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Some people don’t have a filter. You know how it goes. You’re out with somebody and they say something completely inappropriate. That doesn’t mean they meant the comment offensively—maybe they didn’t understand the unwritten rules.
Social media is similar, but there’s a difference. When you’re at a party with mixed company, the comment may be heard, but it isn’t immortalized on computer servers around the world.
Yes, everything said online, even after being deleted, is still part of the digital record. An individual is judged as an individual, but if the person is speaking on behalf of a business the results could be disastrous. (Think of LA Clippers owner, Donald Sterling)
Instead of turning this into a doom and gloom article, let’s take a different approach. Not that you would ever post any of these social media statuses, but just in case the thought enters your mind, here’s a list of what not to say on social media, especially if you’re a business owner.
“Hard Hitting” Images
Maybe you’re passionate about a cause like animal abuse or starvation in developing nations. As a business owner, your customers want to see you giving back by supporting an issue, but posting a picture of an abused animal or starving child isn’t appropriate. Remember that your audience is a mixture of children, parents, and those from other nations. Images create sometimes create strong, negative emotions even when meant in the most positive way.
The Hard Sell
People aren’t on social media to view ads. In fact, most people are turned off when they see a blunt call to action. Instead, advertise with images, coupons, humor, or information. You can get the point across without saying “Act now before it's too late.”
“You’re a bad person if you don’t…”
Call this the 21st century version of the chain letter. “If you want to see the abuse of women abolished in so and so country, share this status.” First, it’s negative, second, it’s likely to be perceived as judgmental, and third, there are better ways for a business to stand up for a cause.
Related: Facebook Mistakes Business Owners Make
“Play this game with me.”
You’re thinking, “Businesses REALLY do that?” Yes! If one of those businesses is you, save that for your personal page. Remember, a lot of people find those game requests annoying.
If you’re a church or a business that operates in the religious space, go for it, but for everybody else, be careful. People don’t generally have a problem with a business advertising as faith based but don’t make your customers uncomfortable online.
So you think that the government is hiding aliens, the president is spying on every move we make, and Congress is a bunch of deadbeats? Very few people would have a problem with you holding any political opinion you want. Their problem is when you talk about it…all the time. When you’re operating as a business, it’s generally best to play the part of the moderate. If you want to march on Washington, however, have at it.
Obscenity and Vulgarity
Again, yes, people do it. Even if you’re trying to create dramatic effect, use the family-friendly censored version. Even the classic “S$#%” makes you look bad.
Wouldn’t it be cool if you posted something that only your best customers would understand? In a word, “no.” You could take the other side and post something like, “say this phrase when you come in to receive a 10 percent discount,” but no inside jokes.
Rumors, Half-Truths, and Wives’ Tales
You own a business. As an owner you’re trying to build authority as somebody who deals in facts, research, and solid counsel. Posting that a home’s air filter harbors cancer-causing chemicals isn’t a good idea unless you’re in the air purifying business and you have scientific studies to prove it.
We know…you read somewhere that writing shocking headlines would get you more readers. (That’s also a half-truth.) If it’s not a fact, don’t say it, and if it is, don’t over dramatize.
Nothing says, “I slept through all of my formal education” like misspelled words, clearly incorrect grammar, and typos. If writing isn’t one of your strengths, let somebody else do it. (Hint: most words that end with an “s” don’t have an apostrophe.) That doesn’t mean that you should know everything there is to know about a past participle, but know when to use a comma.
The Internet is full of blogs that review every product on the market. As an expert, it’s ok to stand behind a product, but on the Internet, you’re likely to get more mileage if you post something about the best way to use a product, or a useful tip that users may not know about.
Saying that one product is good while another isn’t doesn’t set you apart from the hundreds of reviews already online about the product. Find ways to add value without using an overly negative tone.
Go ahead and post pictures of outstanding office staff members, but a constant barrage of you and/or your staff at a conference isn’t winning you any points with your audience.
We know that you’re not committing most of these faux pas. You understand that as a business owner, you have to stand out in the right ways by making your business an inviting place where everybody is welcomed.
Just in case you ever have the urge to throw a few four-letter words (the bad kind) into a status, you’ll remember reading this article.
© 2014 Attard Communications, Inc., DBA Business Know-How®. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission.