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Basics of Social Media Etiquette

Blake Fehl
in social media

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Don't be a Ralph.

People often forget that social media is still very much in its infancy. Ten years ago if you asked an average person on the street if they used social media, you would’ve been greeted by blank stares. It isn’t so surprising that many people don’t understand etiquette on their favorite social networks. Just like in normal conversation, there are right and wrongs. Most people know that it isn’t okay to just shout during polite conversation or to invade the space of others. If you want a healthy online social life, there are many things to understand along the way.

1. Don’t Overshare

Everyone has oversharers on their Twitter and Facebook feeds (or you might be one yourself). These people have gone from forwarding joke emails, and instead brought their game to the much more expansive world of social networks. Not limited anymore to their weak email list, they are now bombarding you with pictures of famous politicians with questionable quotes through your feed, pictures of adorable cats with improper grammar, and “share this if you want to live forever!!1!!1″.

How do you figure out if you are oversharing? Judge by the responses you get. Are you getting lots of interaction on your posts? Good social media can be judged on the interaction it creates. Things like likes, comments, replies, and retweets can be a great indicator that what you are posting is being enjoyed. Did you post 15 things today and garner only 2 likes? Then you probably overshared.

It might seem nitpicky, aren’t social networks there to share new things? Yes, but if you alienate your audience, there is no rhyme or reason to the sharing. I’ve blocked dozens of people off my feed for posting numerous things that are uninteresting, childish, etc. I’d imagine a lot of these people don’t show up on most of their friends feeds for the same reason.

Remember, everything is better in moderation.

2. Be Mindful of Your Audience

While over at my parents house for Father’s Day, I sat on their couch and killed a bit of time on Facebook before we went out to dinner.  After a few minutes, I had scrolled down my newsfeed to a picture someone had shared of a dog that had been brutally dragged behind a car. The post went on to question who would do this to an animal, and decry animal abuse. I should make it abundantly clear that I love animals, and think animal abuse is horrible. This picture did nothing to change my stance on it, other than made it harder to enjoy my dinner.

Be mindful that most people are on social networks to kick back and relax, and this is by no means a reason for why you shouldn’t use it as a platform for your views. However, remember things like this are not going to help your viewpoint. Instead of posting a picture to her feed, this girl would have been better served by linking to the picture, and warning people of its graphic content.  She obviously had no ill intentions with the post, as a matter of fact she was disgusted enough that she felt others should sympathize with her on this matter.  With a little thought, she could’ve taken the same stance, and not offended with a graphic image.

It’s the same reason why you don’t curse in front of a clergy member in public, why you wouldn’t take your shirt off in a department store, or why you wouldn’t sing loudly during a movie. It is polite to be aware of others around you, and that everyone might not be okay with the same things you are.

3.  Lern 2 Rite Gud

No one is saying you have to be grammatically perfect, but it’s hard to read a post of any type that substitutes “u” for “you” and “ur” for “your”. It may be a generation gap, and something that makes me come off as a bit pedantic, but I tend to trust people who have stronger writing skills. There are plenty of people who will dismiss your intelligence if you can’t form a coherent sentence. You don’t need the writing skills of F. Scott Fitzgerald to appear competent on social media, but you do have to make sense. Mistakes will happen, but if they occur at an alarming frequency, expect people to tune you out.

4. Listen Up!

Have you ever had a friend who monopolizes conversations? It’s just as annoying across social networks. If you are constantly sharing, but never lend your insights to other peoples posts and tweets you’ll see a drop off in activity across your social platforms. Let’s face it, it’s called a social platform for a reason, and if there is no social interaction going on, then you’ve failed at your job.

Set aside a bit of time each day, and find a new person to interact with. It doesn’t have to be deep, it can be casual and a bit goofy if you like, as long as it creates a memorable moment. Going out and interacting with new people will expand your network, and will also help how people view you.

5. Create Your Own Content

One of the quickest ways to elicit an unfollow from me is simply never adding anything worthwhile to the conversation. Sure, I’m sure those photos you are sharing constantly on Facebook are a big hit in your household, and I know that the constant retweets of social media infographics are meant to be informing, but don’t you have anything funny, interesting, and helpful that are your own thoughts?

It’s great to share content, but there is a point where it becomes clear you lack a voice. Find new ways to add content that other people can share. It can be as simple as writing an opinionated blog post like this one. Once you are done, start pushing it across your network and see if it creates discussion. If it doesn’t, consider yourself a failure and never try again. Well, okay, maybe don’t do that. You should probably keep on putting yourself out there, and eventually something will resonate.


I’m sure there are many things I’m still many pieces of etiquette that I’m still missing, but some form of OCD only lets me post lists in multiples of 5. So, since I didn’t feel like writing 10, you’ll have to deal with this list. Tell me what I’m missing in the comments below.

  • http://twitter.com/judsonfsnell judson f. snell

    Now if only you can get people to FOLLOW these rules, the social mediaverse will be a much more peaceful place.