An Online Etiquette Refresher for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs
As of 2016, 88% of American adults use the internet and 69% of online adults now use at least one social media site. Yet, probably more than a third of them act like a buffoon online – business owners and entrepreneurs included.
When you are a business owner or entrepreneur, what you do and say online can have positive and negative ramifications on your business. Yes, you can post freely, however when you are attached to a business or you are your business, the spotlight is on you more.
I decided to update and refresh some of my online etiquette rants and considering that state of the country (and world) right now, a little reminder doesn’t hurt, however this still has a business slant to it.
So, what do you (we) need to do?
Do not ignore people.
Much like how you wouldn’t want to be ignored in real life, don’t ignore someone online. If someone takes the time to respond to something you have out there – a tweet, a Facebook post, acknowledge it. People want to feel like they matter and ignoring them tells them they don’t. Same goes for blog comments. Even if it’s a simple thank you, you’ve acknowledged it. Something else to consider – I know we all cannot stand the generic LinkedIn messages, but if someone requests a connection with you and you do not want to accept it, it’s okay to respond and tell them why.
True story: About 5 years ago, there was a local restaurant here where I live that my husband and I wanted to eat at. I looked them up on Facebook to see their hours (they didn’t have a website – I know!) and saw they were open so we went. When we pulled up, they were closed and there was a different set of hours on their door. Needless to say we weren’t happy. Being the social media person I am, I went online and left a post on their Facebook page’s wall letting them know what happened and asked them to correct the hours on their page. 24 hours later – no response. 3 days later – no response. 4 days later I went back to their page and the post had been deleted. No apology or acknowledgement, it was deleted. Talk about being mad. Up until the day it closed (which was a couple years ago), we never set foot in that restaurant. We were potential customers that they lost out on.
Moral of the story: Respond! Had they responded with something, we would have gone back to try them out and become customers.
Do not steal other people’s work.
Seriously. Plagiarism happens every day on the web. I’ve had it happen to several of my blog posts and a couple of my graphics. Friends have had theirs stolen multiple times too. Google doesn’t like it and we don’t either. There are proper ways to go about reusing published content. Contact the author and ask about their republication policy (we all have them and they aren’t all the same). It adds value to the relationship when you ask first and it shows appreciation on both sides.
True Story: I have a client who is a high-end portrait photographer. She had a fellow peer in her industry have photos she (the peer) took and posted on another photographer’s website. This thief had a family see the pictures and hired them to do their photos. When they showed up, the photographer (the thief) was asking them to help her with her camera and posing – stuff she should have already known had she taken the pictures. The family quickly found out she didn’t take the photos she saw and found out who did and hired the original photographer (my client’s friend).
Moral of the story: When you steal, you will be found out and like pop! goes the weasel, pop! there goes your business.
Act your age.
I really shouldn’t have to actually type this out, but if you’re 35, 55 or even 25, act it. A lot of people try to use social media to make themselves bigger than they are and it comes back to get them (social media professionals included). Acting your age and showing your maturity will earn you respect and authority.
A good tip to keep in mind for yourself and your staff – if it would make your grandma blush, don’t post it.
This applies to content and language. There is absolutely no place for cursing online. Same applies to language that could offend someone (i.e. racial slurs, name-calling). Think of grandma – what would she say? We’re all adults here and we need to act like it (see above). Same applies especially to business owners – there is no place for an owner to respond with that type of language to a post on their business account. Trust me, you’ll end up like Amy’s Bakery in Arizona (read about it here).
This applies to just about everything. When you see something online don’t always assume it’s real or legit. There’s a lot of spam out there and do your friends a favor and check it out before sharing it, especially on your business account. We won’t even go into fake news. It’s everywhere and you have to really check your sources because social platforms and Google are wising up to this.
This also applies to tone. In writing it’s so hard to determine the tone of the writer from mere words. For example, I could type “That’s not funny.” and mean it as either a laughing “that’s not funny” making light of something or a harsh “that’s not funny” really getting onto someone. If there is something posted you do not understand, just ask. Ask for clarification. It will save hurt feelings or misunderstandings.
Try to keep things vanilla enough that your readers/fans will understand your tone. If it’s something that may be confusing, make a video and post it!
Okay, enough with the selfies. Personally, I cannot stand them. Professionally, I just don’t get it. If it’s a part of your personal brand to post 10+ selfies each day, fine. If selfies are something you want to do for your business, just make sure they relate to why you are using social media in the first place. You do not want to hurt your brand by over-posting these. And also be careful what types of selfies you post as well. We don’t want to see a bathroom stall.
Spell check! Please!!!
There is nothing more unprofessional than misspellings and incorrect grammar. Proof everything you write BEFORE hitting the post/tweet/publish button.
I know we will all make a type here and there, we’re human, it’s going to happen. It never hurts to have a second set of eyes look over something before it goes online. Not everything has an ‘edit’ button.
Ross Gellar from “Friends” points out a popular one… (sorry, had to!)
To be honest, I could write another 3000 words about social media/online etiquette. How you (and you staff) act online says a lot about you – your character, your beliefs, even your business practices.
In a day where the negative spreads MUCH faster than the positive, we all have to be careful with what we do. say and publish online. The internet is world of mouth now. How well does your actions reflect on you as the business owner or entrepreneur? If it’s not what you want, it’s not too late to change. Take some time and look at what you are doing and write out some proactive steps to shape your actions the way you want them.
Now it’s your turn – what are best practices for social media etiquette that YOU would share?