After 10 years of Open Copy, we are changing gear. Conrad is now working with First Reef Studio in Denmark and Lydia is offering copywriting and editing with Open Copy. They are still comparing notes over dinner.

Here are 4 basic rules of etiquette to adhere to when using Facebook or other social media platforms for business:

  1. Join the conversation. Network, but go easy on the sell.
  2. Stay positive. Be nice.
  3. Be aware of ‘personal’ verses ‘private’
  4. Try to tackle, rather than delete, negative comments and complaints

sheep chatting

Join the conversation. Network, but go easy on the sell.

Never leave a comment without reading the comments that have come before. Try to add something constructive to the conversation. Don’t just cold sell your product or service.

If information about your own expertise, or a link to your website is potentially part of the solution being sought, then there is nothing wrong with posting that. But never post a sales pitch if it is not in keeping with the comment stream.

Facebook or other social media platforms are not really the best place to sell your product or service. However, by joining in with conversations online, people will get to know you, your value system and your expertise. So if they need to contact someone for a solution, they may think to contact you.

Selling online can be construed as ‘spamming’. Facebook and other platforms sometimes penalise, delete or block spammers. It is not a good look. Some Facebook Pages and Groups are intended as platforms for people to advertise their products, services or events. Check the About section first, or read previous comment streams. Get an idea of where you are, and what kind of posts will be welcome.

Of course you can sell on your own Business Page, but a good rule of thumb for any sales page or segment is ‘Give, Give, Sell’. If people aren’t getting some useful tips, or some heads up on some exclusive offers, then they may not remain a fan for very long.

peace sign

Be nice. Keep the peace.

It is ok to be provocative in order to create a more meaty debate, but not just to provoke a negative emotion, or to tarnish someone’s identity. Sometimes called ‘trolling’, this kind of online disruption is not something that you as a business person would want to be accused of.

It is sometimes important to address negative aspects, but I always try to do this with a great deal of consciousness and care. I am a lot more provocative off line than on. Online, everything is very visible and very traceable. So watch out.

If you write a negative comment on your personal or business page, be aware that it may be shared or seen amongst people outside of your network of fans or friends.

For example, if you post a status update on your personal page and several of your friends like or comment on it, then Facebook may place that update on the newsfeed of the friends of your friends.

When you post to Facebook you are broadcasting on a public noticeboard, whether you are using a personal page or not. You can never know for sure how far through space and time a comment will travel.

If you are considering posting something negative on a public noticeboard, like Facebook, then you probably want to ask yourself the following questions:

• If I am asked by anyone to defend this comment online, or off-line, am I happy to do that?

• Am I happy for people to judge me based on this comment?

• Do I really need to say this?

• Do I really need to say this right here and right now, on this public platform? Should I take some more time to consider what I want to say?

• Does this comment hold true to my core values?

• Does this comment serve my longer term objectives?

• Does this comment jeopardise my longer term goals?

I’m not saying never be negative. Just watch how you go because comments, particularly negative ones may well come back to haunt you.

private sign

Be aware of ‘personal’ verses ‘private’

If your objective on Facebook is to get engagement then it is definitely good to be personal. I often hear people say ‘I don’t care what people had for breakfast’. But I just smile because I know its not true. People generally do love to hear about what other people have had for breakfast. The small details of everyday life have great power to unite and to intrigue.

To be effective you need to be prepared to be personal, but you do not need to post anything that is ‘private’. The difference between the two is completely up to you. You just need to be able to differentiate, and to know where for you the line is drawn. It isn’t the same for everyone.

For some people their children are part of their private life and they do not like to mention or show photos of their children online. That is fine and should be respected.

For me, talking about my children and posting occasional photos of them is an important part of me showing the world what is important to me. However, I do so mindfully. I am careful not to give away their names or facts about them that I don’t want to share with the world. I am also mindful what name I give to jpeg files that contain photos of my children. I am also always wary about locations that I reveal and phone numbers. These are not ‘private’ parameters that I am recommending. Just the parameters that I have set for myself.

During blogging workshops I have discussed the ‘personal vs private’ concept, and it always seems to be received as a very useful construct with which people can navigate decisions about what to publish online.

In terms of etiquette and ethics, when you are publishing anything to do with other people it is important to be aware and respectful of where their private/personal line sits. Don’t make assumptions about what content you can publish about other people. It is not just your legal standing that you need to consider. If you are publishing and networking on Facebook for business networking and PR purposes, it is counterproductive to upset people by publishing something about them that is outside of their comfort zone.

customer service model

Deal with, rather than delete, negative comments, problems and complaints.

I would advise against using Facebook to air your own problems and complaints, at least unless you are very sure that you know what you are doing.

But what about responding to negative comments aimed at you or your business? This is a common concern with business people starting a business FB page. At open Copy, we always reassure people that as the administrator of the page you have the ability and the right to delete any comment that you are not happy with appearing on your page. Furthermore, you can bar the commentator from your Page.

However, in the interests of customer service, if the comment pertains to a genuine customer problem or concern, it is much better to deal openly and constructively with that complaint. Onlookers will likely be very impressed if you display good customer service skill in this regard.

You can say in your About section that you are ‘committed’ or dedicated’ to good customer service, but much better to show that commitment in a live theatrical performance. Yes, I know that is a hard one to swallow. But it is true. It is important though that in the online business space you feel confident and at ease. Ultimately, if the tone or manner with which anyone on your platform is speaking to you makes you feel unduly uncomfortable, then to delete that comment is the best policy.

Oh and one more thing….

Don’t steal music or photos that are in copyright. Even if you think you won’t get caught, if your readers or viewers are wondering whether or not you have stolen something, then they are going to be distracted from what it is you are trying to tell  them.

Take the time to procure your own images. Take photos. Buy stock photos. Or use royalty-free images from the web.

All images in this blog post were downloaded from

What do you think?

Agree or disagree with the points above? Tell us what you think in the comments section, below.