Social media is gradually replacing search as the way people find information. To fit in, brands have to respect the rules of social politeness – which are broadly the same as those observed in the real world. Nobody wants to be the one talking over everybody else with uninteresting, self-absorbed stories, right? We’ve dug out a few of the basic rules of etiquette from Victorian times, to see if they still hold true today. It’s funny how much they still apply, especially in the realms of social media.

Let’s open the book!

1. Learn to govern yourself, and to be gentle and patient.

Social media content follows trends just like anything else. It’s tempting to follow the crowd, but doing so makes you just another face within it. Brands that stand on their own create stuff that represents them without needing to tag onto whatever is trendy at the time. Sure, a topical hashtag or comment on the headlines of the day is worth a go, but the idea is to make sure the way that you engage with people is not something that could happen anywhere else.

It’s tempting to follow the crowd, but doing so makes you just another face within it. - Highlight to share -

2. Never speak or act in anger.

Social is the most direct route between you and your customers, so when they’re angry, that’s where they’ll go. However, it’s your duty to absorb this and not get involved in a fight. After all, ‘it is the second word that makes the quarrel.’ Anyone with direct contact with customers through social media must know the brand inside and out, to ensure they’re responding in the correct way.

3. Remember that, valuable as is the gift of speech, silence is often more valuable.

A constant output is essential for building your audience, but we don’t need to know your thoughts on EVERYTHING. It’s all about relevance. Your brand’s tone of voice was designed to be authoritative in your field; trying to talk about unrelated matters without context will only lessen its impact.

4. Conversation is not to talk continually, but to listen and speak in turn.

Do you only initiate conversation with consumers when there’s something in it for you? Your customers expect to be treated like people, so don’t cut them off or talk over the top of them. Nurture their opinions and feedback and the conversation will flourish – even if you can’t see a direct sale coming from it.

5. Learn to speak in a gentle tone of voice.

No one likes a dogged salesman. If you’re lucky enough to get a ‘like’ from someone on social media, don’t stomp on that trust by flogging your wares to them unashamedly. If they like you and what you have to say, you’ll be top of mind when they decide they want what you’re selling.

6. Learn to say kind and pleasant things when opportunity offers.

It’s easy to forget that for the average customer, an interaction with a brand on social media is a thrill – even though it’s just you on your laptop. Seek out people mentioning you on social and send them a thank you tweet. You could even surprise them with a voucher or gift. It’s those little acts of goodwill that make the biggest impact.

7. If you are conversing with people who know less than you, do not lead the conversation where they cannot follow.

This one goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway because it’s so important: your customers are not your co-workers. They don’t want to talk in your terms; they want to talk in theirs. So definitely avoid tech-speak, sales-talk or marketing-babble. Social media is a jargon-free zone.

8. Learn to deny yourself and prefer others.

Social media is narcissistic by nature, so the best way to be accepted is to put the focus on your customers. Highlight reviews and content generated by users of your products and services. Those who you decide to shine the spotlight on will share your content for you as well – carrying your messages into the feeds of their friends like a marketing Trojan horse.

9. Beware of meddlers and tale tellers.

This one’s for your audience.

Break the social media etiquette and you won’t get another chance. - Highlight to share -

It’s a stern warning: break the social media etiquette and you won’t get another chance. There is so much competition for audience attention that only the strongest (and most polite) brands survive.

The rest are stuck sending annoying pictures to their 300 followers.

Which are you?

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Social media finishing school