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Most articles about business reputation management focus on what can go wrong outside of your control – the bad reviews, the angry customers, the drop in rankings in the search engines. But one of the most important components of online marketing for local businesses is in what you publish. Business social media accounts should be carefully managed with a clear social media policy to ensure only the right language goes out about you and what you do.

5-things-you-should-never-post-from-your-businessTo help avoid potential issues and improve the performance of your business online, there are some things you should avoid posting to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media accounts. By avoiding these big red flags and focusing on what works to promote your brand and engage with potential customers, you can build a loyal following and control how people perceive your company.

Copy-Pasted Posts from the Same Channels

Today’s social media management tools allow you to quickly and easily automate the process of producing content. You can write a single tweet or Facebook post and publish it to every one of your social media channels – multiple times over if you so choose.

While scheduling is a powerful tool that allows you to stay ahead, publishing on important topics, holidays, sales, or other hot subjects well in advance, it can also be dangerous if not used properly. Avoid automation of posts that syndicate blog posts or that post the same content over and over again to multiple channels.

Sharing or Reposting Things You Find Funny

It’s not easy to manage a business account. You want it to read as simultaneously human and engaging, but professional and on-brand. Silly photos of kittens, memes that don’t relate to your core offering, and reposts of potentially divisive topics can be at the very least useless in the branding of your business, and at worst damaging to your prospects’ perception of you.

If you really want to spend time every night looking for fun images and sharing them on Twitter, start a personal account and use it as such. Reposting quotes from politicians or tweeting out images of cats doing silly things is distracting and potentially a big turnoff to your prospects and customers alike.

Tone Deaf Trend-Hopping Posts Outside Social Media Policy

Every few months you hear about a brand making a catastrophic mistake with a post that completely misses the point. Sometimes they just miss the context. Other times, they attempt to make a joke that falls flat because it’s in poor taste.

Do your research. Find out why a hashtag is trending, look at other posts using that information, and if you’re still not sure, just don’t post it. Using recent news can be an effective way to hijack attention on social media, but it can also be damaging if that news isn’t appropriate for your most recent sales promotion.

Negative Posts Targeting Competitors

It’s so tempting. You know you’ve wanted to do it before, and you’re not alone. The ease with which you can jot out a few characters and turn up the flames on a competitor is almost comical. So it’s important to wield extra self-control when you see a post that begs for a sharp retort.

If done properly, posts aimed at your competitors can be clever and funny and can actually help your brand (and theirs). Friendly rivalries like the very public advertising discourse between Pepsi and Coke are a part of our marketing culture. But angry, petty, or worse yet, inaccurate posts about your competitors never work. They make you look unethical and can prod your competitors to respond – not always with a post, sometimes using legal action.

Do your research before posting on a competitor, and if you’re unsure, avoid wading into a potentially dangerous fight.

Pushing Customers to Leave Reviews

It’s perfectly okay to request reviews from customers online as part of your social media policy. But there’s a fine line between a quick request and actively pressuring people who trust your business to do something they may not want to do.

Not only is it unethical and probably against the terms of service to push people to leave a review for you, it tends to make people angry and can backfire as a result. There are very specific rules about contests that entice people to leave reviews, and there can even be legal consequences if you take it too far, such as the hotel in New York that tried to fine guests for leaving negative reviews about them on Yelp. It didn’t turn out well for them.

Smart Posting that Benefits Your Customers

The best business social media policy is one that mutually benefits both you and your customers. It allows you to share interesting information about your business, engage with people and discuss their experience with your business, and grow your brand. At the same time, they gain interesting information about your industry, and can ask questions and leave reviews directly, knowing they will get a response.

It’s a win-win situation for both you and your customers and a great way to encourage reviews and improve your reputation online.

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