If you’re in a business meeting, or conferring with a brand new client, and a hand juts out for you to shake it, what do you do? You shake the thing, of course — a failure to do so would be the height of bad manners, and in the business world, manners matter very much.
That’s not only true in offline situations and face-to-face meetings, but on social media sites, as well. Here, proper etiquette is not just some frivolous, symbolic code of conduct. It’s something you adhere to in order to make the best first impression, to positively brand your business, and to facilitate meaningful engagement with your clients and your followers.
All of that to say: It’s important that you follow the basic, agreed-upon guidelines of what is and is not acceptable on social media sites. This is even true — no, especially true — when you are posting under a business account, or in any way that might reflect on your company.
How can you ensure that you’re minding your manners on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social channels? Steer clear of these common social media faux pas.
1. Telling people to like, follow or friend you. Nobody likes to be bossed around, least of all when it comes to what they do in their free time on social media sites. While sending emails thanking people for their business and inviting them to connect with you further is fine, commanding people — or worse still, begging — should be avoided.
2. Promoting your online assets in an irrelevant forum. While social media sites can be great tools for driving traffic and building buzz for your website or blog, you need to keep on-topic. In other words, don’t join random, irrelevant LinkedIn groups just to post spammy links to your company website.
3. Sending generic connection invitations. This is especially pertinent for LinkedIn: When you send an invitation to connect, write a personal message. It does not have to be long or complicated, but it does need to be friendly!
4. Typing any social media message or update in all CAPS. This does not convey excitement. It conveys anger. Stop yelling at people.
5. Sending out automated or impersonal messages. This one applies to private messages on Facebook as well as to direct messages on Twitter. These one-on-one messaging channels can be useful, but it is improper to use them for spam, or for sending out mass, automated invitations to visit your company website.
6. Sending generic "thank yous" on Twitter. It is very kind and commendable to thank people for re-tweeting you, but you need to personalize those messages of thanks. When you send the exact same "thank you" to 10 different Twitter users, it just looks bad.
7. Posting incessantly. Regular content creation is a good thing, marketing gurus always tell us — and sure, it is. There is such a thing as too much, however, and if you’re posting to a social media site 12 times in a two-hour frame (or even 12 times in a day), you’re probably just giving people headaches.
Manners matter. They matter in the so-called “real” world, and they matter in the social universe. Etiquette is not just an arbitrary code of conduct, but a set of principles to help you ensure that you’re endearing yourself to your social media connections.