20 tips for social media etiquette

20 tips for improving your social media etiquette

Nikki Parkinson Life 71 Comments

One of my journo-former-life jobs was to edit the Letters to the Editor pages.

It was not a job that I looked forward to each day. At all.

Mostly that was because of the largely negative nature of the letters received and I was quite aware that if I stuffed up and let something go through that was defamatory that I would be on the receiving end of an almighty rant.

… as I was one morning. It was a particularly large and loud rant (I had slipped up but I don’t agree with being shouted at – at work or at home), after which I skulked back to my desk and vowed and declared to myself that I would work towards being removed from this daily task.

My point is that in the “olden” days, the letter pages of a newspaper were the only avenue  through which people could vent their views on news of the day. When they did so, this actually involved putting pen to paper. The best letter writers spent time crafting their thoughts into reasoned prose. The worst? Typically they were written quite forcefully with viewpoints rammed home by a page full of block capital and exclamation marks.

Either way, quite a lot of thought and effort went into the process of “expressing” a viewpoint. And we only ever published an anonymous letter under special circumstances. Even in those circumstances we had the contact name and number of the letter writer so knew they were real people. If we suspected they were fake details, we’d phone and check. If found to be fake, the letters would be binned.

Nowadays, it’s all too easy to jump on to an online news site, a blog, Twitter, Facebook and spew forth a rant.

Without stopping to think. Without editing yourself. Without even having the guts to put a real name and email address to the rant.

I truly believe you should stop and edit yourself. The Internet is forever. Will you be happy in a year’s time when a potential employer is the same one you had a rant over today?

Last week Chantelle at Fat Mum Slim wrote this post about online manners and this week the beautiful Kelly Exeter created this manifesto. Head on over to Kelly’s blog, download it and share it. I particularly like the bit about the Queen.

In the comments section it was suggested that it would be good for this to pop up whenever anyone was about to comment on a blog post. I love that idea. If there is someone geeky enough to know how to make this happen, email me!

I want to use the manifesto as a base today and talk social media etiquette. Not because I think I’m the best person to discuss it but because it needs to be discussed.

I’m focussing on the four main networks I like to hang out on. You might have something to say about your experience on these networks and others. Please do.

20 tips for social media etiquette


  • DO share great content from other people’s pages. Sharing makes the social media world go round.
  • DO comment as your business page on other business pages but don’t take over that page with aggressive commenting as a way of trying to build up your own following on the back of someone else’s.
  • DON’T spam and link your business page on another business page without any connection to what might be being talked about on that page. (Facebook’s new timeline at least makes these less visible but I will still delete and ban if I see this.)
  • DON’T link the same post at the same time on both your personal and business profiles. If I’m your friend I’m going to see both links at the same time in the newsfeed. It just looks spammy.
  • DO stop and think before you make a derogatory comment on someone’s post. Are you adding to the conversation or killing it? And please don’t begin an attack with “sorry …”. You are not sorry at all.
  • DO be careful when you are commenting in secret or closed Facebook groups. What you say in these groups can still be defamatory because the discussion is with more than one other person.


  • DO broadcast you blog posts via Twitter … but remember Twitter is an open-all-hours cocktail party. Get into the conversations as well.
  • DO retweet other people’s Tweets that you know your followers would be into.
  • DO Tweevesdrop (watch other’s conversations) and join in the conversation but don’t hijack them. Think about that cocktail party analogy again. Are you the one who’s always coming up to groups at a party and not even saying excuse me before sprouting forth your views?
  • DO build your following on Twitter by being engaging.
  • DON’T buy followers (did you know you can do this? Crazy). Yes, your “numbers” might look good to the uninitiated but those followers are not even real people so they are hardly going to add to your conversation.
  • DO be respectful of others. Stop and think before you hit return on those 140 characters. Are you adding to the conversation or just having a rant for a rant’s sake?


  • DO think about the photos you are sharing. Not every photo you take on your phone has to be Instagrammed. Instagram is a visual playground – will your photos add or subtract from that?
  • DO join photo challenges like #photoaday as they will inspire you to take even better more creative photos.
  • DO “like” other photos in your feed. You may not be able to share other people’s photos but you can share the love.
  • DON’T leave comments asking for likes in exchange for your likes (don’t laugh … This is happening!). It just looks sad and desperate.


