by Lori Prosio

Being aware of the underlying rules of social media etiquette can help ensure that you promote your company positively and professionally. Here are a few key things to remember:

Keep it fun, but professional

Remember, what you share directly impacts your business. Just like you wouldn’t post status updates or photos on your personal page that would cause your mom to shake her head, err on the side of caution when posting to your company pages. Give your posts personality, because nobody wants to hear the humdrum business equivalent of what you ate today. And on a related note, even though it’s the season, refrain from politically-charged posts…unless they are in direct relation to your work. Even then, consider your audience first.

Interact but don’t feed the trolls

The key is to maintain the “social” in social media. Respond to inquiries, make connections with your followers (or lurking audience) and engage. Take opportunities to respond on other profiles when you see a question or comment that you might have an answer for or an expert opinion to add. However, don’t feed the internet trolls. We all come across responders who make it their job to be malicious contrarians. It’s OK to respond to them, but be positive and firm and avoid a public debate. Trolls thrive on negative banter; if you don’t engage, they’ll often get bored and move on. If they don’t, and the communication is offensive, insulting or abusive in any way, consider hiding the posts.

Be wary of oversharing

I’m not talking just specifically about content — although that’s paramount — but also frequency. Space out your posts so your followers are interested and engaged but aren’t irritated by a flood of status updates. Unless you’re an information-gathering source that requires minute-by-minute updates, posting too often can incite the digital equivalent of eye rolling, and cause your followers to lose interest in your brand.

Be creative and visual

People are visual, and social media should be, too. Photos, infographics, thumbnail links all increase a person’s willingness to read and share. Avoid factoids that are so technical that followers feel like they need a degree in quantum physics to understand. Add in a quirky animated graphic, some colorful statistics and a few call-outs, and you’ll get your point across much quicker and in a more eye-pleasing way.

Vary your voice

Not all social media platforms are created equal. If you’re sharing the same message across multiple platforms, take the time to match your voice to the corresponding platform and show variety in each space. Even if the information is the same, it’s likely that your audience follows you in multiple places, so keep it fresh. In fact, just because there are a number of platforms available, you don’t have to be on every one of them. Create a social media strategy that utilizes the best platforms for your message, without trying to make all of them work.

Social media can be overwhelming, but connecting with your audience online is just as important as connecting with them in person. In some cases, people will look for you on social media before they seek out your website, and you definitely want to make sure it’s a favorable first impression. Conduct research on what other like-minded/similar companies are doing and shape your social media efforts to allow your greatest reach among your followers and build recognition of your brand, trust in your knowledge and authenticity in your profile.

A version of this article originally appeared in the July 8, 2016 edition of the Sacramento Business Journal.