Social Networking Etiquette Lesson

Social Networks such as Facebook and Twitter have been exploding over the last few years. Businesses have flocked to this new space because that is where the people are. Active business people, sometimes known as “Movers and Shakers” are usually the first to take part in using new networks to their advantage. However, the tone and way you go about communicating with people on social networks is far different then the way most are used to communicating with people, especially when it comes to promoting products and services.

Traditional print and media marketing is equal dumping a bucket of water off of a 50 story building. Some people will get hit, most will miss it. Before social networks there was no way for a business to connect one on one with their target market. Today, the target market is a friend request away. With out the right etiquette and mindset going into social networks, you can easily do more damage than good.

I am all about promoting business. I love making suggestions for products and services to friends of mine when I find that they have a need that I know one of my contacts can fill. For example, I was on Facebook yesterday and one of my friends posted an image of their car that was just damaged after hitting a dog that ran out in front of them. I personally know the owners of the premier body shop in the town that I live in so I contacted her directly and made a suggestion. Dealing with things such as who to trust with your car is a big deal and if I was in her shoes I would have appreciated any suggestions that could have been made. Knowing so many business people in my community I could easily take advantage of my friend’s desires to share their daily ins and outs with me, but I don’t give in to that temptation. I understand how good it feels to help someone out but I also understand when it is welcome and when it becomes annoying. Here are some tips and suggestions that I think should be considered when thinking about promoting yourself, your business or the businesses of others through social networks.

1. Always make your suggestions private.
Social Networks are super public. Most people allow anyone to see their posts and the posts of their friends. The average person on Facebook has 180 friends. This is very exciting to a business person who feels that they have something that could help. However, the public space is not where you want to do this. Although most will want to place their suggestion in public with hopes that all of their friends will see it the suggestion will come across as nothing more than a shameless plug. Shameless plugs = Annoying. I personally take offense to it, give one warning and then unfriend the person. In real life, if someone was to jump into a conversation with out being invited it would be considered rude. How is a person’s Facebook wall any different?

The right way to make your suggestion is to contact the person through their email or through private message. On Facebook you can message people privately as well as on Twitter you can Direct Message them. If the recipient of your suggestion takes you up on it and has a good experience I am sure they will post about it. They post about everything else so why not about their great interaction with your business? After business has closed and you feel the transaction went well you can even ask if they would post something to their Facebook wall or Twitter feed. How much better is a recommendation or testimonial from a happy customer then from your mouth?

Painful Example of poor Social Networking Etiquette: When I post something to my Facebook wall or Twitter feed about something and people make a shameless plug about their product or service that is not even relevant to what I was talking about. An example of this would be if the product or service was not available in my area. There is no relevance to what I posted nor that of anyone else who was posting comments under it, the plug was completely shameless and brought no value to the conversation. Why don’t you just slap me in the face while you are at it!

2. Invites to Groups, Fan Pages or Lists.
Creating a list, group or fan page for your business is a good idea. I have one and would recommend you get one for your business. You can even go as far as suggesting to all of your friends that they become a fan of your page, add you group or list as well. However, do not become relentless in attempting to get all people on your list or fan page. They saw it the first time. If they did not add it, they did not want to add it. If you continue to be persistant with getting people to add your page you are frustrating them and almost guaranteeing that they will never do business with you. This is equal to chasing people down and making them come in your door. Have you ever been to Las Vegas or certain parts of San Francisco where the bars and restaurants have people out front trying to get you to come into their establishment? It’s obnoxious, and you only put up with it long enough to walk by. Internally you are telling yourself that you will never go into that place and you probably even feel insulted.

To get people to become fans of your page, group of list you should ask those who are already fans to share it with others. Ask them to type a short message that they can send with the invite. This short message would explain how your business or product helped them. You are more likely to get fans who actually want to know more about you and your product this way.

Painful Example of poor Social Networking Etiquette: There is a local restaurant who has both a Facebook profile and Fan page. There is no indication of personality behind these profiles, they seem to strictly be there to be recognized and I have noticed no intention to be an active part of the community. This business would “suggest” that I added their page as a fan every single day. It was really annoying to click “ignore” every day as these suggestions would add up with the others and there is no easy way to “ignore all”, nor can you just ignore all future suggestions for a certain friend. You just have to unfriend them. This is exactly what I did. One week later they attempted to add me as a friend. Maybe they thought that somehow our friendship had been accidentally terminated, because you know how that happens all of the time. I decided to accept the friend invite but I also posted to their wall that I would be more than happy to have them as a friend, but I am not interested in being a fan of their page. I only fan pages that I feel are relevant to me and unless I completely love the business and am willing to shout it from the roof tops, I do not want to be their fan just for the sake of making their fan count ego feel good. Since that post, I have not received a fan request since.

3. Automated Responses
My policy is that if I can not respond personally, I will not respond at all. My Mother used to tell me that if I didn’t have something nice to say that I should not say it at all. To me, a automated response is nothing nice. When someone accepts your friend request or even adds you as a friend they deserve a personal response. If you do not have time to give personal responses then don’t respond at all. The only people who can get away with this are celebrities, if they even care to give you any time of day at all. However, the large majority of us are not celebrities and should not send automatic responses. I have 100’s of examples from Twitter that I could post images of but I don’t feel like throwing anyone under the bus for just being ignorant.

Many of us turn off email notifications from the social networks because of the amount of emails that end up coming in. My suggestion is that you head over to Gmail.Com, set up a free email account such as [email protected] (not an actual email) that you can set as your email address for notifications on these social networks. Let the new friend notifications pile up and go through them one at a time sending a short personal message. You can even pick and choose who you email. If you are a realestate agent and another realestate agent adds you as a friend, they probably are not going to enjoy the canned response you came up with thinking that the all of your new friends are potential home buyers.

Painful Example of poor Social Networking Etiquette: Quote from a recent Twitter direct message: “Thanks for the follow. I’ll look forward to connecting with you! You might also enjoy” The truth is that this person could care less about connecting with me. I have yet to communicate with her and she has not made an effort to communicate with me either. To me it feels just like going to a Chamber of Commerce event where people are running around like zombies with business cards trying to eat you alive.

In Closing:
If you get one thing out of this I hope that you walk away with a desire to treat people in social networks like you would treat your neighbor. Truth is that we are more in contact with people online than we are our own neighbors living right outside our walls. Respecting people is just as important online as it is offline. Give people your respect and they will respond with theirs.


  • Jose Rodas
    April 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Very well written. It’s always awesome to read your blogs and suggestions. Have a wonderful weekend and a great easter. 🙂

  • Lyudmila Bloch
    April 2, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Great article. Excellent examples, especially about “automatic responses.” Introductions, apologies and thank-you notes are “intentional actions” and should have a personal touch as you pointed out in your blog. Thank you for your time!

    Lyudmila Bloch, Etiquette Expert NYC

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