Social Media Manners for the Small Business Owner

The world of social media is relatively new. We don’t have decades of Miss Manners books to consult in order to tell us what to say and when to say it, and we often can’t ask our elders for advice on what sort of conduct is acceptable when we’re online.

But, there are some basic rules about social media that most users seem to just know on a gut level. And if you break those rules as a small business owner, your consumers might easily leave you in order to give money to a competitor that seems just a tad savvier.

Image courtesy of bplanet/

Image courtesy of bplanet/

Now, manners are personal, and I know that the things one consumer finds appealing might be the attributes another person simply hates. But in general, there are a few rules that the online community agrees upon, when it comes to social media. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. Responsiveness is Key

When a consumer writes you a letter about a problem or pings you with an email message filled with words of concern, you typically have a day or two to gather your thoughts and come up with a clever response. But, if those consumers touch base with you via social media, they want an answer right now.

Consider this: In a recent study from CMO Council, 22 percent of consumers that that they want instant responses from companies when they use social media to reach out. Only 12 percent of consumers were willing to wait for a day or two to get an answer.

If you’re using social media, you must be right there to respond, and if you can’t, you should be looking into adding a few key employees who can handle the responsiveness issue for you.

2. Keep it Professional

Social media sites are, in general, chatty places in which participants share all sorts of things that they really should be keeping to themselves. If this sort of behavior is only marginally acceptable in teenagers and young adults, it’s never acceptable in a business setting. The bits of information that you share should concern your business and your professional successes. Use your personal channels to share anything that doesn’t have to do with the success of your brand. (In other words, no photos of your cute kitties on the feed associated with your office supply business.)

3. Don’t Overshare

Your followers want to hear from you about issues that concern your business and your brand, and they might like to hear from you daily. But, refrain from the temptation to follow all of your customers and ping them on their personal pages on an hourly basis. There’s a fine line between being engaged and engaging in stalking, and you’ll want to make sure you don’t cross it.

4. Grammar is Still Important

Many people who use social media sites have an arm’s length relationship with things like spelling and punctuation. This doesn’t mean, however, that you can release blog posts filled with typographical errors or release Tweets that are so abbreviated as to be nonsensical. These sorts of activities make your company seem less than professional, and just a little disorganized, and that might make your consumers uncomfortable with the idea of sharing their money with you.

5. Pass the Grandmother Test

I say this a lot, but everything you share on social media should be G-rated. In fact, it should be so benign that you could send it to your grandmother without feeling the desperate need to blush. If you’re tempted to share anything that’s more risqué, you should reconsider.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments section.

Photo credit: Image courtesy of bplanet/

About Jean Dion

Jean Dion is a Senior Journalist with Jean has worked as a writer and editor for close to 20 years, and as a freelance writer, she’s worked on projects concerning health care, pet care, gardening and personal finance.

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3 Responses to Social Media Manners for the Small Business Owner

  1. UK4Business says:

    Nice straightforward list of key things to remember, thanks Jean. I’d add that on #2, whilst I do agree with you, it’s also nice to see someone’s personality come out a bit in their posts sometimes, too.


    • Jean Dion says:

      True. A little zing of personality does make a world of difference, particularly when the topic up for discussion is bland or dry. But I still think that maintaining a firm line between personal and public is the way to go for companies who really want to prevent a reputation problem. The risk of failure is just too high, IMHO.

  2. BryanStudioRossiter says:

    I’d add one more rule: Make every post valuable to followers. Whether your words educate, inform, inspire or illustrate, they need to be worthy of attention, especially in business media. Just as time is precious, so should posts.