Why Social Media Etiquette Is So Important

February 2, 2014 | By | 2 Comments

Etiquette has always been an important aspect of communication. Behaving in a befitting manner towards social convention ensures acceptance and reciprocity. Who wouldn’t want to fit in when groups of people, or the entire internet for that matter, are looking at you with glaring, judgemental eyes?

It’s evident that there is a distinct lack of etiquette that many people possess when participating on social networking sites. On sites like Twitter and Facebook, do past forms of social etiquette get thrown out the window? Has the young generation created a whole new system of etiquette that everyone is expected to conform to? Or do most people not even know what is classified as “proper” social etiquette to begin with?

Let’s discuss some typical acts of social media etiquette and why they are important. In no particular order…

1.      Don’t talk about yourself

Social media is about being social. Repeatedly broadcasting self-promotional messages will label you as a spammer. Not only that, why would people take the time to engage with these types of messages?

2.      Don’t spam

Spam can take many forms, but typically means that you are posting similar or identical content in many places. It indicates that a lack of time and effort has been placed on the post and “quick-wins” are trying to be achieved. That, or outright cheating – as with the case of comment spam or automated content spinners.

3.      Give to receive…

The average social media user is becoming more and more savvy to advertising messages. It is polite to give before receiving. This shows that you care about the social relationship and are willing to take the time to show it.

4.      …But don’t demand reciprocation

Just because you shared someone’s post, it doesn’t mean that they have to share yours. Taking this attitude is unhealthy and will lead to “blind sharing” in order to try and increase the social actions on your own content. Be thankful if they feel your content is of value to their audiences.

5.      Humanise your accounts

Don’t be a faceless robot that just share’s links all the time. Be honest with yourself and throw in a few personal opinions or quirky posts now and again. People want to get to know the real person behind the messages.

 6.      Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say face-to-face

Some people think that having a presence in social media is like having a new identity. They try taking on a different attitude and set of principles. Sometimes it could mean saying things and hiding behind their monitors. Try to be yourself and express your real personality. People will be thankful for it.

7.      Give credit where credit is due

Saying thank you is polite. Everyone likes to receive shout outs in public domains where actions are transparent. If you use secondary sources, be sure to give credit or provide a link to the original source. Not doing so can land you in trouble from copyright infringement.

8.      Be responsive

It goes without saying that if someone takes the time to comment or share your post across their social networks, you should say thank you. Similarly, if someone asks you a question, then remember to respond. There are settings on most social media platforms that allow you to receive email notifications when an action is taken towards your account.

9.      Be timely

I frequently ask companies questions via my social media accounts before making purchases. Those brands who do not respond in a timely fashion, don’t get my money. It can sometimes be as simple as being responsive to turn a passive user into a long-lasting customer.

10.  No sales pitches

Please, please, no sales pitch! Unless asked directly about a product benefit, don’t keep telling people about it. Social media is not the appropriate channel to shamelessly plug your new product update. Informing is one thing but coming across as a salesman is different.

As you can see, etiquette is paramount to social media effectiveness. Acting and participating in the right way is a crucial step in social marketing. It can sometimes be easy to spot those who have just started on a particular social network – the most common sign is that they only talk about their new website that just launched. Be creative and engage with people. But engage in a way that is real, helpful and useful.

Here are some social network-specific do’s and don’t's that you may find helpful:


The core marketing activities on Facebook are based in groups and pages. Remember, your status updates will be posted to the personal news streams of everyone who you are connected with, so there are important considerations to take into account to ensure you don’t break the business to consumer etiquette barriers.


  • Don’t post meaningless calls to action
  • Don’t over-share other people’s posts – share your own content mostly
  • Don’t post too frequently – once or twice a day is fine
  • Do maintain a high quality content standard
  • Do have a fully complete and up-to-date account
  • Do tag someone if you share their content



Unlike nearly all other popular social networking sites, marketing practices on LinkedIn can be undertaken with a much more direct and professional stance. Users participate on LinkedIn solely for networking and business purposes, so etiquette differs more on this platform than any other.

  • Don’t hide behind company logo’s on personal profiles – those are for LinkedIn pages
  • Don’t use the default messages
  • Don’t send non-personalized, bulk messages out to your contacts
  • Do only endorse or recommend people you know or have worked with
  • Do use professional behavior and professional talk
  • Do maintain a transparent public profile



 Although Twitter is a micro-blogging site that allows users to share 140 character messages, the messages should still abide by social etiquette. The general consensus is that Twitter posts should be short, sharp, to-the-point and include a call to action for people to find out more. Adding hashtags to messages turns limited scope-posts into huge potential visibility.

  • Don’t send automated direct messages (or DMs) – they are just ignored.
  • Don’t neglect intellectual property (add the RT or @TwitterHandle to tweets)
  • Don’t auto-share just messages with links
  • Do follow-back if the user is appropriate and relevant
  • Do add hashtags to your tweets so people can find related content
  • Do stay polite and thank people for sharing your content


Google Plus

Google+ Circles and Hangouts are the distinct features that separate Google+ from other social networks. Both of these functions have specific etiquette you should take note of. For instance, you shouldn’t auto-follow irrelevant Shared Circles just in the hope you get some follow-backs. Those that follow you back will just add noise to your home stream and be sharing content that has no connection to you or your followers.

  • Don’t spam people or communities with identical content
  • Don’t mass circle and mass unfollow people – Google doesn’t like it
  • Don’t hijack threads and change topics to suit you – stay on point with the original post
  • Do share other’s posts and +1 and comment on it, if it interests you
  • Do mention people by name in your posts (+them)
  • Do include hashtags to broaden the scope and visibility of your content

 There is quite a lot of things to remember when engaging in social networks. That’s why social campaigns should be planned meticulously. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all it takes is to send a few tweets out to promote your product. You may end up doing more harm than good.

Have you had any experiences with getting social media etiquette wrong? What do you think is the most important etiquette factor to consider when starting out in social media marketing?

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Category: Social Media

Stuart Davidson

Stuart Davidson()

Stuart is a freelance social and digital marketer from London, UK.
Stuart blogs at StuartJDavidson.com, where he
shares his marketing experiences working with over 50 businesses.
You can catch his free eBook
“How to Win in Social Media”
from his blog or
freelance website.

Share and Enjoy

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