Social Media Etiquette: An Overview

There are so many social behaviors that can easily be associated with the phrase ‘good etiquette’: arriving on time, writing thank you notes, and men opening doors for women (ok, that last one might be a lost art, but you get the idea).

What you probably haven’t given as much thought to is the idea of Social Media Etiquette. As online conversation and interactions are becoming more & more integrated in everyday life, it is important to think about the impact our actions online can have.

Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette professional, said it best when she wrote:

“Facebook is great tool for connecting to people, finding old friends and strengthening ties with new ones. Twitter and other online forums are also a useful way to stay in touch. However, just as with any social interaction, there are etiquette rules to help make social media a smooth and pleasant experience for yourself and others.

As a member of a team of social media experts, we have developed an array of best practices that our clients can utilize to enhance their brand. However, on the path to developing these best practices, we often come across worst practices. So, throughout this blog series, I will be discussing a number of real examples of, “some good, but mostly bad” posts from an etiquette perspective. We will critique them based on Diane’s 15 Tips for Social Media Etiquette:

  1. Remember, your posts aren’t just a chat between you and a few friends.You’re posting information and photos on a very public forum. Don’t put anything up that you wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing on the front page of the newspaper or on a billboard.
  2. Do your Facebook friends include a mix of family, acquaintances, business contacts, and buddies? That’s called “mixed company” and it calls for posts that are suitable for all of them. Posting comments or links that you would be embarrassed for your mother to read is a red flag.
  3. Don’t post anything on your Facebook page you wouldn’t want a future employer to see. Never assume the person that is interviewing you for that coveted job isn’t going to check out your social media pages. Recruiters and interviewers are interested in how you will represent their company “off the job” as well as during business hours.
  4. Request friends properly. If you have recently met or are not thoroughly familiar with a person you are friend requesting, write a quick message reminding the person who you are and how you know each other. Mention mutual friends or something that will make the person comfortable giving you access to their personal life.
  5. Don’t continue to attempt to “friend” someone that is ignoring you. And, certainly, don’t pick up the phone and call them to inquire why they have not responded.
  6. Thinking about “friending” your boss or clients? If your primary use of Facebook is to stay in touch with friends, think twice before “friending” those who may not appreciate the witticisms you post – especially when you’re on the clock or working on a project for them.
  7. Be prepared. If someone is bold enough to ask why you haven’t accepted their friend request, simply say “I just use Facebook occasionally for staying in touch with a few friends. It’s not a reliable way to communicate with me.”
  8. Facebook and Twitter are not synonymous with “Throw away all grammar and spelling rules.” Yes, with Twitter you must rely on only 140 characters and abbreviations are sometimes understandable, but outright misspellings, incorrect grammar, and slang are not.
  9. Don’t call in sick and post pictures on Facebook of your “sick day” at the races. You may be using your winnings while you look for another job.
  10. Don’t break up with your girlfriend or boyfriend over Facebook (or Twitter, text, voicemail, or email). Technology makes communication easy, but common courtesy still prevails when discussing any type of emotional or serious matter.
  11. Drop friends considerately. Facebook allows you to “unfriend” someone easily and discreetly with the click of a button. When you “unfriend” someone, each of you simply disappear from each other’s friend list with no fanfare or announcements. If you have friends who update their status 15 times a day with all the minutiae of their daily lives and you just don’t have time to sift through their postings, you can also hide the person’s status reports. This will eliminate the friend’s postings from your page and they won’t be aware of it.
  12. Don’t spam your friends with farms, mafia hits, and any other type of poke or game.
  13. Post photos with caution. Be sure you know everyone on your friend list before posting personal pictures of yourself and your kids. In terms of personal photos, how many photos do you really need to post of yourself?  Especially when you are the one taking the picture with an outstretched arm at a cosmetic counter, grocery store, car dealership, or beauty shop? Above all, please, no posting shots of yourself in a bikini or Speedo.
  14. Don’t post when you’re angry. Read your post before hitting send. Does it make sense? Are you ranting about something that will not matter in a few hours? Have you singled out or offended another person? Think carefully before posting something that you may later regret.
  15. Post wisely, post well. Your comments and links reflect who you are and what you value. Does everyone really need to know the details of your morning workout, that you just got your nails done or that you stopped at Starbucks?

This is just the start of a growing list, as I expect to add several more of my own as I continue my research. In the meantime, what rules do you think Diane and I are missing?


Gerrilyn Koontz became a full time content manager for Make Me Social after graduating from The Pennsylvania State University in 2009. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, she is happy to be back in the South living in Anderson, South Carolina with her husband Erick and their cat Reid.


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One response to “Social Media Etiquette: An Overview

  1. Pingback: Social Media Etiquette: What’s Better than Elevator Music? Elevator Gossip! | Make Me Social Blog

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