Etiquette is no longer limited to just the physical realm. Consider your personal brand on social media to be the digital representation of yourself. Obviously, you want to build up your authority as much as possible by connecting with specific people, sharing great content, and creating a reputation for yourself in the industry, but there are also unwritten, subtle, societal rules that you’ll have to follow if you want to maintain that reputation and authority.
These rules might not seem like a big deal, but if you break one of them, you could critically damage your personal brand’s image:
Building a strong personal brand means making lots of new connections, as more connections leads to more leads, more readers, more sales, and a better image for those meeting you for the first time. As such, it’s tempting to send out as many invites as possible, even to people that you don’t know personally. Some people are perfectly fine with getting invites from people they don’t know, especially on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, but some people take it as an invasion of privacy and might think of you differently as a result. Don’t be afraid to send an invite to anyone you’ve made contact with—even if it’s just in the form of a simple comment in an online thread. The real problem is with completely blind, unwanted invites.
There’s a principle on social media that’s been heavily abused; if you ask your followers to share something, they’ll be more likely to do it. However, this only works if done occasionally. I’ve seen dozens of different people telling their followers to share or retweet practically every post they come up with. Doing so makes you seem spammy and only interested in gaining more followers. If you want to use this strategy, preserve your reputation and use it the right way—only ask for shares with content that you feel particularly strong about.
Your personal brand isn’t the only one that’s around, and it isn’t the only one that carries influence. If you want to be successful, you’ll need to respect and help out the other blogs and personal brands in your industry. For example, if you notice a fellow industry professional sharing one of your articles, return in kind by sharing one of theirs. Pay attention to what they’re saying and writing, and participate in the conversations that they start. Inject yourself as a part of the community, rather than segregating yourself as being “above” the community. Ignoring others can damage your reputation.
Every post you make has potential to increase your brand’s visibility, and the more followers you have, the truer this becomes. Unfortunately, many personal brands have taken this as an indication that they should share as much as possible as often as possible, sharing every post they deem even remotely interesting. This cycle of constant updating will sap your time, but more importantly, will eventually register as white noise to your audience. It’s your job to sort out what’s truly worth sharing and what isn’t, and if you neglect this step, your audience will simply stop listening to you.
Advertising your products or services directly with your personal brand these days can be considered a breach of etiquette. For example, if you offer financial consulting services, you might gain value by posting articles, comments, and insights about best practices in personal finance. But the minute you post something like “contact me for a free quote today,” your followers will see you as an advertiser, rather than a trusted, authoritative resource, and your credibility will shrink. There’s nothing wrong with calling people to a site or a landing page that does the work for you, but directly advertising this way is a breach of trust and etiquette.
This has a bigger impact than you realize. Misspelling a word or sending out an update with a grammatical error so bad the message can barely be recognized will instantly alienate your followers. Take the extra time to proofread and double check your message’s appearance. One breach of this rule can be a harmful blow to your reputation as a thought leader.
It’s called “social” media for a reason. It isn’t a monologue. It isn’t designed as a speaking platform. It’s designed as a conversation platform, and if you want to earn a good reputation for your personal brand, you need to use it as a conversation platform. Whenever someone comments on your articles, asks you a question, or replies to one of your posts, it’s your job to respond. Thank people for sharing your articles. Answer their questions. Reply to their queries. The engagement factor is critical for personal brands especially, so don’t breach etiquette by ignoring someone’s response.
These rules of social media etiquette are new and still somewhat malleable. Nobody’s going to physically punish you or chastise you for breaking one, but if you follow them consistently, you should see more followers, more engagement, and a better overall reputation. Think carefully before you take any action on social media, and take your personal brand seriously. The last thing you want is to come off as a spammer, a jerk, or even worse—someone completely ignorant of social media etiquette.