Everything I need to know about social media etiquette I learned from…real life!

With the wide adoption of social media over the last couple of years, the conversation has evolved away from “Why use social media?” to “How do you use social media?”.  A simple Google search for “social media etiquette” brings up 1,580,000 results. But do we really need all of those articles to tell us how to behave online?

Sites like LinkedIn have shifted us away from anonymous internet usage to an age of personal branding and online identity ownership. So, if our online profiles are to be taken as extensions of ourselves or at least representations of our best self, shouldn’t our actions online just be a reflection of what we are like offline?

If social media is just a new tool to achieve the same end goal – to communicate – shouldn’t the same rules for communicating in person or over the telephone apply?

If LinkedIn was a real-life networking event, how would you react if you saw these behaviours?

  • A person walks in and starts handing out his business cards without having spoken to anyone – This is what it looks like when you send out LinkedIn invitations to connect without personalising the message or introducing yourself.
  • People exchange business cards but don’t speak to each other at all during the entire event – If all you do is connect with people but do not follow-up, you’re just building a collection of names. Without any past interactions, the likelihood of people being receptive to anything you have to offer in the future is pretty low.
  • There is a group of people talking to each other. Among them stands someone who doesn’t speak or react but insists on standing within the group – If you’re not contributing to the discussions happening around you, you’re not adding value to the community. Which begs the question, why should people connect with you in the first place? No one will think of “the guy who just stood there” when a job or an opportunity comes up and they need someone to fill it.
  • A recruiter talks to everyone in the room but all she’s got to say is what jobs she has open – The scatter gun approach to advertising your jobs rarely work. If you’re speaking to a room of professionals with mixed skill sets, is it really appropriate to tell all of them about the 10 IT jobs you are recruiting for?
  • The guy who can only talk about a position he worked in 5 years ago – Update your LinkedIn profile. When all people have to go on is your profile, give them as much information as you can so that they have an idea of why you are worth their time. Outdated information is not appealing to anyone.
  • A woman gives a pat on the back to each person who starts a discussion or makes a comment – Likes are powerful social signals. They denote positive feedback and act as an endorsement for an article or status update.  They are snippets of online connection that hopefully add up and facilitate real conversations. However, over-usage lead will lead to fatigue and will eventually diminish the value of your “Like” within your network.

Most interactions online are analogous to situations we encounter offline. This begs the question; do we really need a whole new set of rules on how to behave on social networks? Let me know what you think in the comments.

About Maebellyne Ventura

Maebellyne Ventura is a digital marketing professional writing about social media practices. She is also a founder of the online start-up Clever Biscuit. Follow her on Twitter @Maebellyne

7 Responses to Everything I need to know about social media etiquette I learned from…real life!

  1. Matthew April 23, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    So funny how all of this is “common sense” and yet so many people struggle to do these things, which necessitated you to write this post in the first place… :)

    • Maebellyne Ventura April 23, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

      The irony is…off the back of this post, I’ve had a few more LinkedIn requests than normal. And 50% of the invitations I got had the stock LinkedIn invitation to connect!

    • Etienne Besson April 23, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

      According to Google (search, not Inc.) it was Voltaire who said that common sense wasn’t so common ;-)
      I believe that some people are idiots or worse. But most are probably just clueless and/or lazy ;-)

  2. Etienne Besson April 23, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Hi Maebellyne

    I mostly agree with what you wrote and totally love this article.

    Since we don’t have any physical proximity online, I believe that a more “vague” behavior than in face-to-face situations is okay. Say I visit a LinkedIn group only 2-3 times per year, I think it’s still okay to “like” one or two discussions or comments. At an event where nobody knows me it would however be weird if I came in, tapped somebody on the shoulder and walked away ;-)

    But you’re right that we don’t need any special rules for online behavior. There’s already the Golden Rule or Bill Boorman’s “social media policy”: Be a grown up!

    • Maebellyne Ventura April 23, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

      Hi Etienne,

      Thanks for reading! Definitely agree with Bill’s rule. My other favourite SM policy is, “Don’t be stupid!”.


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