There are two general types of interactive communications being conducted online in the business world:
#1) Business Discussions — e.g., email, GoToMeetings, blogs, and interactions on business forums.
These are the formal types of meetings and corporate correspondence whereby people are, in a word, professional. Most business people understand and abide by the rules of etiquette established for conducting themselves by email, during presentations, and in networking. They use proper grammar, are respectful of time, and stay focused on the subject at hand.
#2) Social Media Conversations — e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other such social media portals as modified for business use.
These are like the casual Friday chats at the water cooler where you can relax and be more personable. However, the rules of etiquette are not so clear in this area. It seems obvious to me what not to wear to the office on Casual Fridays. No cut-offs, flip-flops, or gym clothes. But, you’d be surprised at the advice that some workers apparently need to hear. Take these tips from HuffPost for example: No bikini tops, muscle shirts, or G-strings over the top of your pants either.
To avoid any confusion, many HR departments establish rules for dress codes on Casual Fridays. Judging by some of the questionable material I encounter in social business media, I suggest we establish a few rules of engagement here as well. To that end, here are my…
Top 5 Rules for Business Etiquette in Social Media:
Lighten Up, but Not too Much
Feel free to share your sense humor and make a funny remark where appropriate. But don’t be profane or risk insulting anybody. Making someone smile can go a long way in building interactions with your brand in the form of likes, shares, and comments.
Drop the Business Speak
No one on social media cares about your core competency or feels empowered by your best practice use of scalable swim lane metaphors. You will not move the needle in leveraging good will with anyone online by speaking corporate gobbledygook. It’s okay to keep the conversation colloquial.
Social business media is no place for opinions on race, religion, or politics. It’s fine to get behind a cause or national event from time to time, but consult with every key player on your team to be 100% sure that it has a place in your communications.
It’s Not About You
Unlike your personal Facebook account where you can post island Tiki Bar photos for all of your snowbound friends to see, treat your business’ social media like all other company communications: Focus on the customer. Post interesting articles, useful advice, and innovative product ideas that can benefit them. That’s the best way to spur engagement.
Post During Off Hours
In addition to real time Tweets during the business day, you should also engage your audience during their off-hours when they are not wrapped up in a meeting or rushing out a proposal. Use non-business hours for sharing your humor and business lifestyle items of interest. Scheduling tools like Hootsuite or HubSpot make this more manageable.
The main rule of thumb when participating on social business media is to be personable, but keep it professional.