Social media; whether you love it or hate it on a personal level, its positive advertising potential is undeniable. A large majority of people, businesses, and organizations utilize at least one social media site; many take advantage of multiple platforms to get the most visibility. As with any advertising opportunity, one of the most important things to consider when you are in the public eye is your etiquette. Did you see Ye Olde Shoppe’s awful response to my inquiry on their Facebook page? #Rude. Etiquette (or when referring to online behavior, netiquette) is relative to the situation, but manners have changed quite a bit over the past few decades. Businesses are expected to put forth a professional and polite image at all times; even if they may think the customer is wrong. Where interactions between customer and business were primarily face to face before, now, some of your only interactions with your customers will be online. Because social media is public, this poses interesting opportunities; both the opportunity to spread the word positively about your business, and opportunity to lose dozens, if not hundreds, of current and potential buyers with a single post. Following a few common sense rules of etiquette for your social media presence will help you to avoid situations where negative customer feedback or misunderstood posts could jeopardize your business. So, let’s talk manners!Building a Positive Presence Before you're ready to create your very first post, you must set up your business account on whichever social media platform(s) you have chosen. Avoid using your account to promote your business; having a separate page that your friends can choose to like and follow will be much easier down the road when others who may not be friends with you personally would like to check out your business.Once you have set up your business' page, you’re not done. Resist the temptation to set a profile picture and begin posting. Take the time to fully set up your page - completely and with all pertinent information filled out. An empty page will tell people that you are not ready to sell, are not organized, or are a spam page; all things which will deter potential customers.Let's Talk About Grammar As a business, one of the most important things you can do on social media is make sure that you are spelling your posts correctly, using correct grammar, and utilizing proper punctuation. It is more common to write posts on our mobile devices now, and even though that’s convenient, autocorrect is not always our friend. Double and triple check your post to make sure that it reads properly. Also, avoid posting in all caps; this looks very unprofessional if used through an entire post. On the subject of proper language use, let's talk about hashtags! Hashtags are a marvelous tool that, when used properly, will allow your post to be organized with other like posts. There are a few things to remember when using hashtags: #Do #Not #Make #Your #Entire #Post #Hashtags. That wasn’t fun to read, was it? It won't be fun for your customers either; in fact, they will most likely disregard your post completely. A proper hashtag would be: Do not make your entire post hashtags. #properhashtag #socialmediaetiquette. Easy, right? Search your hashtag first. Recently, several large companies used hashtags to promote their product that were actually associated with serious issues such as domestic violence. Make sure that you search whatever hashtag you intend to use first so that you can avoid any social blunders when you post. Consistency vs. Repetition In social media marketing, it is important to be consistent without become repetitive. For example, you’ve just begun selling a fantastic holiday scented soap; great! Your buyers will love to hear about this; but they will not love to hear about it over, and over, and over again via a copied and pasted post. If you have a new product or event that you’d like to promote, find inventive ways to do it. Avoid being repetitive by writing a new post each time with different wording. Is it snowing? Mention how wonderful a holiday scented soap would smell in the shower. Two weeks until Thanksgiving? Holiday scented soap makes a perfect gift for whoever is hosting your meal. By tying the item or event you’d like to market in with different posts, you will appeal to a wider audience without losing followers because of perceived spam. Consistency is also key. Try to post once per day in order to stay relevant, but no more than three times per day (two should be your maximum goal). Try not to post too close together, or your previous post may get lost in the shuffle; posting once in the morning and once in the afternoon is a great way to get more views. A common rule when it comes to posting on social media is the 80/20 rule: post 80% information and entertainment posts, 20% marketing posts for your business. In this aggressive era of internet marketing, those who follow your page have likely trained themselves to skip past posts aimed at marketing to them. Make your page likable and relatable by posting funny, industry related memes, thought provoking, industry related questions, and interesting, industry related news. You’ll notice there’s a common denominator there; industry related. Draw the Appropriate Line Let’s talk about the content of your posts. There are many things in the news now that spark differing and sometimes angry opinions. Before you share that political meme or article to your business page, take a moment to consider the following: Does this article teach my followers about my business or the industry I’m a part of? Is this meme relatable without making any of my followers feel targeted? Is this post detracting from the point of my page? Avoid giving your followers a reason to make this face at their phone It’s nearly impossible to please everyone, but it is possible to keep your business image separate from your personal beliefs. This is why it is imperative to keep your business and personal pages separate. Try posting things to engage your customers. For example, try something simple like "What is your favorite fall scent?" or "What products would you like to see in the future?" Asking open ended questions will start a dialogue between you and your customers and can also give you valuable insight into your customer base. Now that you have people talking on your page, let’s move on to the next topic - replying to your customers.To Reply or Not to Reply Have you asked an open-ended question and gotten some great feedback? Wonderful! Reply to it. Even if it's something as simple as "Thank you for your input", people like to know that they’ve been heard. It makes them feel appreciated for supporting your business, and let’s face it, without their input or loyalty your business wouldn't exist. On the flip-side, have you asked an open ended question and gotten a complaint? The uncomfortable news is you still need to answer it. The better news is, you can decide how to do that. If the complaint is constructive and polite, answer it publicly, and then follow up privately . If someone points out that they have waited additional days to receive product, or that a product didn’t arrive to their liking, don’t ignore it, and definitely don’t delete it. Respond honestly. "I’m so sorry that our service wasn't up to our usual standards. Please check your inbox, we’ll be sending you a message in a few moments to get more feedback and your information! Thank you for giving us a chance to correct this." Something along these lines will show others that you take complaints seriously, and handle them politely. Once you've posted this, proceed to send the person either an email or a direct message through whichever social media platform you are using. If you don't follow up, there is a chance they will post publicly again, and the second time it might not be as polite. If the complaint is rude, and/or uses obscene or derogatory language, remove it. You do not have to tolerate rude and abusive posts on your business' page. In this case, it would be wise to remove the offending post and then reach out to the person directly to solve the issue. In any communication that you have, it is important to reply quickly and professionally. Doing this shows your buyers that you truly care about their business, and it will help to build a stronger relationship. Nowadays, most people would rather send a quick message than make a phone call, and making that option available and reliable is a good business practice.Don’t Spam. No one likes a spammer! Don’t go to other business' pages (unless of course you’ve been specifically asked to) and post your business information. If you find a brilliant status and you want to use it, give credit where it’s due; giving this kind of of recognition will help you to build respectful relationships with other business pages or customers. Lastly, don’t retaliate. This one can be difficult, especially if another business is taking the moral low-ground against your business on social media. Resist the urge to fight back; your customers will respect you more for not engaging in social media battles. If this is an ongoing issue and you feel it must be addressed, issue a polite, professionally worded public statement clearing up any misunderstandings about your company without name-calling or derogatory hate-speak. Final Thoughts Social media is an amazing tool that can help you spread the word about your business and products and can connect you with thousands of potential buyers. However, it is also important to remember that written communication such as emails, social media posts, text messages or even letters, can be easily taken out of context. Be mindful of what you post so that you can give others the best possible impression of your business!