I live on both sides of social media groups: guest and admin. I’m obviously hoping to promote my business in places, but I also run and administer a few online groups and help establish the rules of what is or isn’t allowed. Much of the known etiquette for commercial posting and social media has been around since before people called it “social media” honestly. The initial era of forums, chat groups, message boards, and online groups all established communities, and in those communities, guidelines were always made as spammers and business owners tried desperately to gain customers for their businesses. It seems that now as more people are starting their own businesses, many aren’t aware of some of the best and worst practices to attract customers and clients. Here are just a few things I’ve noticed recently that stood out and hopefully you’ll take this advice to heart in your own posting.
1) Put Your Location and Business In Your Profiles
It’s always handy to make sure your info is up to date, but please make sure people know where you’re located. Or at least add a little more info than a username on all your social media accounts.
This is less about etiquette and more about preparation before you post anything. Whether you’re posting to a group or to the public, you should complete your profile information so when people click to see who you are, they aren’t greeted with just “weird username” only. This is incredibly important to appear legit, and is also your “elevator pitch” so people can understand what you do immediately. Your ‘About’ on Instagram for instance is the perfect place to get that done.
So many times I’m followed by another business and I have no idea where they are, see no website or info, nothing at all. If you’re local, I’d love to support you and know I can visit. Even worse is when I visit your website (already adding a click to find out info you should have told me already), and you still don’t put your location anywhere! I have no idea if we can collaborate. Missed opportunities. People search for businesses near them who can help mostly. People want to like you once they know who you are, so give them that chance! Don’t blow it.
2) Read the Rules of the Site You’re Joining
While you think it’s a handy workaround for certain sites, if you’re caught, it could be damaging. It’s also way too obvious as to why you’re joining a group (commercial purposes) and will get you blocked. Facebook puts this in their Help, and it’s your job to know.
Easy example here. It’s against the Terms of Service on Facebook to use your personal profile as a business one. In other words, you’re supposed to use a business page as your business profile. You try circumventing the rules by making a personal profile called “Business Name”, like if I did “Anthony BloomfieldPhotographer” and you’re likely to get thrown off the site. You’d lose your connections, and you’d lose access to your business page. Plus, as admins of groups, we typically don’t accept you, and may even block you permanently from all of our groups. People want to talk to a person, someone who represents their business, and, well, again, it’s against the rules and you can be reported.
3) Read the Rules of the Groups You’re Joining
The group creators took the time to create the group and run it. You should take the time to locate the rules or contact the admins for clarification.
Seriously, one of the worst things to do, because people still believe “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission”, is to ignore the rules and not take the time to know the place they’re joining. This has been around since early forum and groups days nearly 2 decades ago. It shows that you don’t care about the people who created and run the group and put their ‘free’ time into it, and believe your time is more important than taking a little time to know the rules. If the group allows commercial posts only 1 day a week, follow it. In my groups, we remove your post immediately and put you on watch, and if you’re a repeat offender, you’re removed and blocked. This is common practice.
If admins like myself run multiple groups, we’re likely to blackball and remove you from the others too after you break the rules in 1 group. This is not how you want people to know your business. If you have questions, it’s easy to look up who are the admins and ask them what the etiquette is. Don’t resort to “Admin, please delete” because that means you also didn’t bother to look up our names and is even more likely to get you banned. In Facebook, check the Group Descriptions and if there is a Pinned Post up at the top. I know it’s more hidden in mobile, but they are usually there.
4) Drive-By Postings and No Personal Engagement
I’m exaggerating here, but this is how your post reads. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s helpful, you basically became a pop-up ad and need to personalize your story. Also, this had better not be your first post in a group. It could get you tossed.
Would you take anyone seriously who showed up to a networking or group event, came to your table, didn’t introduce themselves, and just threw a card in front of you? I’m putting your card in the trash, as will most people. In fact, at an event I attended, someone did that. Everyone at my table threw out their card. The same goes for online posts. Every single post of yours should have a caption or info about what I’m looking at. Besides the fact that text is the cornerstone of SEO, I want to know what you’re posting! If it’s a product, how long did it take you to make? Why did you make this? In other words, why should I care about your post? The same with any other promotions, let your viewers know that there is a real person behind the post. God knows we get enough spam and bots posting things…
Honestly, the best approach to take is to first be active in a group before you even mention your business. Comment, engage, be genuinely part of the group you’re in to build trust and when it’s appropriate, introduce and discuss what you do. Think about salespeople in real life who immediately come in and talk shop. Huge turnoff. People work with people they like, and if they don’t like you, they or anyone they would refer you to will never hear about your business, or be spoken about poorly.
5) Gramer Grammar and Spelling
Even professional writers hire editors to correct their work. We’re all guilty of typos, but get help if you’re not really an expert at the language. Professional writing builds trust.
When people read a post that has awful spelling mistakes and terrible grammatical ones, it comes across as uneducated, which implies untrustworthy. While I’ve heard the argument that “this keeps it real”, you’re more likely to alienate potential clients and have more in common with a spammer. If you’re not the best at it, find someone who is, and have them proofread it. Even professional writers hire editors to correct their work. This is incredibly easy to do and is similar to dressing for success. You don’t want to ruin your first impression for many people. Sure, you could have some typos, no one is immune, but we’re talking about genuine lack of effort into your post. It doesn’t matter what your service or profession is, get this done.
6) Your Web Site is Home Base for Everything
Any of these sites can fade out, and you don’t want your important content to be there as it dies. Your web site is your hub, your home base, and you should make sure you’re driving people to it as a first thought.
No matter what social media sites come and go, assume they are a fleeting channel of advertising, a temporary way to drive people to the 1 true space you should be controlling – your web site. Do NOT rely on these social services as a hub, or else you could disappear at any point. Remember, Facebook can shut off your page at any time (say someone complains or they do it by accident – it happens), or you could be the one still saying your site is a MySpace page once the popularity wanes. Put things in your blog and on your site and drive people there. It is your place of control, so your posts should drive people there for more info. What does that also mean? You should be hosting your own blog and not using a free service elsewhere. Don’t have it on your site? Contact me on how to get it done.
Did I leave anything out that I should put into future posts? Comment and let me know.