  • DO repin other people’s pins. It’s not just about what you’ve pinned. There’s that sharing aspect again.
  • DO try to avoid repinning an image that cannot be tracked back to its original source. I always get suspicious if something is pinned from Tumblr as Tumblr bloggers rarely include an image source. To find an original source add this button to your Internet browser toolbar.
  • DO try and spread out your pinning time so you’re not doing a dump of dozens of photos into the feed. (This is a tricky one that I can be guilty of as I get sucked into this social network playground and can’t find my way out of the maze of tempting food and designer houses).
  • DO try to keep your boards organised and categorised for followers to easily play along.

Now it’s your turn. What don’t you like seeing in your social media networks? Which networks do you find yourself spending more time in of late? Do you stop and think before you post?

And if you’ve blogged about any aspect of blogging this week, feel free to add your post to my Saturday blogging link-up. There is room where it says NAME to include your blog’s name plus the name of the post, for example: STYLING YOU: 20 tips for improving your social media etiquette

[inlinkz id = 12]


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Comments 71

  1. Great article. I know it isn’t always possible, and I’m putting my hand up here, but I think acknowledging people’s comments go a long way. Even if it’s just a “thanks for the comment!” Another thing I’d like to add is people using the comments section purely to pimp their own blog. Jumping in with “great post! I’m following you, follow me back at XXX” is a bit irritating – although I’m seeing less of it lately. (I’m sure I did that when I was new to blogging though!) x

  2. Am I the only person out there that is seriously time-challenged when it comes to social media? I can’t believe how many people have the time to record the most mundane parts of their day. Since when did ‘having breakfast with my girlfriends’ become newsworthy? I love a good post but please can we try to be more discerning or edit before we spew forth, as Nikki would suggest?

  3. Thank you for this Nikki! I am relatively new to social media, and have only been using Facebook since last year, so I read this avidly! I am yet to use Twitter and am not really sure what it should be used for, business-wise. The hash tags completely confuse me too!

    I always follow the adage “if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all” when online. I also follow the adage “Treat others how you wish to be treated”. I think if I follow these rules, then good karma will follow…and I feel good about myself, too, which is even more important.

    1. Very good adages to have Jane! And Twitter has been a great way for me to grow my business on a national level so it’s definitely something for you to consider. The # are there for when people are talking about the same thing. They enable followers to create a search using that # and follow everyone talking about the topic – even those they may not be following. Makes it fun when everyone’s Tweeting about #offspring or #thevoice and watching TV at the same time!

  4. Can I just ask whether to be a “blogger” you think u need to tweet, instagram, facebook, google+. I guess I am wondering if u need to be everything to eveyone.
    I really want to start a blog as an expression of me and something to do so I have been reading as much as I can about this. I have my own twitter, facebook and pinterest none of which are linked and I also want to keep them private from my blog.
    I think if I were to set up a new social network for my blog I would have to sell my kids, my house and get a more comfortable desk chair to permanently park myself on. I guess I am asking can I still be a great blogger but not appear on every platform. If my aim is not to make money (although any money generated by my fab content would be welcomed) do I need to do it all? Or is it considered rude not to share it all?

    1. Hi Rosie … a very good question. In short, you don’t have to be on every social network to be a great blogger. Great blogging comes from great content on your blog. BUT. If you want to grow your readership then social networking is the easiest way to do that. My advice would be start with a specific Facebook page (not your personal profile) for your blog from the beginning. That is typically where your potential readers are most hanging out. To network with other bloggers, Twitter is good. As you grow, you’ll see which refers most readers to your blog and this is where you would devote most of your social media time to. Hope that helps!

  5. This is such great advice, Nikki. I have to admit with my photography business there is nothing I hate more than fellow photographers commenting on my work with their business accounts rather than their personal accounts. I get that it happens accidentally but there are so many repeat offenders it is ridiculous!

