Social Media Etiquette

Ten Ways to Properly Use Social Media.

Aliza Sherman
5-minute read
Episode #51


Hi there, The Digital Marketer here, ready to help you put the power of the Internet and technology to work for your business.

I think many of us forget our manners when we're online. Or we don't know what proper etiquette is now that we're all communicating through tools such blogs, microblogs and social networks. What are the new rules for these communications?

Learn How to Properly Use Social Media

I talk about all kinds of social media tools in this podcast, and I try to convey some best practices. I thought I'd devote an entire show to being polite in the social mediasphere. I've put together 10 ways to properly use social media so you don't end up being inadvertently rude.

I can't say these are my top ten tips because I think they'll continue to change and evolve, but I came up with this list because of the things that drive me crazy about social media. I guess I'm just looking for ways to help us all avoid offensive behavior in social networks, on Twitter, and other newfangled communications tools and environments.

First, let me encourage you to let me know what you think of these social media etiquette tips. Next, I have to admit that these tips should be common sense, however, even I'm guilty of not following all of them all of the time. So let's begin with

1. Fill out your profile. I start my list with one of my biggest pet peeves -- receiving a friend request from someone who hasn't even bothered to fill out his or her profile. Whether it's Facebook or MySpace or Twitter, wait to invite others to connect with you until you've taken the time to identify yourself. Even if you choose to be anonymous, you can still add something to your profile that sets a tone.

2. Use a photo or appropriate image. Next to a missing profile description, a missing photograph, icon or image will immediately turn me off from accepting a friend invite. If you're trying to project mystery, you can do better than relegating your icon to a default image. For some people, no photo smacks of laziness. For others, it is downright creepy. You don't have to use your own photo, but whatever icon you choose to represent yourself should be in keeping with the image you want to project.

3. Friend for a reason. There is little value friending everyone you can willy nilly. Think before you friend, and friend others for a reason. While some people do friend as many people as they can on all the various social networks, if you're looking to do meaningful networking, indiscriminate friending turns a lot of people off.

4. State your reason for friending. This is something I sometimes forget to do because most of the social networks have only a link to the field where you can "add a personal note" so you have to pay attention, take your time, and actually click on that link to add more information. I've often friended someone on Facebook only to hit send before I've added a personal message. I feel terrible when I do that because I know how much I hate it when I'm on the receiving end of a blank friend request -- which is about 98% of the time.

5. Ask for introductions. When you are looking to connect with someone for business in particular, you should look for introductions when those people are friends of your social networking contacts. LinkedIn is the professional social network that really facilitates warm leads, but even on Facebook or Twitter, it is totally appropriate for you to ask someone you know to make an introduction to one of their contacts. Warm leads are always better than cold ones, no matter what the communications medium.

6. Think before you introduce.When you're approached to introduce someone to one of your contacts, think before you click. Make sure the introduction is between people you know or trust. Remember that as you make an introduction, your own reputation is on the line. It is fine to politely decline making an introduction if you feel that it wouldn't be appropriate. In this world of "friends" in quotation marks, we all run the risk of making referrals and introductions between people who we really don't know and can end up creating a bad situation for everyone. Just because you can introduce people with the click of a mouse doesn't mean you should.

7. Respond. We're all overwhelmed with the influx of communications coming at us, but trying to respond to requests as they come in is a good practice. I know I'm guilty of letting correspondence pile up, and I'm sure I miss messages often as I toggle through my various email accounts and social networks. I can tell you that Facebook is often the last place I check for messages. Twitter is the first after I check my main email accounts. My LinkedIn email is forwarded to my main email account but MySpace correspondence is forwarded to a secondary account. I find I can best manage social media communications when I prioritize them based on the networks that work best for me. But for clients, I set them up from the get-go with a single email address to handle and filter all social media emails to make it even less complicated for them to manage. Hmmm...maybe I should be doing that, too!

8. Follow up. As I mentioned before, most of these tips that I'm giving are common sense as well as things we've all learned regarding networking in general. The tools may seem different, but social media tools and sites are simply facilitating networking and communications between people. So when you are networking with others through social media, remember to follow up with them in thoughtful ways. Touching base appropriately is almost always appreciated and is just good networking.

9. Promote others. One of the best practices of networking in general is to be generous. Generosity goes far. So when it comes to social networking, one way to be generous is to promote what others say and do. Retweeting what someone tweets on Twitter is a great way of promoting others. Linking to someone's event on Facebook or inviting your friends to fan someone else's Facebook page is good form. While many of us can fall into the trap of being too self-promotional too often, we can balance this tendency out by promoting our friends and followers as well.

10. Add value. Social media makes it easy -- almost too easy -- to communicate anything at any time to anybody we're connected with, and that ease of distribution can create communications that are inane or downright annoying. I’ll repeat what I said in the early 90s when I first started consulting companies about communicating on the Internet. What I said then is still relevant over 15 years later: make sure you add value when you publish something online. Of course, value is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it? One person's trash is another person's treasure. But before you tweet, update your status, blog, or otherwise send your sounds, images, or images out into the world, pause for just a moment and ask yourself "what is the value of this?" Hopefully, you'll have a good answer.

Bottom Line: Social media communications tools make it easy for us to try to connect with others. But use good social media etiquette; common sense and common courtesy still apply.

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