Social media etiquette: Are you ready?

By Julia Mayer

Social Media EtiquetteIt’s permanent, and in many cases, the first and only impression that people have of you and your business.  You can’t take back your words, so choose wisely.  No pressure, though, right?  More frequently these days, people are sharing tips about social media etiquette.  But let’s take a step back first and think about our general approach to social media and how it parallels with human relationships.  When we communicate with our best friends, we can be ourselves 100{a2396c2253210e4fe96a9350db4998fead2ccefaff88800abc5f9217fb562a1a}, talk about the gory details of our day, what made us tick, what made us angry, and jokes that we would not share with most other people.  Social media is not your best friend.  Here’s a different way of thinking about it: You are at your best friend’s wedding, and your best friend’s mother approaches you.  You have not seen her in a couple of years.  You ask her questions about herself, congratulate her on life’s successes, share an update or two about yourself, and see if you can be of assistance.  Social media is your best friend’s mother.  

So, now that we’ve got our face-to-face human relationship as a guide, let’s start talking about some emerging rules.  These rules are partly derived from tips shared by others (Nate Kievman with Linked Strategies; Travis Balinas with Outbound Engine; Mr. Banks with PayLane) and from my own experience being a thoughtful person, consumer, and nerd for human behavior.


  • Reveal just enough of your true self.  What is important for your audience to know?  If your audience is unlikely to personally benefit from what you are about to share, then you are probably just sharing it for yourself.  Are you sharing genuine information about yourself, or are you trying to appear to be something you are not?  People can tell if you’re trying to be phony, and it will degrade their trust in you.
  • Steer clear of confrontation, and respond calmly when needed.  If someone has posted an idea that you strongly disagree with, avoid a back-and-forth argument.  Social media should be light and fun.  If someone has directly criticized you or your business, do not delete or ignore the criticism.  It appears like you are running away or trying to hide something.  Rather, offer a calm response that helps put out the fire.  
  • Don’t worry about “trying too hard.  Put forth the effort to check your spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization.  It conveys respect and professionalism.  To not do so looks like you are a busy person with no time for others, and that is not cool.  Furthermore, it’s easier for people to read text that adheres to the rules they learned.
  • Engage, but don’t hover.  Acknowledge comments, congratulate others on successes, and occasionally post information.  Don’t overwhelm your audience with a constant barrage of posts and invitations.  Your audience has a life too, and they need time to absorb the information and respond, if they desire.
  • Make it personal.  When sending a connection request, include a personal message for the recipient explaining who you are and why you would like to make the connection.  This avoids putting the other person in an awkward position of having to guess or remember who you are, and it shows them that you value the connection request.
  • Don’t be too “salesy.  Yes, you are trying to inform others of your business, but the point of social media is not to push a product onto someone.  The point is to build relationships.  Consider following the 80/20 rule shared by Travis Balinas with Outbound Engine: entertain and inform 80{a2396c2253210e4fe96a9350db4998fead2ccefaff88800abc5f9217fb562a1a} of the time, and share your services/products 20{a2396c2253210e4fe96a9350db4998fead2ccefaff88800abc5f9217fb562a1a} of the time.
  • Seek permission.  Is there a photo you want to share, and does it contain other people?  Is there a success story or case example you want to share, and does it contain other people?  In either case, be sure to seek permission from the people involved.  People will only respect you insofar as you respect them.