Dec 20, 2008

The Ultimate Social Media Etiquette Handbook

Posted by Tamar Weinberg on Techipedia

Social media mimics real relationships — in many cases. Would you do the following within real face-to-face relationships?

Jump on the friendship bandwagon without properly introducing yourself?

Consistently talk about yourself and promote only yourself without regard for those around you?

Randomly approach a friend you barely talk to and simply ask for favors — repeatedly?

Introduce yourself to another person as “Pink House Gardening?”

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may need a refresher course on social media etiquette — and perhaps real-life etiquette also. Here are some egregious sins that you must not perform on social media sites. Avoid these violations and learn how to manage and maintain online relationships on a variety of popular social media sites.

Adding users as friends without proper introductions. If you’re looking to make friends, tell people who you are. Don’t assume they know you — especially if they, well, don’t.

Abuse application invites and consistently invite friends to participate in vampire games. Many call this spam.

Abusing group invites. If your friends are interested, they’ll likely join without your “encouragement.”

And if they don’t accept, don’t send the group request more than once by asking them to join via email, wall post, or Facebook message.

Turning your Facebook profile photo into a pitch so that you can gather leads through your Facebook connections. Thanks, but no thanks. Facebook is about real friendships and not about business — at least not to me.

Using a fake name as your Facebook name. I can’t tell you how many people have added me and their last name is “Com” or “Seo.” I’m not adding you unless you can be honest about who you are.

Once upon a time, Facebook deleted all of the accounts that portrayed people as business entities or things. I wish Facebook would employ the same tactics yet again, because I’m not adding a fake identity as a friend.

Publicizing a private conversation on a wall post. In case it isn’t obvious, Facebook wall posts are completely public to all your friends (unless you tweak your privacy settings). Private matters should be handled privately: via email or even in Facebook private messages.

Tagging individuals in unflattering pictures that may end up costing your friends their jobs. Avoid the unnecessary commentary also, especially on your childhood pictures that portray your tagged friends as chubby and not so popular. Further, if your friends request to be untagged, don’t make a stink of it.

The image above was taken last night and represents the number of pending requests I have on Facebook. If you’re one of the pending friends, you may have violated one of the above rules. Otherwise, see this post.

That said, there’s one other rule that some individuals follow. I know this isn’t the case for all individuals, so your mileage may vary:

Forgetting that some individuals won’t network with you on a “personal” space like Facebook without knowing who you are, even with the proper introduction. If you’re looking to establish a professional relationship with someone, consider LinkedIn. Otherwise, consider building up a rapport with an individual before randomly adding them as your friend. Some people require face-to-face meetings before they invite you into their private lives.

After all, Facebook was a tool that college students were using before it was open to the public, and some still use it as a purely personal and not a professional tool. LinkedIn is still seen as the more professional of the two.

Considering the above example, I pose a question on Facebook etiquette: Is it appropriate to let these requests sit in pending mode or to reject the friends outright? In many instances, these requests are probably better off sitting indefinitely (and it’s healthier than the rejection). Plus, in the future, you may want to end up responding to that friend request positively.

Following a user and then unfollowing them before they have a chance to follow back. Or unfollowing them as soon as they follow you.

Mass-following everyone so that you can artificially inflate your numbers. Then, you use that number as a success metric for influence. And maybe then you submit a press release about it.

Consistently using your Twitter stream for nothing but self-promotion and ego. Profy highlights this phenomenon quite well.

Requesting that your friends Retweet your Tweets on a consistent basis. This is much more bothersome when the request comes via IM or email and not on Twitter itself.

The bottom line: If your content is good enough to stand on its own, it will be Retweeted. There is no reason to make a personal request. (And if it doesn’t stand on its own, it usually doesn’t need to be retweeted.)

Not humanizing your profile. Twitter is also about real relationships. Add an avatar and a bio at the minimum. Let people know who you are. To take it a step further, make it easy for people to contact you outside Twitter if necessary. This is especially important if someone on Twitter needs to reach you but can’t direct message you since you’re not following them! If they’re making the effort, it’s probably because they really want to talk to you. (Was it something you said? Usually.)

Streaming only your blog’s RSS feed on Twitter. (If you’re following anyone like this, feel free to take my advice and unfollow them right now. They won’t engage with you, so why engage with their narcissistic self-promotion?)

Using Twitter to repeat personal and confidential correspondence. If you’re not happy with the way an email communication progressed about a private matter, take it up with the person who you were emailing to square things away. Certainly, don’t broadcast your dissatisfaction with the turnout to your entire Twitter audience. It looks unprofessional for you and makes you appear untrustworthy.

Leverage your Twitter connections to send spam via direct messages to those who follow you. Two days later, you may wonder why they don’t follow you anymore.

Abusing Twitter hashtags during a crisis. It’s a shame that Mumbai happened, but this was not the opportunity to capitalize on your CRM software.

Using your Twitter feed as a chat room for conversations that are exclusive in nature and not as a broadcast medium. It’s nice that Twitter empowers you to use the @ symbol to talk directly to individuals, and that’s fine in moderation. As a friend recently said to me, “I’m tired of my Twitter feed being a [private] conversation between person X, person Y, and person Z.” Why don’t the three of you get a room?

[Update: Since this particular tidbit had some follow-up discussion, I summarize this point from @cheapsuits: "The tweeps that talk everyday to each other about banalities gets old." The emphasis here is on "chat rooms" that exclude other individuals in conversations that do not provide value. At all. Ever. I think we all would agree about that point! I also added some new points in italics to clarify.]

Gathering all the email addresses of users you are connected to — even locating email addresses of
LinkedIn Group managers — and utilizing this mailing list to promote your own company or service off-site.

