When you first got to college, social media was probably about sending party invites, posting pictures of your new friends, complaining about tests, meeting dates, and keeping in touch with family back home. Now that you’re getting ready to leave school behind and pursue a business career, education career, criminal justice career, health career, science career – which ever – you will need to reconfigure your social media activity so that future employers and contacts respect you. Here are 50 social media etiquette rules to remember.
Keep these general tips in mind whenever you log on.
- Act like you would in real life: Just because you’re hiding behind a computer as you type doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to connect what you say online with who you are as a real person. How you act on social media sites is often the most direct way that people — including potential employers — will perceive you.
- Don’t discriminate just because: You can’t be friends with everyone online, but you’ll never broaden your network if you don’t connect with people outside of your circle and comfort zone. Be willing to open yourself up to all types of followers and friends.
- You have to earn respect: You can earn respect on social media sites by offering quality, accessible information in a friendly way. Share relevant links, commentary and helpful advice.
- Always introduce yourself: Whenever you friend or follow a new person or jump into an open conversation, take a quick second to introduce yourself. Share your real name, occupation and geographical location. It’s just polite.
- Avoid burnout: If you’re on social media sites constantly, you’ll burn yourself out and annoy other people. Find a balance so that you’re making quality contributions to the discussion, not dominating it.
- Tweet and update for your most conservative followers: If you have lots of friends online, it can be hard to remember who’s still listening in to your conversations and updates. Remember who your most conservative followers are, and make sure whatever you put online is appropriate for them.
- Be curious, but not nosy: Social media communities are all about sharing and learning from each other. You’re encouraged to ask questions, but don’t be too inquisitive about people’s personal lives until you become actual friends.
- Be extra polite: You wouldn’t make a nasty comment to a person you just met at work or school: you’d probably go above and beyond to seem friendly and helpful. Apply the same attitude to your social media activity.
- Don’t ask for favors: Once you’ve established a relationship with an online contact, you can ask for advice or help, but don’t log on just to ask people to do your work for you.
- Follow the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated, and you’ll develop a reputation for being a worthy friend and follow who other users will want to pass along to their network.
- Remember that there are boundaries: Not everyone you’re following — or who is following you — is your personal friend, so avoid talking about health problems and mushy stuff.
These Facebook-specific rules address photos, tagging, and all those applications.
- Don’t cyber-stalk: If you’re never getting any responses back to the wall posts and messages you leave on someone’s profile, then you’re cyber-stalking them. Stop.
- Don’t drunk-Facebook: Sending drunk Facebook messages or making drunk wall posts can be funny with friends, but seriously damaging with professional contacts.
- Don’t send apps: Make sure that when you try out an application, you’re not sending it to everyone you’re friends with. That’s right: everyone.
- Don’t write private messages on wall posts: It’s embarrassing, rude, and makes you look immature.
- Edit your photo choices: Don’t put up photos of yourself or others engaging in illegal, irresponsible activities, including pictures of you chugging pitchers of beer, whether or not you’re 21.
- Stop playing the farm animal game if you want to be taken seriously: Would you want to hire someone who clearly spends all day swapping cows and feeding goats on Facebook?
- Be careful who you tag: Just because you don’t have a job doesn’t mean your friends are okay with having ridiculous photos of themselves posted on Facebook so that their moms and bosses can see them.
- Write clear status updates: People who write vague, depressing song lyrics or status updates come across as self-indulgent.
- Be respectful of the relationship status: Talk with your partner before changing a relationship status. If it’s good news, do you want an online medium to be the one to share it? If it’s bad, you want to make sure you’re not breaking up with someone via Facebook.
- Avoid chain status updates: Don’t fall for chain status updates to save a child with cancer or promote world peace. They’re annoying.
- Ask friends to make introductions: You’ll avoid freaking people out if you ask a friend to make an introduction rather than friending people you’ve randomly spotted online.
Twitter is addictive, but it also has lots of traps that can lure you into looking unprofessional and lazy.
