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A social media etiquette guide for businesses

By Stephen Tagg - Posted on 3 July 2015

Following global Social Media Day this week, Dr Stephen Tagg, Reader in the Department of Marketing, considers how businesses can optimise their use of social media.

The question “How can businesses best use social media?” demands two forms of answer: the first focuses on practical aspects such as building and maintaining social media pages that link clearly to and from the main website, optimising the effectiveness of social media advertisements and including clear calls-to-action in posts.

The second answer addresses ethical and etiquette issues.  Despite most brands now recognising an active social media presence is an essential requirement of any customer service strategy, many still get the basics wrong when managing their profiles and interacting with customers.

For a business to optimise its online activity, it must consider why its customers use social media in the first place.  Loyal consumers who feel the brand resonates with them, may follow a business’ platforms because they support its goals.  Others may regularly scroll through social media feeds due to narcissism - the idea that people like to receive identity confirmation through participation, and strive for affirmation.  This is often demonstrated through daily updates about an individual’s life and incessant selfie posting.

You should design content to interest those you want to target. Audiences loyal to a business will appreciate content about that company’s activities and successes.  Others may prefer brand engagement that focuses more on them, such as competitions inviting customers to post images of themselves using a product/service.

No matter who your audience is there is a certain etiquette organisations - whether they’re large multinationals or SMEs - should adhere to when connecting with customers on social media.  Business etiquette expert, Lydia Ramsey, offers 12 applicable rules for both corporate and personal use.  Three of these stand out in particular as essentials for every brand with a social media presence.

1. Fill out your profile completely

It’s crucial to keep your business’ profile information up-to-date if you want customers to return.  A bad first impression can negatively impact a visitor’s overall perception of your organisation.  Ensure branding and logos are current, high-quality and consistent across all platforms.  Clearly list contact information so potential and current clients can easily get in touch.  Omitting this information or failing to update your business’ profile means you risk customers deeming the page unprofessional and leaving it straightaway.

2. Offer information of value. Don't talk just about yourself and your company.

Social media presents the chance to show customers your business offers added value beyond products and services.  These platforms are communities where knowledge is shared and engagement rewarded.  Repost content from customers and other brands that is interesting, informative and in line with your brand values.  Your actions will usually be reciprocated, leading to more likes, favourites, retweets and follows, ultimately generating customer loyalty.

3. Don't put anything on the internet you don't want your future boss, current clients or potential clients to read.

Social media provides an opportunity to showcase your brand’s personality, however, it’s crucial to maintain a level of professionalism. There are great examples of well-known businesses communicating with other profiles in a fun and quirky manner.  This interaction can effectively engage potential and current customers but it’s essential to consider the potential impact of each post and ask if you could later regret it.  Anything that might upset a stakeholder is not worth the risk.  Bearing this in mind, it’s a good idea to change social media passwords if employees possessing logins leave the business, in case they choose to unleash any frustrations on the company’s Twitter account.

These are just a few of the rules businesses should adhere to when using social media.  If firms have a strong understanding of who their customer is and use the corresponding tone and content consistently in all online interaction, they will build engaged, loyal social media followings.

Which business has impressed you with its use of social media? Share your comments below.

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