This is part of a series of articles on the biggest mistakes brands make with online marketing. Today we’re going to learn about social media etiquette for business, and how being too personal can be just as dangerous as not being personal enough. 

Generally, you should avoid any of the standard “no-go” areas of polite conversation: Politics, world issues, family issues, dirty jokes, operation details, religion, and any other pointless topics that most people would generally be uninterested in (when thinking about your business) or turned off by.

Your company websites should show you as a professional businessperson there to serve your consumer’s needs. You do want to come across as an actual human being, but you still want to maintain a professional atmosphere on your business page.

I want to caution you on the two biggest issues – religion and politics. What I don’t want to see on your blog is useless rants, off subject articles on a hobby you might have, your view on the most recent basketball game, or negative posts of any kind. The Internet is full of angry people posting about what an evil place the world is, so you don’t have to.

Before I dive into it, however, if you are setting up social networking for a religious organization or political organization, the next advice generally won’t apply to you.

As far as politics goes, I would strongly advise against posting your feelings on national/international political issues, elections, and agendas. No matter how right you are, you could end up hurting yourself more than helping yourself.

None of your customers can be offended if you don’t post about politics, but a boatload of them can be if you do. Local politics is a different issue, and I advise you to be careful on this as well. Though it can be good to show your support for a local politician, and that you care about the community, you might turn people off in this area too.

The subject of religion is a little trickier. If you have a religious-based business (a religious book store, coffee shop with a strong religious connection, etc.) then feel free to post as many spiritual messages and uplifting comments as you want. It’ll help build your rapport, and gain you respect with that community.

If, however, you are based on a very secular type business, it’s generally not a good idea to post a lot of religious statements. These will most likely turn people off, or worse, upset them and start a theological battle on your page. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s always positive.

It’s ultimately up to you. I don’t want to tell you how to live your faith, but I do want to warn you about some negative impacts it can have to your business. If it is a strong part of who you are, then do your thing. However, you should always be positive, and talk about blessings rather than curses.

Beware of Your Mobile

Be careful of your mobile phone. Your phone can be a good way to keep updated on your social network, but it also can be a dangerous tool when mixed with your favorite adult beverage.

The last thing your professional network needs to see is a drunken status update about the garbage ref of the Lakers’ game, or the bouncer who threw you out of the club after you got on top of the bar and danced to Bon Jovi. You may think it will never happen to you, but you would be very surprised. No matter how old or mature you may be, anyone can fall prey to this.

Keep in mind you’re using these avenues to sell your business. You can create your own personal page for your friends and talk about whatever you want, but anything associated with business should be conducted as such. Just because this is a more “relaxed” avenue of selling yourself, does not mean you should relax your professionalism.

You may think you can just delete something, but the famous social networks are very SEO friendly. That means that little traces of your post can remain in search engine databases for up to 18 months.

I was reading an article the other day about a woman who was uploading photos, and accidentally uploaded a personal photo. One of her clients found it when doing a Google search for her. When the woman tried to follow up with Facebook, they told her it was deleted off their servers as best as they could, but still would take 12-18 months to be removed from most search engine results. Ouch.

Think about it like this, if you have to question whether it is appropriate to post it or not, you probably shouldn’t post it. Also, anything sexually based should be avoiding. I’ve seen people tastefully use terms like “Writing a Sexy Blog Title,” but anything further than that should be avoided. Also, be wary of your target audience when using terms like that. Few things offend someone faster than off color sexual humor.

By now, you probably understand the need for personal postings to build relationships, but these personal posts need to spark good emotions in others, not just you. Telling a funny story about your daughter’s first driving lesson is good personal content, and will probably spark similar stories in your customers. Whenever you post about something personal, make sure it is something that people can connect and relate too, on a positive level.

Vague postings like, “standing in line at the store,” are pointless and people generally won’t care. Always be engaging when you’re posting, and it will give people more incentive to interact on it.