Whenever I hear the word “etiquette” visions of stuffy old charm schools play in my head. I don’t believe you have to (or even should) be nice to everyone all the time just because you want everyone to like you. It’s okay to dislike people, disagree with people, and share honest opinions as long as you can back them up. I’m also not a big believer in wearing a peachy little persona all the time just because other people tell you that you should.
I’m going to throw a buzzword at you, but one I think really matters — authenticity. I’d rather someone truly be themselves when I meet them in the social media space as opposed to watching them putting on a show.
That said, I’m a surprisingly big fan of general social media etiquette. I think it’s often less about manners and more about basic common sense. There are plenty of things that you wouldn’t want people doing to you while you’re on social networks, blogs, or using other social media tools. So don’t do those things to others.
If you want to avoid coming across as a complete jackass, getting yourself banned, or just being blacklisted by your network, here are 20 tips for social media etiquette you might want to keep in mind.
- DON’T spam. Ever — Self-explanatory, no?
- DON’T keep everything private. — Online privacy is important. It’s very important. But if you’re keeping every social interaction private, why are you even taking part in social media? Stick to emails and instant messengers and text messaging if that’s your goal, and stop making everyone else feel like your “club” is too exclusive.
- DON’T “go after” competitors. — If your competitor does something stupid, comment on it to your heart’s content. But don’t take part in social media sabotage — trying to bury their posts or news stories, trying to get them banned from social media platforms, or pretending to be an unhappy customer for example.
- DON’T create multiple handles to “gang up.” — If other people aren’t supporting your viewpoint, that should tell you something. It’s never okay to comment using multiple fake identities to try to support your own point (making it look like several people are agreeing). Not only is that idiotic, but you will get caught and exposed.
- DON’T try to incite a mob mentality. — In addition to not setting up multiple identities of your own, also avoid trying to incite a social media mob. If you blatantly go around telling everyone to comment on something with the same opinion, you’re guilty of manipulating the conversation. Share a link? Yes. Tell people what to say or encourage them to gang up? I don’t think so.
- DO think before “speaking.” — Yes, social media involves the ability to publish your thoughts instantly. But just because something pops into your head, it doesn’t mean it should be shared with the world. Think first.
- DO personalize messages and introductions. — When you first connect with someone new and they don’t already know you, go ahead and say hello. Let them know how you came across them. It’s a little less creepy and you might just make a great impression.
- DO think (and network) outside your circle. — If your social networks only involve people who agree with you, you’re living in a box. It’s silly at best.
- DON’T post questionable photos of others without their permission. — Regardless of whether or not you legally need a model release to post a certain photo, don’t post anything questionable or compromising of someone else unless you check with them first. It’s just the right thing to do. And if you don’t, remember this — karma’s a bitch. You have no idea what they have on you.
- DON’T send automated messages to new followers. — When someone follows you on Twitter, don’t use automated tools to immediately bombard them with messages (no matter how sweet you think you’re being in your not-so-personal “hello”). Remember, it’s not just you annoying them — others are doing it too.
- DO use your real name whenever possible. — At a bare minimum, use a recognizable name (such as a common pen name everyone already knows for you). When you interact anonymously, very little holds you accountable for your actions and words.
- DON’T excessively link to your own site(s). — This is another common sense one. No one cares about your site enough to want to see a link to it in every message you send out there in social media land. You’ll eventually just be viewed as a link spammer.
- DO give back. — Social media is a two-way street. Give as much as you get. Better yet, give even more!
- DON’T turn into a social media stalker. — Please don’t follow people around on the social Web like a lost puppy. It really is rather creepy. Unless you’re best buds, no one wants to see you not only on Facebook and Twitter but also on all of their niche social sites ranging from crocheting to auto body repair.
- DON’T invite everyone you know to every social media tool you decide to use. — If they’re already networking with you in two or three places, that’s enough. Really. Unless the new service is completely ground-breaking, don’t nag them with invites.
- DO try to make your tweets comprehensible. — I try to avoid txt spk. Not everyone is a teenager who grew up with it in their blood. Cut the rest of us some slack and try to use… oh, I don’t know… words? By all means, abbreviate when necessary. Just try to use shortcuts your audience will widely understand.
- DON’T swap your name for a string of keywords. — When you comment on someone’s blog or create a social media handle, stick to your name. Don’t use a string of keywords because you think it’s good for SEO. It’s usually not (most of those links are no-follow by default). And people want to feel like they’re talking to a person (or your company) — not “detox foot spa.” I literally just pulled that example from some of my own blog spam.
- DO listen to what others have to say. — Conversations are two-way streets. Enough said.
- DON’T unfollow people just because they don’t follow you back. — Seriously. How lame is that? If the person noticed you and thought you were worth following, they would have. Either tweet things that make you worthy of a follow, or knock off the follow spam crap just to try to build your own follower count artificially.
- DO submit other people’s material to news aggregators and social bookmarking sites. — When you only share your own material, you just look like an egotistical little snot. Oh…. That’s what you were going for? Then proceed.
I’m sure you brilliant folks can come up with more tips on social media etiquette, so share some of your favorites in the comments. They can be general tips on social media etiquette or tips specific to different tools and platforms.