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The launch of Google+ pages last week adds yet another social network to many business owners’ radars. We’re racking up the social assets at a rapid rate, and while they are a fantastic tool to connect and nurture relationships with both current and potential clients – the very nature of their functionality can often blur the lines between personal and professional lives. This is particularly true for SME’s, who may have their business page or profile linked with their personal profile.

Your social media manners say just as much about you as your manners at a dinner party do. But it can sometimes be a minefield, trying to figure out what’s rude and what’s not in the digital space. So, as we scramble to set up our Google+ business page before our competition does, here are a few modern etiquette guidelines for business owners in the social era.

It’s ok to follow your competition. And it’s ok to let your competition follow you. But imagine it’s the same relationship as if you owned shops in the same road. You wouldn’t stand at your door and shout insults at each other across the street, right? The same goes for social media. Snippy comments and thinly disguised swipes are poor form.

Thou shalt not steal. Give credit where credit is due. Always acknowledge where you saw the post originally via a retweet, Facebook or LinkedIn tag or a + tag.

Give it some thought, or leave it alone. We all know those annoying people who respond with just an ‘ok’ on emails or text messages. This is just as irritating on social media. If you’re going to acknowledge or comment back to a customer or client, try to add something a little more thoughtful than a simple ‘thanks’.

The ‘share’ box at the end of every blog post is the digital version of the tip jar. If you like what you see, push those buttons. It only takes a couple of seconds, and it’s a quick and easy way to show your gratitude.

Your profile picture/avatar should reflect your professional self. You wouldn’t turn up to a client meeting in a bikini, holding a cocktail, right? So those photos of you in Fiji last year (despite how much you want to show off your holiday tan) aren’t appropriate. And make sure it’s current. You might have smoother skin and glossier hair in that photo of you from Uni, but it’s going to make the first face to face meeting a bit awkward. I recommend you spend a few dollars and get some professional head shots taken.

Share the love. Commenting on other people’s stuff is a nice thing to do. So is sharing it. I like the analogy ‘you have two ears but only one mouth’. Make sure you’re listening twice as much as you’re talking.

Don’t be a show off. Retweeting other people’s praise of you is a bit the same as that guy who stands at the bar with his muscles flexed, hoping someone will notice. Reply with a thank you message and move on.  People will see it, promise.

Mind your ‘lols’ and ‘btws’. With the exception of Twitter (140 characters can be a bit restrictive), your grammar and spelling say a lot about you, even on social networks. I’m a big fan of typing posts into a Word document to spell and grammar check before pressing send.

Check out anyone you don’t know who asks to connect with you. Your mother was right when she said that you will be judged by the people that you associate with.

Farm in your own time. You might love Farm-ville, but there are many people who don’t. If you’d like to play, set up a separate personal profile to indulge, and never, ever spam your business networks with requests to water your crops.

What social media faux pas have you seen businesses or their owners make?  Do you have a set of etiquette guidelines that you use when operating in a social space?

What do you think?

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Emma Mulquiney

Emma Mulquiney

As resident social media expert and editor of <a href="http://myob.com.au/blog/">The Pulse</a>, Emma is the online voice of MYOB. With a background in digital marketing, graphic design and advertising, she has a keen interest in new technology, photography and web design. Find Emma on <a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/MYOBteam">Twitter"</a>, or connect with her on <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/pub/emma-mulquiney/22/a11/433">LinkedIn</a>

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