Social media has been around for a while, but corporate presence on such platforms is still relatively new and continually evolving. As such, companies still have plenty of lessons to learn. We’ve all seen the news articles about brands committing major faux pas online, and sadly, these companies could have avoided most, if not all, of these blunders. It’s not too late for you, though. Here is a wealth of social media etiquette advice that I amassed from WebPT’s own social media policy as well as this LinkedIn Strategies article, this Business Know-How post, and this super awesome infographic.

Be Relevant

Using social media as a business should be part of your marketing efforts. Thus, everything you do should ultimately serve your brand and your marketing plan.

  • Make sure all your online profiles are complete and professional.
  • Use a different profile or account for your personal connections. (Business and pleasure do not mix on social.)
  • Create a social media policy—one for your staff and one for your followers. (On Facebook, you can post a brief policy in your company’s About section.)
  • Pick a screen name and vanity URL that represent you and your company well.

Add Value

Social media is all about posting, so make sure your posts:

  • Add to the conversation.
  • Align with your practice’s goals, values, or vision.
  • Support or benefit your audience (i.e., share content).
  • Are positive and encouraging.

Be Transparent

Whether you’re using social media as yourself or as a brand (remember: keep those accounts separate), make sure people know that. Here are a few more pointers:

  • Be respectful, considerate, and kind.
  • Be careful discussing things that can generate an emotional response.
  • Show respect for the opinions of others.
  • Don’t be judgmental.
  • Tell the truth. In the words of WebPT’s culture commitment: If you F up, own up. It’s called accountability — and honesty. Both are virtues on social (and off).

Follow the Rules

  • Don’t solicit follows or likes, especially from strangers and especially via emails, Facebook messages, or direct messages. That’s a surefire way to amass spam complaints.
  • Don’t constantly hard-sell. It’s okay to promote your services, but it’s important to frame your promotions softly and in a way that benefits your audience (again, think content).
  • Follow the terms of use for each social media platform as well as any specific group or community rules.
  • Don’t abuse your network by over-posting, divulging every minute detail of your life or business, or sharing irrelevant or overtly silly pictures, videos, or links. (See Be Relevant and Add Value above.)
  • Refrain from sending out “time wasters,” like requests for birthdays and invitations to play games.

Use Common Sense

Don’t even think about:

  • Talking about financial information, strategies, or legal issues.
  • Giving out personal information about your staff or patients, or posting anything confidential or private. (Hello, potential HIPAA violation.)
  • Discussing religion, politics, or anything else that elicits strong responses from people.
  • Posting anything remotely offensive.
  • Overreacting. Instead, think about things from a fair perspective. That being said, stand up for yourself when it’s warranted. Don’t allow users to bully, troll, or maliciously attack you or your business.
  • Posting anything when you're overly-tired, jet-lagged, intoxicated, angry, or upset.
  • Never delete negative comments or reviews, unless they’re spam or malicious. Instead, always respond intelligently, calmly, gracefully, and apologetically.

Now that we’ve covered the “don’t even think about” items, here are some common-sense to-dos:

  • Check out the people who follow or like your page to ensure your brand is not only keeping the right company, but also that you’re posting content relevant to your audience.
  • Accept unfriending and unfollowing with grace. Everyone is entitled to break a social media bond. Don’t take it personally.
  • Proof your posts, tweets, and messages before posting. Spelling and grammar mistakes happen, but you should put in the effort to avoid them. On the topic of writing, avoid all caps and using the same tweet to thank each person for a like, follow, retweet, or favorite. (Nothing says “you’re not special” like non-personalized communication or text that appears to yell at you.

Ultimately, what you do online is a reflection of you and your brand. If you wouldn’t say something or act a certain way in real life to your customers, staff, or bosses, then don’t do it on social media. What pointers or questions do you have? Share them in the comments below.