5 Unwritten Rules of Social Media

When it comes to engaging fans on social media, there are certain unwritten rules that brands should be abiding by.

Even though some of these rules may be obvious to social media pros, it is always a good idea to re-evaluate social strategies every six months - because even the savviest social professional can fall into the trap of posting too much promotional content or overlooking the importance of interacting with fans.

To make sure your brand is executing impeccable social media etiquette; take a look at Website Magazine's list of five unwritten rules for social media below.

1. Add value.

Although social networks provide brands with the perfect platform to market their products and services, it is important that brands make an effort to post more than just promotional content on their profiles. After all, consumers are quick to unfollow or unlike brands that don't add any value to their news feeds.

Take BarkBox as an example. Although the company's focus is on selling more subscriptions to its monthly box of toys and treats for pets, BarkBox does a great job at including a variety of other content into its social posts and leveraging popular hashtags to keep its brand in the middle of 'Net's top social conversations (see image below). Moreover, the majority of the company's social content directs fans to its blog, which increases traffic numbers on BarkBox's website and makes it simple for consumers to convert because the company's subscription page is just a click away.

2. Don't be weird.

The line between normal and weird can be a little blurry on the social Web - especially for brands. There are a few things that social media managers can do, however, to make sure brands stay out of the "weird zone."

For starters, brands should never pay for followers or ask for retweets unless doing so is required for a social campaign or contest. This is because asking for retweets can make a brand seem unauthoritative, which is not good for its online or offline reputation. In addition, social media managers should be conscious of the amount of hashtags they use in their posts. Typically one to three hashtags per post should be the maximum used. Any more than three can make the post look like spam and lead consumers to quickly unlike or unfollow the brand. Finally, social media managers who are on the fence about whether to post a certain message or respond in a certain way should always ask for a second opinion, which should keep them out of the weird zone and avoid being misunderstood. 

3. Be nice.

At one point or another, every brand is going to come face-to-face with a negative social interaction. These interactions could simply be complaints about an experience someone had with a brand, or could just be what some call an Internet troll (a person who purposely looks to start arguments or upset groups of people online).

When addressing negative social interactions, it is important for social media managers to analyze the situation prior to responding. For instance, if the consumer has a legitimate complaint (such as a bad experience with a brand representative or an issue with the brand's website), managers should respond by acknowledging any wrongdoing, apologizing and/or guiding the consumer to its specific customer care social handle or other support channel (e.g. email and telephone) for further assistance.

Conversely, if the negative interaction is an obvious social bully who is just looking to start a fight with the brand, it is typically a good idea for social media managers to ignore the interaction altogether. After all, the old adage about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar is true even in the digital world. Plus, responding to an Internet troll could actually give more publicity to the negative comment, and provide the person with more incentive to continue publishing negative posts.

4. Double check your work.

Although most social media managers aim to create content that goes viral, it is important that content goes viral for the right reasons. After all, a tweet that goes viral because of an unfortunate spelling error or because a social media manager wasn't aware of the context of a trending hashtag will bring the wrong kind of attention, and could do significant damage to a brand's reputation.

For example, earlier this year the people behind DiGiorno's Twitter account thought that the chiming in on the "#WhyIStayed" hashtag would be a good idea. If they would have taken some time to research this hashtag before commenting, however, they would have realized the serious tone of the conversation around the hashtag and its correlation to domestic abuse, and would also not have had to make a public apology.

5. Go ahead and interact.

It is important to remember that social networks are meant to be social, which means that brands should be interacting with their fans and followers (especially influencers) every day. Moreover, interactions should not only be reserved to customers who have taken to social to complain about an experience. Take Victoria Secret as an example. The women's apparel brand interacts all day long with its followers on Twitter, even when they are not asking questions - as is shown in the example below.