Social Media

The Boston Globe recently published a slideshow series on social media etiquette, listing helpful tips, dos and don’ts of social networking sites, including Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. As social media continues to evolve, many are still learning as they go and will likely get their wrists slapped along the way. To help prevent any blunders though, reading through some of these highlights may be a good place to start!

Treat Each Network Separately: The article advises users to avoid blasting the same update across all social mediums to avoid annoying messages that aren’t tailored for the network.
MY TAKE: While there are definitely downsides to sending every tweet to Facebook at the risk of annoying friends and not being seen as relevant, there’s no doubt that social media is time-consuming! In order to maintain a presence on multiple sites, sometimes you need a way to share your update simultaneously – just try not to do it for every update!

Don’t Just Talk About Yourself: The article recommends sharing other peoples’ observations and content and not just focusing each update on your own life.
MY TAKE: Agreed! As I’ve said before, the key to social media is balancing observation with participation. The combination of both talking and listening is what generates a meaningful following on social networks. The “retweet” function on Twitter, the “like” ability on Facebook, and the “+1” feature on Google+ are great ways to share the love and avoid being seen as self-promoting.

Stop Before You Hit Submit: The article suggests re-reading whatever message you’re about to send to the social world to make sure it’s something you’re comfortable saying to the masses.
MY TAKE: It’s the age old advice of don’t put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want printed on the front page of the New York Times. Not only do I re-read everything before pushing send for levels of appropriateness or offensiveness – trying to look at the message from all angles – but I also look at it in terms of accuracy. One wrong typo, using “effect” instead of “affect” or “except” instead of “accept” can make you look bad, especially if you work in PR and words are how you make your living!

Who Are You? The article asks users with anonymous profiles or false pictures (even if your dog is practically an extension of yourself) to own up and post who you really are to avoid appearing as a fake account and being blocked.
MY TAKE: This goes back to the argument of transparency. It is always best to show who you are, even if it means identifying an individual person behind a company account, in order to really connect with users and network to the full extent of your potential. People like to know who they are communicating with and showcasing a real picture and bio on social networks is a good first step.

Don’t Ask for Others’ Megaphone: The article also notes how irritating it can be when people ask others to share or promote their content. If it’s interesting, it will be shared in and of itself.
MY TAKE: This is by far one of my biggest pet peeves. The instant I see “please retweet” on Twitter or “please like this” on Facebook, no matter how interesting the content is, I am immediately turned off. While others have noted this strategy as a good way to get your content shared, if you polled actual social networkers in your target audience, you may find a very different story.

Don’t Trash Talk: The article rightly points out that social networks are not the place to be trash talking your employer or company. You never know who is going to read what you have to say and no one likes a complainer anyways.
MY TAKE: Absolutely! The same rule of thumb mentioned above about not putting anything in writing that you wouldn’t want printed on the front page of the New York Times rings equally true here. There have already been instances reported of people being fired for their inappropriate social media etiquette, so be sure to think twice before bashing your boss or coworkers! However, this goes both ways, we should add. Employers who think that they can just wash their laundry in public or try to leverage their followers base to name and shame employees, are not just in dire need of improving their image and approach as employers, but they’re also potentially breaking the law in many countries.

There are plenty more dos and don’ts of social media etiquette, but hopefully these highlights will shed some light on best practices when it comes to posting on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. What other tips would you share with new social media users?

This post was first published by Meredith L. Eaton on March Communication’s blog, PR Nonsense. You should also read our updated guide for Do’s and Don’ts for social media marketing.