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Navigating the Brave New World of Social Media: An Etiquette Guide

Written by Amy Chan


Posted on September 01 2014

Literally everyone and their mom is on social media in one form or another.  Whether it’s Facebook and Instagram or Twitter or LinkedIn, we all have an online presence.  And just like we all have our two-dimensional versions of ourselves, we also all have those friends or acquaintances who just don’t seem to be doing it right.  Abusers of the internet, we call them.  Maybe you’re worried you’re one of the abusers – or you want a link to post on the profile of a particular infractioner.  You’re in luck.  We’re here to tell you the do’s and don’t’s of online social media etiquette.

Let’s break it down, shall me?

First and foremost, what does your presence LOOK LIKE.  How you appear is of the utmost importance.  You know what they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  Make sure your profile picture is YOU; never have it be your company logo or some made up character that you think is cute.  And please don’t have it be your child.  Post as many pictures as you want of your adorable (to you) child, but having them as your profile picture is not just creepily exploitive, but is misleading and irresponsible.  Also, if you go with a picture of you as a twenty-year-ago version of yourself, you’re being misleading.  Just put a picture up of you, today!

We all meet people and wonder, how soon is too soon to find them on facebook and friend-request them?  Feel free to find them the next day, usually they will accept pretty quickly (we all get notifications on our phones and computers these days).  Also, don’t be offended if you follow someone and they don’t follow you back.  Everyone has their own thoughts and principles about it; if someone does not return the follow on Twitter, that does not mean they hate you and want nothing to do with you.  You must develop think skin!  And remember, that works both ways: you do not have to follow someone who follows you.

What about having these impersonal conversations over social media?  Or sharing others’ posts?  First of all, if you share something you see from a friend’s post, always give credit.  Giving credit is all you need to do and it’s a great share.  Also, engaging in commenting is certainly welcome, but do not start up a conversation about something irrelevant on someone’s post.  Even asking “where is this?” is too conversational.  Comments are great, discussions are too much.  If it’s a funny facebook status and a light hearted convo goes back and forth, that’s one thing; if it’s a photo and you comment “nice photo, by the way, we should get together for coffee sometime!” you have just committed a social media blunder!  And don’t feel the need to respond to people’s comments.  If your only thought is to say “thank you” that is unnecessary.  We often find ourselves starting private conversations in response to comments that are too conversational.  That is perfectly valid – take the conversation to its appropriate (read: private) place.

Now, we all have friends who are in bands or have art shows or stores or are in some way promoting themselves.  That’s fine, that’s what social media is really good at: getting the word out about something.  So what’s the proper way to promote?  First of all, keep it short and informative, and infusing a bit of humor in there never hurts.  Do not post 100 times in one day, and definitely don’t go posting on others’ walls. Keep it to your own page or handle.  If there’s a particular person that must see your post, don’t tag them in it, call them or email them.  Tagging people in a post that is for your own promotion is a big time no-no.

And lastly, feel free to share away!  People love to have their tweets retweeted and their status updates or event pages shared.  If your page is all self promotion, you will likely be over-looked by some people.  If you have a healthy mix of your own stuff and others’, you will not only be demonstrating your willingness to be part of a community, but you are genuinely being a helpful and good contributor.  That will not go unnoticed!  People remember little things like a share.  One little share can go a long way.

Do you find yourself annoyed by what someone you know is doing on social media?  You are not alone.  Make sure you are not also repeating those mistakes!