    Also, don’t try to steal clients. I have had fellow photographers watching my page and others’ pages and then emailing people who show interest in us to offer a cheaper deal. It’s just an awful thing to do!

    I think when it comes to engaging with your audience, acknowledgement is key. I read a few ‘big’ blogs and while I don’t expect a response for each of my comments it is pretty awful to have commented at least weekly for a year and never had those bloggers take note. It isn’t that hard to pay a bit of attention and look after your ‘VIP’ readers.

  6. Great post Nikki, agree with all those points! The Pinterest point about ‘overload pinning’ rang true with me this week. I almost unfollowed a few people for drowning my feed, but then didn’t because they have such good pins. It’s a mini dilemma 🙂

  7. If your Twitter and FB are linked, don’t post on both because then both receive a double tweet/post at the exact same time. Link them, by all means, but remember that they’re linked!!! There are a few top “offenders” for this one in my feed and I find it really annoying – yet funnily enough I don’t find the double FB posting (to fan page and personal page) annoying – strange what irks us!
    My top Twitter tip is to not keep unfollowing and refollowing someone in an effort to get them to follow you… not only does it mean I won’t follow you, but it will get you blocked!

    1. Ah, yes – that’s a good thing to think about. For sure. And the follow/unfollow thing I wasn’t aware of – I actually have my Twitter email notifications go automatically into an email folder so don’t see them. I follow someone if they ‘talk’ to me on Twitter.

  8. I think acknowledgement is important – you are very good at this Nikki – if you have a new commenter, a thoughtful comment or a kind word how long and how many key strokes does it take to say ‘well thanks’ … it’s all part of the two way nature of blogging / social media 🙂 le xox

  9. GREAT post! 🙂 I find that there are SO many beauty bloggers and YouTubers who make these mistakes. Hopefully they learn a lesson (or two)

  10. I think the most important thing is respect. Not just in the ways that you have described, but also respecting that not everyone uses social media in the same way for the same reasons. Some people use instagram for the filters and then order cute fridge magnets from statigram or whatever it is. They don’t have to “add to the visual playground”.
    Just like everything else, if you don’t like it you don’t have to engage with it. move on to the next photo without judging that person as a social media idiot.
    But my top tip is to ignore the spammers (or delete it). and don’t feed the trolls or inadvertently become one yourself by being mean and calling it “debate”.

    1. Very good point Toushka and if your IG account is set to private, then it is definitely about the filters. My advice is more aimed at IGers wanting to be social with their shares. And LOVE your top tip – I do have no hesitation in deleting.

  11. Great post Nikki… and have to admit due to ignorance I have been guilty of the instagram ‘no comment’ (did my 1st one yesterday, it’s new to android) and guilty of the pinterest dump (my new fav escape)… so thanks for the heads up.

  12. Hahahah I just spent ages trying to find the comment box, I had clicked on comments and it had disappeared. silly me!
    I am a strong supporter of encouraging good Digital Citizenship. I have taught a course to students on this and of course, I want to practise what I preach.
    Not only that- I want to think that I am a great, productive citizen in the real world and I want to be that in the digital one too, which parallels the real one after all!
    We are one person. I don’t want to be a person with multiple or dual personalities!
    Plus, in this world no one is anonymous.
    Nikki, you have the right way of doing it, just don’t tolerate rudeness. I also wouldn’t let someone be rude at work, in a conversation or at a party, so why would anyone put up with it anywhere else? I am pretty good at ‘chewing up and spitting out’ people who have done the wrong thing in real life, so have no problem digitally! I also have it in me to socially shun someone who does the wrong thing by me or my family- no one else would know, only that person, who would certainly get the message!
    My saying is- people will only get away with what you let them! (just like naughty kids in a classroom!)
    Lately I have been spending a bit of time instagramming and trawling through it. I don’t like it when people just post a photo of something, perhaps an object, which doesn’t tell a story in the picture, and they never have a description or comment or even a hashtag in almost all their photos! I find this a bit strange. (Note, I would never criticise or berate the way they use it, I would just make my own choice to leave their stream!)