In a specific case, I manage a few LinkedIn groups so my email address is far more visible on the site than I’d like. I’m not connected to the LinkedIn individual who spammed me, but he still took the liberty to use my email address for his personal gain in a completely unsolicited fashion. Perhaps this individual lost sight that LinkedIn is a professional network and not a spam faciliator. Even so, recipients should still be required to opt in.

Asking for endorsements from individuals you don’t know or that didn’t do a good job in your employ.

Writing a recommendation for someone and then firing them just a few days later.

Social News (Digg, Sphinn, Mixx, Reddit, Tip’d, and a whole load of related sites)
Submitting only your own articles and posts to social media sites.

Consistently “taking” (asking for votes) but never giving back. Social news is about reciprocal relationships. Even if the people you are asking votes of will never actually ask you for votes, a random IM that pops up that says “Digg this for me” is far more obtrusive than saying “hey, how’s it going?” and having a real conversation first.

Shouting the same story repeatedly to your friends. Can we say spam? (And if you are still being shouted at repeatedly, why haven’t you unfriended the offenders?)

Submitting a story to a social news site that is completely off-topic. It’s important to understand the communities you contribute to and to understand the rules of the sites that you target. Your story about celebrity cell phones simply does not belong on financial social news site Tipd, no matter how you try to spin it. And when I, as a moderator, tell you that that the submission is not appropriate for the audience especially as it has no relevancy to the subject matter of the site, don’t argue with the decision.

Using the comments field to drop links, especially to related submissions that were made after the fact.

On social sites where buries are public (though professional in nature), assume that it’s personal. In a recent instance, a “bury” on a popular social site upset the submitter so much that he resorted to an unprofessional attack on the person who buried the story by blogging about her. Sadly enough, the bury reason (which was public for all to see) was not at all about the writer of the post but was about the content itself.

In social media and in relationships in general, you should be disagreeing with the statement. That means that you shouldn’t be assuming they’re talking about you as the person who made the statement and that the statement is a reflection of a character flaw. They didn’t like what you said and disagreed. Grow from it. Don’t turn it into something personal when it clearly isn’t.

Using the service completely for self-promotion. If you’re going to claim your social media profile on that totally awesome service, either don’t share your feeds at all or interact on a semi-consistent basis. Please? FriendFeed is a service but it’s also a community.

Cross-post on all social sites using a site like I don’t need to see the same message from you on Twitter, FriendFeed, your Google Talk status, your Facebook feed, and on your dog’s scrolling LED collar. Keep the spam broadcasts to a minimum. It’s obvious on FriendFeed when this facility is abused.

Asking someone repeatedly to watch your crummy video, subscribe to your channel, and give you a 5-star rating.

Force people to subscribe to your YouTube channel by applying an iFrame exploit.

Sending more than one story to your network daily. The key to success is moderation. Excess converts to spam.

Submitting and reviewing only your own articles. Do you self-promote this often in real life?

Submitting a story from another social news site to StumbleUpon for more visibility and eyeballs. Once upon a time, I stumbled upon a Digg submission of a Sphinn submission of a blog post. Seriously? Why don’t you just submit the blog post directly instead of using the other sites as conduits? (This infraction goes for all social sites that accept submissions, and not just StumbleUpon.)

Blogging and Commenting
Commenting on other articles and using the name “Yellow Brick Plumbing.” Isn’t your name actually Alan? There’s no SEO value to these comments (they’re nofollowed by default), and all this approach does is makes you lose credibility in the eyes of the blogger. This isn’t the way to network!

Using content from another blog without attribution. Sometimes a specific blog will get an exclusive. Then, another blog will write on the story using the original blog post as its “source” without attribution. Even popular blogs will rip off stories from lesser known blogs in their space. Don’t let greed get in the way of your own blogging habits and make sure to link out where appropriate.

Sending a pitch to a blogger requesting a link exchange even though your site has no relevancy at all to their content. I write about social media, people, not about beer bongs. And well, they say that social media is the new link exchange, so instead of asking for an old-fashioned link (which might have worked in 2002), consider using a more viable strategy for this modern time period.

Turning a blog into a flame war against someone you don’t like. Scott Hendison recounts how forum spam not only turned into a bitter heated battle that may end up going to the courts but how the individual responsible for the abuse is not slowing down. If you’re wrong, acknowledge the wrongdoing and don’t use other blogs to tarnish someone else’s image.

Other Social Sites
Join a new social network and then invite everyone you’ve ever emailed in your lifetime to the service by submitting your entire Gmail address book when the service requests it. Reading the fine print is a wonderful — and you should never volunteer your email account’s password to the social site anyway. (It’s also helpful to keep in mind that your email account password should not be the same as your social profiles, and that’s not a question of etiquette — it’s common sense!)

Finally, a word on social media etiquette in general:
You’re leaving your digital signature on the Internet right now. Think about the consequences of your engagement on any social site. Racial slurs, criticisms without warrant, and blatant abuse doesn’t work in real life, and they really have no place in the social media channels simply because you are far more anonymous on these sites.

If you were living in New York and you walked up to a stranger with the same foul-mouthed comments that are rampant on many social media sites, you may never make it home. Consider how your comments would be perceived before you actually post them, and think about logic above emotion at all times.

Above all, think about maintaining a certain level of professionalism, since people can use whatever you make “permanent” on these sites against you. Not all blogs will remove a comment after you’ve requested that they do so simply because you were angry when you wrote the comment. Before you hit “post,” realize that this will be a permanent reflection of your identity and that it may never be erased. It may even be used against you.

Remember that social media communities are real relationships, real conversations, and as such, they should be treated like they are real. It’s not about a me, myself, and I mentality. It’s about the collective, the community, and the common good.
Do you find that there are other social media violations that are committed on any of the above social sites — or perhaps on sites that I haven’t yet shared? If so, please share these infractions in the comments.

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