Social Media Etiquette Can Change – and Fast!

Social media woman

People know the importance of social media. There are still some hold outs, but by and large people are on social platforms and interacting with others. Social platforms, like all social communities, have their own social norms and etiquette. And like everything else in life, things keep changing, so let’s begin by reviewing some of the norms.

Some key principles of social media etiquette include:

  1. Be respectful: Always be respectful to others on social media, even if you disagree with their opinions. Avoid engaging in online bullying, shaming, or harassment. (Yeah, that sounds good, but you and I both know a lot of people fail miserably at this. However, most of us abide by this, not only on social media, but in all areas of life.)
  2. Be professional: Keep it mostly professional if you’re building and maintaining a brand. Some say to avoid posting controversial or personal content, but this depends on your brand. For some, being personal is exactly what is called for, while for others a little goes a long way. I think the best rule to follow is to define what your “personal/public self” will and will not share. Sharing something personal is one thing. It can help others to relate to you. However, sharing your deepest, darkest secrets is something else again, and that really should be left for your best friend or therapist. You want to find a balance between the two and figuring out what personal information is OK to go public with is in your best interest.
  3. Think twice before posting: Before you post something, take a moment to consider whether it’s appropriate and how it might be received by others. Double check your emotions too. Anger, frustration, and other passionate, negative emotional rants may not work in your favor. If in doubt, wait.
  4. Be transparent: If you’re sharing content that you didn’t create, make sure to give credit to the original source and avoid plagiarizing or stealing others’ work. (This you no doubt know, but it’s good to include it in a list of norms. Now we need to be sure AI doesn’t plagiarize.)
  5. Stay engaged: Social media is a two-way conversation, so make sure to engage with your audience and respond to comments and messages in a timely manner. This can help you build stronger relationships with your followers and create a more engaged and active community. When you don’t respond to others who speak to you directly on social media, it’s similar to talking to someone in person and not only do they not look at you, they don’t even acknowledge you. The exception is if the direct comments are insulting, mean, or abusive. Then you definitely should ignore or even delete unless you want to get into some battle that is next to impossible to win.

No big surprises on that list. Much of that information you have probably heard before, but sometimes etiquette norms change, and that can be quite fascinating.

Take Twitter, for example. Years ago, Twitter started a verification check mark with the purpose of verifying that persons were who they said they were, i.e., celebrities, authors, journalists, etc. It was a great idea, and it worked for a long time, and then it didn’t work anymore. Here’s what happened.

Not long ago Twitter began charging $8 a month to have a verified account, but that didn’t mean verified in that they were checking to be sure the person is who they say they are. That check mark now simply means you’re paying $8 bucks a month to have a checkmark by your name on your account.

Those who had been verified before and refused to pay the monthly fee had their check marks removed. And those who pay for those check marks are not being verified. Therefore, paying and having that check mark could actually work against you, as Madison Malone Kircher of The New York Times said recently, “The new check marks have instead become an inversion of the old. If I see you have one, I immediately don’t care what you have to say.”

In other words, journalists used those verification checkmarks to feel confident that sources they wanted to talk to were who they said they were. Because it now means you pay for your account, she doesn’t trust it, or anyone who has those checkmarks, and she is not alone.

As an author and business person, you don’t want media immediately dismissing your expertise because you have a check mark next to your name on Twitter. See how tricky this can become?

But don’t worry. I will share any of these things that I learn about with you, so you don’t have to worry about trying to keep up on everything.

Here are some more social media etiquette no nos:

Sending game requests: It’s considered rude to send game requests to people on Facebook, especially if they’re not interested in playing. Some users get annoyed by the frequent requests. (I’ve noticed this has dropped quite a bit so maybe people are getting the message.)

Over-sharing food pictures: While food pictures can be interesting, it’s important to only share them when appropriate. Posting too many food pictures can seem obsessive and unappetizing. (Actually, most food pictures look terrible. There is a reason TV ads containing food are actually plastic replicas. They look tastier! For example, did you know ads in which they are pouring milk into a glass is not really milk? It’s actually white paint.

Oversharing baby pictures: I know. It’s hard not to, and while it’s natural to share pictures of your children, some users get annoyed by too many baby pictures. Make sure to pick and choose the best pictures to share.

Hijacking other people’s posts: I see this one a great deal. It’s considered rude to post self-promotional comments on other people’s posts or threads. You also want to be careful not to make someone else’s post about you rather than the person. Make sure to stay on topic and on-brand.

Posting political rants: Is it really necessary? It’s important to be mindful of your audience when sharing political views on social media. Posting too many political rants can turn people off and create conflict. If, however, your brand is all about politics and your friends are all doing the same thing, then have at it. Ultimately, it’s up to you what you share. These are simply ideas to keep in mind.

Being too salesy: We talk about this one a lot. While it’s okay to promote products or services on social media, it’s important to do so in a way that doesn’t come across as too salesy. Avoid using clickbait or being too pushy. There are elegant ways to talk about what you do and your books and products. Learn better communication skills, which will serve you greatly.

Here are some additional strange social media etiquette rules:

Posting too many gym selfies: While it’s great to share workouts and fitness progress, posting too many gym selfies can come across as narcissistic and annoying to some.

Using too many emojis: Emojis can add fun and personality to posts, but using too many of them can seem unprofessional and make it difficult for others to understand your message.

Posting spoilers: Whether it’s a TV show, movie, or book, it’s considered rude to post spoilers without warning. Make sure to give others a chance to see or read it first.

Overusing acronyms: While acronyms can be convenient, overusing them can make it difficult for others to understand your message. Avoid using too many or using ones that are not commonly known.

Using all caps: Using all caps can come across as shouting or aggressive online. Save it for emphasis when necessary, but avoid using it too often.

Bottom line

These are simply ideas and suggestions. You are free to do as you like on your social media channels. However, you might want to pick and choose and watch the frequency of the kinds of posts you make, and I would suggest staying away from the Twitter checkmarks. I’ll let you know any others I come across.

To your success!


P.S. The Media Training course sponsored by the Nonfiction Authors Association begins May 23, 2023. Look here, and check out all the benefits. I’d love to have you join me!




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