    1. Oh yeah, being a librarian and all, I am very concerned about intellectual property and copyright. It is after all -stealing- when you infringe the rules!
      I have seen with horror the stolen photos of children from facebook being used by other people for very strange purposes!

      1. omg! you can imagine my horror when I found out a friend of mine did that. Stole a photo of someone else’s baby and pretended it was hers on a blog post. She is not my friend anymore, obviously. When confronted she got very defensive. I just don’t get why people do that. very very sick indeed.

        1. Defies belief! Does she have her own baby, and the other one is better looking? or is she wanting that one to be hers? Strange people walk among us!

          1. she has two beautiful children. she used a photo of a prem baby on a blog post saying that it was a baby she lost 10 years ago. simply not true. She is a compulsive liar. I used tineye to search for the image on a hunch and proved myself correct when I found the image elsewhere. very very sad.

    2. I definitely think we can set the tone on our blogs and social media spaces – and yes, I too am the same as my blog. Re Instagram – I know what you mean! I wonder id they’re just using IG for the filters but not the social part?

  13. Great post Nikki. Especially the points about copyright and intellectual property. There is so little knowledge about these issues in social media forums and for many of us, it’s a big part of our livelihood.
    I have to admit to the double posting on facebook, although it’s not intentional. Seems to automatically come up in my normal feed whenever I make a comment in my business feed… The daily struggle with technology.

    1. It is a daily struggle – I’m personally ok with anyone re-Pinning and sharing my stuff with links – don’t need them to contact me first. I don’t watermark my photos either.

  14. I recently banned someone from my Facebook page for doing both no. 2 & 3 of your Facebook “Do’s” & “Don’ts”. Before I banned them I emailed them & requested that they comment on my page using their name rather than their business name. Which they did. However, in doing so, they continued to link articles they had written on their own blog. In the end I felt I had no choice but to ban them from continuing to comment. In my opinion it was just like someone from Virgin writing a post on the Qantas FB page telling customers to come over and check out the better deals they had available. This article has just highlighted to me that I did the right thing. Thank you.

  15. As someone working both online and in print, I believe that we can find a civilized blogosphere. I think we MUST in order for this to work in the longterm. It’s why I blog about social media netiquette and manners. Knowledge is power.

    As for Facebook and Pinterest, the urge to build social networks using visuals is becoming a rampant copyright infringement issue. Because of what I blog about, I can’t tell you how often I’m approached by people who find their content being misused on Facebook Pages and in pins, not to mention on other blogs. This rush to keep the content streaming is coming with little consideration for intellectual property.

    People must stop using content they do not either own the copyright to or have explicit permission to use. It’s in the TOS for FB, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and more.

    1. This is a very big issue. I always use the tool I’ve linked to above to find the original source of something I post on Facebook – and include that link – which like last night’s post got at least one sale for the Etsy seller. I don’t contact the source first but I work on the (misguided?) premise that I’m very happy for my content and photos to be linked to and shared.

      1. Linking is not a problem as it’s a click through, but if you upload any content to Facebook that isn’t yours or you haven’t been given permission to upload, then it’s breaking the TOS and you risk losing your page. Also, placing ©’ed images on your Page, you’re potentially responsible if anyone else is to “share” what you’ve uploaded, as per the TOS.

        I don’t put URLs in comments, but I can send you the link to my post that outlines it.

  16. That is great advise Nikki ,I use all of the above but would never say anything negative about anyones posts or blogs or Pics and I would never get anyone to like my pics on Instagram and If I don’t like something I just don’t press like ,and I’m not on there all day so I miss some i would have liked,But The old adage rings trues to me if you have nothing nice to say,say nothing!!

  17. Eek! I do some of these things (well, double post on my own FB page and blog page… And I do a dump on Pinterest in one fell swoop. Mostly on a Sunday afternoon when I’m supposed to be writing!!! Great advice!

  18. Great advice, Nikki! My observation on Twitter is that people think they are having a private conversation, and forget that a few hundred (or more) are listening in. I often wish that people would private message or even sms each other with such nastiness – I don’t want to read it!

