5 Social Media Etiquette Rules Marketers Should Always Follow

9 min

Social media is an integral part of everyone’s world these days. Brands have huge audiences to tap into on the various social platforms. Unfortunately, too many brands are misusing social media for their own benefit. As a brand, are you making this mistake? These 5 social media etiquette rules can help you change your approach for the better. You’ll see better results when you follow these rules because your audience will appreciate each of them.

1. Don’t just respond, initiate.

Yes, it’s important to be responsive when social users talk about you. You want to be present and engaging with those people. Tools like Respond by Buffer can help you with this.

If you have the responsiveness covered, are you taking the time to include initiating conversations? You have options for how you can do this easily and efficiently. The benefits of this outreach can be great for your business because few brands do this.

Twitter chats

To start, Twitter chats are a highly effective way to initiate conversations, either as the host or a participant. If you’re new to Twitter chats, they are live conversations where people tweet about a pre-assigned topic, using a branded hashtag in every tweet. People follow along by monitoring the established hashtag.

As an example, Express Writers hosts a chat with their #ContentWritingChat hashtag. They promote the topic the day before, and people join in at the assigned time: Tuesdays at 11am EST. During the chat, Express Writers sends out questions about the topic, and people respond with their opinions.

How can you benefit from initiating your own Twitter chat? Well, you build influence and a loyal following to start. You also build relationships with the influencers you bring in as special guests. In the long run, Twitter chats help you bring in more committed customers who trust you because of your engagement on Twitter.

How can you benefit simply from participating in Twitter chats? You don’t and shouldn’t just answer the questions during the chat. More importantly, you should start 1-to-1 conversations with other participants. Respond to their answers or start a side conversation about something else. These side chats during the main one can be great for getting your brand out there to people who may not already know who you are.

Social media monitoring

Twitter chats are great for starting conversations in a set environment, but it’s not the only way to initiate conversations with your target audience. You should also be monitoring specific keywords surrounding your brand and business offerings.

Without being too creepy, you want to monitor whenever someone posts a specific keyword that matters to your business, such as “need financial services” if you offer such a service. If you’re wondering how you can do this, you have options:

  • Hootsuite gives you social monitoring options with their platform. You can set up feeds based on the keywords you select. These feeds can be combined with any other feed types to make it easy to both initiate and respond in one place.
  • Mention also has a social monitoring service. This one is a bit more advanced than Hootsuite. Their product can help with both initiation and responsiveness by allowing you to monitor your brand and selected topics.
  • Synthesio is probably as advanced as you can get for social media engagement services. It gives you thorough data about how people are engaging with you and what you can do to initiate based on complete analyses about your industry, competitors, and customers.

When you’re actively looking for opportunities to initiate conversations with prospects, you’re taking your brand ahead of your competitors. You’re getting your name out there and building trust with others. Social media is about conversations, so your best results will come from participating in them.

2. Do your research before using hashtags and other platform features.

One of the mistakes brands make on social media involves hashtag misuse. When you’re ready to publish a tweet, you want to optimize it for reach. Too often, you may choose the wrong or least-effective hashtags. That’s why research is key.

When you want to use the best hashtags for reaching the right audience, use a research tool to help you understand which one(s) will work best. There are two options that come to mind right away:

RiteTag is a paid program that gives you hashtag suggestions within Twitter, Facebook, and most other social platforms. For $49 a year, you get access to these hashtag suggestions, trend alerts for new popular hashtags for your topic, and more key features. It’s a handy tool if you want to know what’s effective at the very moment you’re posting content.

Hashtagify is a free alternative to Keyhole. You can research hashtags in an encyclopedia or pay for the pro plan to get suggestions based on your Twitter account activity. The website offers many ways to research hashtags to find the right one(s) for your content and purposes.

Hashtags are tricky when you are either new to social media or overwhelmed by it. To fully understand the best practices, you need to keep in mind:

  • Hashtags have different meanings and popularity per platform. What is popular on Twitter might be nonexistent on Instagram.
  • Don’t make your hashtags too long. The only exception is on Instagram, but with a 140-character limitation, Twitter is not the place for long hashtags. Keep them 1-3 words long, and be as specific as you can.
  • You don’t want to include more hashtags than your main text. This is true for all platforms. Even though Instagram is a great place for more than 10 hashtags per post, you still want to include a description that doesn’t get lost in the crowd.
  • Whatever you do, don’t send out tweets that #look #like #this. Make sure you’re only using the pound sign for the keywords that matter.

