Guidelines for Social Media and Business

Every business knows that a large part of your organic traffic comes from social media, and it is important to be both present and engaged to keep the attention of your customers. Doing the wrong thing on social media can do great damage, as we have seen from several brands. Doing the right thing can boost traffic, conversions, and sales.

While social media is always changing, here are some basic guidelines to keep you out of trouble and even boost awareness and engagement with your brand overall.


Don’t Talk Politics

Almost every time a brand engages in a political discussion, they will alienate at least a part of their customer base. It is fine to have a political opinion, but sharing it on social media can be devastating.

While in troubled times it can be difficult to remain neutral, it is the best to stay away from specific political statements, endorsements, or taking sides on certain issues. At the same time, being involved and verbal about political issues that directly affect your business is not only appropriate, but shows you care about their customers and their needs.

A good example of this is the fight that both Apple and Amazon had with the law enforcement over the privacy of users who were accused of a crime. In the case of Apple, they simply told the FBI no, and the agency had to find another way into an iPhone. The Amazon case was a little different because the user gave Amazon permission to release the transcripts requested.

In both cases, the companies showed in a public way that their user’s expectation of privacy overrode the request of even law enforcement or a government agency.


Do Send a Positive Message

Many companies were and are potentially affected by certain immigration policies. Most did not get directly involved in the argument, but instead offered a positive message of the desire for each individual to be treated equally.

This positive message in many ways revealed what the company’s position might be, but no actual political statements were made. The message that was presented is difficult for anyone to argue: it is challenging to argue against equality.

The same has been true for other messages as well. Staying positive in the face of adverse circumstances can endear customers to a brand. Recently, Verizon embraced this, showing their employees helping with flood and hurricane victims while trying to restore cell service to affected areas. This was a vital piece of not only getting help into the area, but getting relatives in contact with their loved ones.

These are just a few examples. Your brand too can help spread a positive message, align with your customer’s needs, and make them customers for life.


Don’t Engage in Arguments

Even when someone comments negatively on your social media or blog posts, don’t engage them publicly in an argument. Getting defensive only shows them and your other customers that you are not attempting to understand their point of view.

The customer may not always be right, but you can align with their frustration regardless. In many cases, these comments reveal a real issue with your product or service. This can be a learning experience for you.

Even if the customer is simply angry and the information they are presenting is incorrect, inciting an argument with them will simply validate what they are feeling is correct. The argument may also incite others to side with their beliefs, and can do a great deal of damage to your online reputation.


Do Offer Resolution Solutions

Just because you don’t want to engage in an argument with the customer online does not mean that you don’t care about resolving the issue they are having. Offer to speak with them about the issue offline or via a phone call, so that you can provide them with a solution.

Before offering resolution, understand that not all customers will accept the offer. Some are simply too angry, and others are just internet trolls trying to stir up trouble. You can’t satisfy everyone, and sometimes simply avoiding the argument and making a reasonable customer service offer is the only thing you can do.

Whatever you do offer, be sure to follow through with that customer and any other customers who respond to your post or comment on your domain. Businesses who do not follow through sometimes are nearly forced to create new social media accounts and even change their domain name to develop an entirely new following.


Don’t Make Hashtag Mistakes

Verizon started a hashtag called #ShareYourVerizonStories. The move quickly released a backlash of customers who were unhappy with the company, and were eager to share their negative stories with Verizon’s entire audience.

This is not the only example: churches have been flooded with negativity on a hashtag called #theBibleTeachesMe. The conversation was quickly taken over by anti-religious comments and horror stories.

In both cases the intent of the brand was good, but the result was not as expected. Be sure that if you do use sponsored hashtags, you are prepared for the results whether they are good or bad.


Do Engage in Conversations and Chats

Just because sponsored hashtags often backfire does not mean you should not engage in conversations and chats online. Some hashtags and conversations can be productive places to promote your brand, provided you meaningfully participate and do not simply post an advertisement.

This is what Instagram and other social media can do for your business: they allow you to interact with customers in ways you never have been able to before. When there are chats around your industry already going on, or regular hashtags, engage in them and contribute content that not only showcases your product, but your knowledge. Show that you care what the customer cares about, and you will gain both their trust and their business.

You can use social media to dramatically impact your business, either for good or bad. Follow these guidelines to keep from alienating part of your customer base, and to align with their wants and needs.



Sarah Saker

Sarah Saker is a business coach and freelance writer that specializes in helping SMBs setup processes for customer support and predictable growth. When not writing or coaching, Sarah can be found on her (small but growing!) family farm. Connect with Sarah on for coaching or writing help.