  19. Hi Nikki,

    I love this post! Sometimes we need to hear things straight-up and I really like the direct tone you’ve used when discussing those media platforms. I wholeheartedly agree with your points and, while I try to abide by them I have been known to slip up! The reminder is great.

    I actually started my own blog this week – it’s a family blog that I’m co-authoring with my children. I have written a post about why the kids are involved {and I linked it above, thank you!}. In a nutshell, I’m trying to teach the next generation of social media users about how to conduct themselves online, both for their sake and the sake of others.

    I teach my kids a basic rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t announce it at assembly, then don’t post it online.

    Rather than a list of “don’ts”, I tell them to look for the positives in life. It’s harder but so much more satisfying!

    1. I think we all slip up from time to time! Love what you’ve started with your kids. My teens are Facebook fans – we keep lines of communication open and have taught them about safe usage and that the Internet is forever!

  20. Great advice Nikki – As I work in social media a rule we always stick to for our clients is the 20/80 rule. 20% of your content can be about yourself or business and the other 80% needs to be about common interests. Don’t blabber on about yourself all the time, build a community and let your followers be your brand advocates.

  21. Wow – I’d forgotten that any Letter to the Editor that couldn’t be verified is binned. WOW. Wish that happened online.

    Bloody awesome post, Nikki. X

    1. I know! We used to bin A LOT! It was particularly rampant in political campaigns when teams of letter writers would send in letters under seemingly legit addresses but they weren’t.

  22. Thank you for linking to the kindness manifesto lovely Nikki – how cool would it be if it did popup before submitting a comment!

    I love all your tips and would say with regard to twitter, and even in blog comments – it is easy to get caught up in the pack mentality of it all. But just because it seems the whole of Australia is tearing Julia Gillard or Delta Goodrem to shreds in 140 characters doesn’t make it right.

    I am as guilty of the throwaway comment as the next person but I do try to filter them with this thought, if this person was my mum/dad/sister/brother etc, would I say this about them? Would I like hearing this said about them?

    And also I will third yours and Carly’s comments that starting a comment with ‘sorry but’ or any variant of that is just uncool. Because it translates to ‘I know these words are going to hurt you but I am going to say it anyway.’

  23. Oops sorry about my typos – my autocorrect got me!

    I also want to add – proof read your work, on any social media platform. Typos look lazy.

    And I agree with your views on those comments beginning with “sorry but”! I hate the ones that say “I really love your blog but…”

    One last thing – what you think is not aggressive or offensive may be to the recipient of your message. Consider how it may be interpreted.

    1. Carly, damned auto correct! And yes, how 140 characters can be interpreted is tricky! I guess try and imagine the Tweet being written about you. How would it make you feel to read it? x

    2. Carly you’re right about “but”!!!

      I remember watching Dr Phil one day and he chastised someone for using ‘but’. He said it means your sentence goes “This it the stuff I’m saying so that you think I understand you BUT now I’m going to negate all that and tell you what I really think”

      ‘But’ is lazy. Great point!

  24. What a good, timely post. It surprises me how adults don’t understand that interacting on social media is still interacting in real life.

    I have a few tips:

    Don’t get involved in an issue that isn’t really your issue. Wyatt I mean by that is I’ve seen blogs analyse situations online just for the heck of it, Sirius full information or a real need. It sort if just makes the issue about them, then, and often seems bullying about the bullies.

    If Someone says something nice about you on social media, for goodness sakes, thank them! You’re not too busy or too good to send a follow up tweet or email or comment (you do this well Nikki – always thanking people).

    Don’t update your statuses for the sake of it. I know they everyone’s issues are important to them, but constant complaining or innsne comments are boring.

    I wrote about online billing this week – I will link to it here.

    1. I agree with this Carly so much. Don’t get involved in an issue that isn’t really your issue. I have stepped back and watched what has been playing out the last few months and so glad that I haven’t been involved or added fuel to a fire that should really have been stamped out and had sand thrown on it months ago. And it sucks the energy out of you, too. Bad karma I reckon. Good point, Carly.
      And wonderful Saturdy blog post as always Nikki – I love your Saturday posts so much.

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