Another research issue is when brands start using new platform features without a clear understanding of how to do so, who the typical audience is, and what the audience wants to see. Live-streaming is a great example of this.

With live video appearing on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat in the form of “stories,” it can get confusing as to what brands are supposed to do with the feature. You might think that you can take the same approach on all three platforms, but that isn’t best practice. In fact, you need to re-evaluate whether you should build your own live-streaming strategy for each platform.

Facebook’s audience is different from Instagram and Snapchat. People on Instagram expect to see different content than they would on Snapchat or Facebook. It’s important that you research and understand these differences.

These are a few resources for using live-streaming effectively on social media:

The key in all of this is the importance of doing proper research before acting. If you’re making assumptions or ignoring best practices, you’re playing a guessing game that won’t give you the best results you could get. You may still see engagement, but optimizing your content will give you even better results.

3. Create customized content for each platform.

You want to save as much time as possible on social media, and there are tools out there that make cross-posting easy. However, remember this:

Not all platforms are the same, and this includes content appearance.

For example, we can go back to the last point about research. The hashtags on one platform might mean something completely different on another. Most platforms accept hashtags, even LinkedIn now, but are they effective everywhere? Facebook is not an ideal place for hashtags, so you don’t want your tweet content to appear there.

You also want to keep in mind:

  • Each platform has its own character limitations. Twitter only accepts 140 characters, but Instagram and LinkedIn give you much more room to use. Facebook also allows longer posts, but on that platform, shorter is more effective. Keep in mind that if you share a longer post, such as from Instagram, onto Twitter, it’ll get cut off and look messy.
  • Each platform allows for different kinds of multimedia. Facebook allows for live video, recorded video, links, photos, and much more in your posts. On the other hand, Instagram only allows short videos and photos. Links are not recommended there. If you share a post on Facebook with a link and try to cross-post to Instagram, it won’t look good.

Instead of cross-posting your content in the same exact format on all your platforms, consider a different approach: cross-promoting. The difference is that you’ll still be sharing the same content but just formatting it differently for each platform. It’ll optimize your content so that you see better engagement and overall results.

4. Don’t be a robot.

Social media is all about being, well, social. It’s about engaging in conversations with other users and your audience. If you automate everything you do on social media, you miss out on the main point of social media. Instead of relying too much on automation, consider engaging as often as possible.

You can start by offering real-time customer service, which is now expected rather than ideal. Your audience is reaching out to you online, but if you’re not answering, you’re hurting your brand reputation.

Even if you build a bot for customer service, you still need to be there to give people a human being to assist them. Chatbots aren’t ideal. In fact, Rob Siefker, Senior Director of Zappos’ customer loyalty team, insists that artificial customer service will hurt the experience rather than help. Chatbots don’t have that essential human element in their programming, and customers want that.

Engagement, in general, is key to making the most of social media. You want to see a return on your investment, and engagement is how you’ll get it. On Twitter, use direct replies to have 1-on-1 conversations with other users. On Facebook, ask questions and use images to increase engagement. Those are just two of the many ways you can build relationships with your audience.

The important part to remember is:

You don’t need to stop automating and scheduling content, but you do need to reserve plenty of time and resources for engaging with your audience in real-time.

5. Use direct messages for the right reasons.

Direct messages are often misused, and many brands think this feature isn’t worthwhile. They are often used for automated sales pitches and generic welcome messages, but what about using them for the right reasons? Use them for customer service.

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media services allow for private messaging between brands and users. It’s an opportunity for businesses to interact with their audience in a safe environment without character limits and public exposure.

Direct messaging can also make shopping easier. It not only allows for customer service inquiries but also what is often coined “conversational commerce” where your customers get quick and easy access to your business and its offerings. For example, Facebook bots make it easy for people to shop right from Facebook Messenger with one action.

As long as you’re using direct messaging for the right reasons, it still has potential for your business. Use it to continue public interactions in a private setting, and take advantage of its sales potential.

In conclusion

These are five of the most important etiquette rules that you must obey in order to see the best outcomes from your social media marketing efforts. If you neglect any of these rules, you’ll miss out and even hurt your business potential.

Would you add any rules to this list? Which ones were you already aware of versus which ones surprised you? Leave a comment with your input!