Social media etiquette tips


Proper online etiquette is critical for many reasons. Even your personal accounts can be visible to people you don’t know, and your posts and shares, once public, are on the record for a long time. Your social media presence should inspire pride, not regret, and what you share should stand out from the daily babble.

1. Don’t Mix Business and Pleasure

Some public figures get paid to post outrageous or inspiring things on their social media accounts, but mere mortals don’t have this privilege. If your job requires you to maintain a social media account with your name on it, don’t use it to talk about the people who frustrate you in your face-to-face life. Keep separate accounts for this type of engagement. If the handles of your personal and business accounts are similar, clearly indicate which account is which in the about section. To soften the blow of questionable content, attach a disclaimer, such as “All views expressed are my own,” to your personal Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Keep in mind that your professional concerns should always outweigh your personal ones.
If you only have one account that serves as both your professional account AND your personal one … Make the time to create another Facebook account for personal or professional use. For instance, if you’ve been tapped for a promotion at work, but haven’t been cleared to discuss it publicly, resist the urge to share the news on your personal social media accounts.

2. Use Caution Posting and Tagging Photos

You probably don’t appreciate it when your friends tag you in unflattering or candid photos, so why put them in the same position? If you’re posting a group photo, ask permission before tagging your friends, or post the photo with the caption “Tag yourself” to encourage others to take the initiative. Also, make sure your profile pictures, especially on business-focused social sites such as LinkedIn, are professional. Crisp, high-resolution head shots work best.
The rules change for your business page, where a logo or representative image might be appropriate. If professional concerns lead you to maintain an anonymous Facebook or Twitter page, feel free to be more creative with images. Just don’t anything truly offensive – it’s still possible to deduce the owner of an anonymous page.

3. Use the 4-1-1 Rule

Even if you understand you’re not the center of the universe, your social media presence could be singing a different tune. Before you post, tweet, or share anything, think about how others might interpret it – will it be perceived as insightful and informative, or crass and boring?
The 4-1-1 rule, which was developed for Twitter, but can be applied to other platforms, is a good template for engagement. The idea is that every time you post something that’s “all about you,” you share at least four pieces of content written by someone else.

4. Understand That Your Sense of Humor Isn’t Universal

Unless you’re sending a private message, your social media posts reach well beyond your friends and family members. This doesn’t mean you can’t use well-placed humor in your posts – just make sure it’s appropriate.

5. Don’t Be Reactive !!!

Celebrity Twitter wars are fun to watch, but avoid getting sucked into your own social media arguments. From behind a screen, a fight’s consequences seem less immediate, and many people are willing to go toe-to-toe online in ways they’d never dream of doing face-to-face. If you hash things out on social media, your words and actions can be saved and have consequences OFFLINE.
There are many ways to start a social media spat, from personally responding to a politically tinged Facebook post, to publicly calling someone out for wrongdoing. No matter how the fight starts, the results aren’t constructive. In addition to alienating your adversary and his or her associates, you could develop a reputation as a hot head.

6. Avoid Over-Sharing

Your social media feeds shouldn’t read like an inner monologue. Occasionally sharing what your cat’s up to or how awesome dinner was last night is fine. But over-sharing – as in posting your cereal choice every morning – is the quickest way to lose your friends and followers. Even if you don’t use your accounts for professional purposes, your social presence is a big part of your personal brand. You want your brand to be interesting, engaging, and representative of your best characteristics. You don’t want to dilute it with scads of irrelevant posts.

7. Build a Legacy for the Future

It’s standard for people to vet candidates’ social media activity before granting an interview or accepting an application, so be sure that your accounts don’t jeopardize your chances. (This likely applies to congregants at new or existing churches as well). Ramp up the privacy settings on your personal accounts so your posts aren’t visible to non-contacts BUT do not “count on” these privacy settings to save your bacon. Find and delete any disparaging comments you’ve made about previous employers or colleagues.

Think past the next status update – your social media presence contains years of information about you, and your exposure increases with the digitization of society. If you want to use social media to say and share what you please, consider creating semi-anonymous accounts under a pseudonym, such as nickname, misspelling, or inversion of your full name.

8. Don’t Misrepresent Yourself

Dishonesty can have serious personal and professional consequences, even on social media. It might feel easy to misrepresent yourself when you’re hiding behind a screen, but even a seemingly innocent embellishment on your LinkedIn profile, such as inventing a more impressive title at a previous job, could get you canned. Using social media to take credit for the achievements of your coworkers is also a no-no.

9. Don’t Sleep-Post (yes, it is a thing)

If you’re impaired in any way – lack of sleep, or jet lag -- you’re more likely to break the rules of social media etiquette. If you’d feel unsafe behind the wheel, wait to engage online until you’re in a better frame of mind. Similarly, if your first instinct after a hard day at work or a fight with your partner is to vent digitally, resist the temptation. RUN From Temptation! You’re liable to say something that could damage your personal or professional reputation.

10. Online Etiquette is the high-tech version of “old-school etiquette”

Social media has tremendous power, so it’s important to follow proper etiquette when you engage with other users. From avoiding extensive self-promotion, to maintaining a respectful sense of humor, most best practices are simply a high-tech version of old-school etiquette. But the social media world moves far faster than the offline world, so it’s critical to think about the effects your words, pictures, and videos have before sharing them with hundreds or thousands of your peers.