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7 Social Media Best Practices for a Happy Online Community

15th April 2016
Frog with a megaphone.

Your social profiles offer you limitless opportunities to delight, inspire, and grow your online audience while helping you drive sales, raise awareness, build your brand, or achieve whatever goals you've set. Social networks are great tools for promotion, customer service, competitor monitoring, social listening, and customer insights. You can use them to create rich communities of engaged followers. However, there are some best practices that you should follow, or you could risk losing followers, creating negative experiences, or alienating potential customers. One ill-thought-through post could undo a lot of the hard work you put into building your brand. So, here are 7 best practices that should help keep your community happy and your brand reputation secure.

1) Don't rant about your customers.

Apart from being highly unprofessional, this sends a message to potential customers that they could one day be the target of your fury. Bad language is an instant turn off and should have no place on a business profile, otherwise you may find a swift decline in followers. Think about the message your posts send about your business. If your brand is supposed to excel at customer service, ranting about demanding customers will undermine that association. In short, if you don't want to jeopardise the reputation of your business, do not post in anger.

2) Avoid politics.

Unless you're a party candidate trying to rally support, steer clear of politics. There is no reason why a bookshop, high street cafe, or underwear vendor should get involved in political debates. If it's not relevant to your brand, products or services then it really doesn't need to appear on your business profile. Do your customers really need to know your stance on wind farms? All you will achieve is the alienation of customers who take offence at you calling 'x' a wally. You may find your follower count takes quite a hit. Remember, some of your best customers may see things differently so best take the discussion elsewhere.

3) Reply to people.

Social networks should be social places. The clue is in the name. What you want is for people to engage (like, comment, share) with your content, but don't neglect your duties to acknowledge, reply and share in return. If someone makes time to comment on your post, good or bad, you must reply. It would be bad practice not to. Customer engagements are an opportunity to deliver good customer service and manage your brand reputation. A swift and courteous response to a negative comment can turn it into a positive experience, help get the issue resolved, and keep your reputation intact. If someone says you're doing a great job, acknowledge them and make them feel valued. If they post content to your page, re-share it and put the spotlight on them. Demonstrate that you care about your customers.

4) Don't make it all about you.

Why should anyone share your content if you don't return the favour? If all of your posts are about you, then you are missing opportunities to generate goodwill with potential brand advocates, and you aren't nurturing relationships with potential influencers who could be directing people to your content. Spread the love.

5) Don't just sell, sell, sell.

No one likes a pushy salesperson. If all of your posts include the phrases 'buy now', 'book now' or 'call now', then you may want to balance your content so that it isn't excessively promotional. People's time is valuable. They won't give it to you if all you have to say is 'buy my stuff'. If you want people to stop and pay attention, your content must offer them some value. It should answer their questions, help them solve problems, and be tailored to their interests and needs. If people begin to associate your brand with valuable content, they may be more attentive to the odd promotion now and then.

6) Don't mislead people.

This really annoys people and won't do your brand any favours. We've all clicked on posts that promise life-changing revelations, ultimate hacks that will dramatically improve 'x', the 10 most hilarious videos of all time etc. Most of the time the content doesn't live up to the hype. So if you clickbait someone and then deliver mediocre content, the experience they are left with is negative and potentially damaging for your brand.

7) Be consistent with your brand.

If you post plumbing tips on Monday, a cat video on Tuesday, and share a blog post about motorbikes on Wednesday, you will confuse your audience. They'll be wondering, if they follow you, will they see lots of content they're not interested in? Think about your goals. Are you trying to sell your services and establish a reputation as an authority on a particular subject? Then keep your posts on topic and consistent with your brand. This will help your audience know what to expect from you and should reassure them that following you is a good idea.