school. It’s also a particularly relevant precept for brand marketers wishing to engage with users through online social media.

It’s easy to go wrong with social media. At the same time though, social media offers great opportunities to forge a tighter bond with consumers. To help make the most of those opportunities, consider following these ten rules of social media etiquette:

1. Speak With a Human Voice

Your user base is much more likely to engage with your brand if the tone of your interaction is human, genuine and conversational. You don’t want to come across like a faceless corporate monolith. Act natural.

2. Personalize It

Invest the time and effort to learn a little about the person with whom you are talking (e.g. read their profile) and personalize your message to the extent possible. Avoid the automated tools on Twitter and elsewhere that can generate generic responses.

3. Keep It Professional

While you want to represent your brand in a human and personal way it’s important to remember the people with whom you are talking are not your friends. It’s a business relationship and the dialog should remain on a professional level.

4. Mind Your Manners

Imagine that your online conversation is a face-to-face conversation and you’re interacting with them in real life. Say “hello,” “goodbye” and “thank you” when appropriate and be polite. It’ll go a long way towards building engagement.

5. Listen And Respond

User comments can range from the sublime to the ridiculous. They can be a valuable source of consumer insight, and then in other cases…not so much. Regardless of the quality of the commentary, your users’ comments must be heard and responded to in real time.

6. Know Your Audience

Depending on the type of product or service you offer, your audience can be very narrow, very broad, or in between. If you have a video game product, for example, you may be hearing from both kids and their parents. The content and tone of your response should vary based on who it is you’re talking to.

7. Offer Real Value

Social media platforms aren’t designed for the hard sell. They’re best for building a community that is attracted to the real value you can offer in the form of helpful practical information, entertainment, saving time or money and genuine human interaction. Make it a user-centric experience.

8. Act Impeccably

Your social media reputation is built on trust and honesty. You never want to be deceitful or misleading. Similarly it’s a bad idea to create fake identities to promote your brand or point of view.

9. Don’t React Emotionally

On occasion you may be forced to respond to a negative or inflammatory comment. Resist the temptation to respond immediately. Of course you don’t want to remain silent or unresponsive.  But take the time to craft a thoughtful, diplomatic response that addresses the issues raised.

10. Be Preemptive

Employ all the available tools to monitor what is being said about your brand throughout the social media world. Act proactively when issues about your brand surface. If something important happens in your industry, or if you have notable news about your brand, be sure to share it.

10. a. Repeat After Me

All points mentioned above are applicable for you B2B social media exchanges as well.

So, where does this leave us…

Mastering social media is no easy task. It is multi-faceted, complex and ever changing, much like the broader marketing landscape.  So like with most things we do in life, think first, be nice and mind your manners.