Social media etiquette rules for brands – the do’s and don’ts of interacting online

Your Business, June/July 2019 issue

By Amantle Mokubung

Small business owners ofen have social media at the top of their business’ list of marketing platfoms or touchpoints when crafting a marketing strategy. Be that as it may, it is important for marketers and small business owners to ensure that the execution of their social media strategy is not an after-thought but that a dedicated individual is tasked to solely focus on building and nurturing the business’ online community on the chosen platforms. This approach not only creates the opportunity for consistency in the brand’s tone of voice but it also makes it easier for the business to pinpoint the stats required for insights that will help enhance the overall marketing strategy in the long run. Over the years, the experience that I have gained through launching and managing an organisation’s social media strategy has taught me the following:

1. Never fake your brand’s authenticity

According to We Are Social and Hootsuite’s Global Digital Yearbook for 2019, South Africans spend the 6 th longest time online, amounting an average of 8 hours and 25 minutes each day. This means that the use of social media amongst South Africans is fast becoming second nature, ultimately making the engagement between brands and its followers less daunting. Furthermore, this has made it easy for prospects to decipher “bipolar social media business profiles”. As an Online Community Manager, it is important to be aware of the brand’s ethos and maintain its tone of voice in the effort to make it easier for your marketing communication on traditional marketing platforms to relate to the organic content on your social media page. No matter the trending topics that you are exposed to at any given time, before jumping onto the wagon, ask yourself: “while this carries street cred and relevance, how do I connect it to what my brand stands for?”

2. Remain consistent

Give your followers something to look forward to and to come back for on your social media pages. If your business is new on social media, consider exploring themed content for a certain period of time and build on it. It is critical to ensure that your followers find the content that you share valuable and insightful. This will help you build a community of like-minded individuals who share certain interests, making it easier for you to develop relevant content. Moreover, make use of your brand characteristics to guide you in establishing a tone of voice – would it make sense to have a youthful brand’s reply to your enquiry start with “Dear Sir…”?

3. Be transparent

Some start-up clothing boutiques that make use of Instagram are notorious for selling items without publicly specifying the price. Instead, prospoects are often required to send a DM (direct mail) for them to be provided with the item’s pricing. This kind of approach in servicing prospects and customers raises eyebrows and increases the chances of losing business to your competitors and could potentially stimulate negative word of mouth. Communicate your shortcomings and challenges in your processes timeously. If you run an online store and the courier company that services your company is experiencing challenges, inform your customers in time. Social media word of mouth spreads like wildfire, if your business is going to trend, let it be for the right reasons.

4. Don’t get too personal

New business owners often fall into the trap of sharing content that has more “I’s” than “We” or the company’s name. This is why it is important to make adequate time to craft and schedule content on your chosen social media platforms. In this way, your focus is purely on the business’ profiles and the pages are not a reflection of your Social Media Manager’s busy schedule or mood swings.

 

5. Automated responses

Check your business’ frequently asked questions or if the business is new, rely on crafting answers to questions that you typically expect to receive from clients when you are about to close a sale. For example, important information such as operating times of the business, a link to your online store and delivery rates may be incorporated in your Facebook instant replies to prospects via direct mail and inbox messages.

 

6. Maximise the functionalities or features of each app

Tap into resources and websites such as socialmediatoday.com that share the latest updates regarding each of the platforms that you make use of. This will expose you to functionalities that you should be trying out in the effort to keep your followers engaged and interested in the content that you share. In May 2019, it was reported that Instagram was testing the option of providing brands with the opportunity to share a link to an individual story, which would mean less time can be spent on crafting content for stories while brands enjoy maximised exposure on the platform.