- Don’t use automation tools: You might think it’s nice to send an automatic message every time someone follows you, but it actually makes you look lazy and unengaged. Social media is about the personal effort behind the connection.
- Keep tabs on your ratio: One of the easiest ways for people to decide whether or not they want to follow you is to check your follow ratio. Try to keep it balanced so that you don’t look desperate or like a snob.
- Share other people’s work, not just your own: For every tweet you make about yourself, make two or three tweets about someone else’s work or a third party article.
- Send private messages for private conversations: Twitter has an option to let you send private messages, and it’s important that you remember to use it when appropriate.
- Always share your best work: You never know who’s watching you on Twitter, so always promote your absolute best work, not your mediocre stuff.
- Use your real name: Social media is about being honest, not tricking people. Even a clever pseudonym will turn off your more professional contacts.
- Don’t be a sucker: As with any viral medium, it’s easy to get caught up in scams and just plain incorrect information. Don’t go crazy retweeting sensational stories until you’ve verified they’re true.
- Use a real picture: Just as you use your real name, use a real photo of yourself to help others understand who they’re connecting with.
- Don’t ask to be retweeted: If your tweet is good enough to share, your followers will retweet it without a desperate plea.
- Don’t use Twitter to point fingers: You can send open tweets to ask about a problem, but don’t trash companies or individuals just because you had a bad experience. Contact them in private.
Grammar and Communication
There are appropriate shortcuts for social media, but don’t go overboard. Otherwise, no one will be able to understand you, and they may think you’re lazy and ignorant.
- Know what @means: @ is a sign that means you’re responding to or directly addressing a particular user or message. On some sites, it even tags that person.
- Use the word, not the number: Substituting "2" for "to" looks like you’re in junior high.
- Social media is a step up from texting: Unless you’re updating all your messages on a mobile device, remember that social media is a step up from texting. If you’re typing on a keyboard, you can type out the whole word.
- Don’t make stupid mistakes: You’re not receiving an official grade from your tweets and updates, but you are being judged on your grammar mistakes.
- Edit your work: Take a few seconds to review your messages so that you can correct any mistakes.
- Avoid exclamation points: They’re warranted sometimes, but punctuation marks are annoying to read and make your writing look juvenile.
- Always be honest and transparent: With so many distractions going on online, keep your messages short, clear and truthful.
- Know which rules you can break: Regular abbreviations and certain punctuation marks — like ellipses — can be used more freely on social media sites.
When it comes time to hunt for new employment or broaden your network, remember these crucial tips for the online job search.
- It’s okay to be chatty: Penelope Trunk explains that your LinkedIn resume should be a little chatty, but still professional. You want to stand out and come across as easy-going, but know when you’re crossing the line.
- Don’t follow an employer’s personal account: You’re going to look desperate and creepy if you follow an employer or hiring manager’s personal profiles. Look for official ones instead.
- Monitor your style: Using all caps and typing in the vernacular are inappropriate when making professional contacts.
- Follow up: once.: It’s a good idea to follow-up after a meeting, interview or communiqué, but doing so over and over is stalking and spammy.
- Understand who your target contacts want to deal with: An executive isn’t going to be interested in talking to an intern, so find the middle man who can put you two in touch.
- Be mindful of the time you contact someone: Don’t send Facebook messages at 11p.m. Friday night. Send them during regular business hours to show that you’re responsible and can work on a normal schedule, too.
- Mind your ps and qs: Always say thank you and understand that anyone who’s helping you in your online job search is doing you a favor. You aren’t entitled to anything.
- Keep up with your LinkedIn profile headline: Make sure your headline is updated to accurately communicate your current occupational status.
- Don’t be bold about looking for a new job if you’re still under contract: Remember this for your future: don’t advertise that you’re looking for a new job if you haven’t told your boss you’re quitting. You could find yourself without any form of employment if your boss — or his or her colleagues — find your updates online.
- Help others: It’s not just about your job search. Offer to help friends and followers if you have a contact they need.