Big ideas about the web.

Social netiquette

After blogging and e-mail, let’s tackle proper behavior in social networking. While I do think everyone should feel free to be him/herself (within a reason, always) when acting on Twitter or Facebook on a personal capacity, I become pickier when it comes to business.

Some may want you to believe that social networking for your business is part of a broader marketing strategy. While I think that can be true to some extent, I believe that what you write and do in social networks falls squarely into your content strategy, and should be consistent with it. It would make no sense to plan a content strategy that’s careful and considerate, only to blow it all off on Twitter.

What I’m giving here, as usual, is not advice on what content to write, which depends on your specific strategy, but on how to do (or not to do) certain things on various social networks. Some of this advice can equally apply to Facebook or Twitter or Google+, and some is aimed at promoting, preventing or correcting behaviors on specific platforms.

Be human

You’re a human being, so act like one. Your content should be always fresh and new, even when you’re promoting a product or service. Copying and pasting old tweets or statuses will add to the ambient noise, and will do nothing to your brand (except making it look like a spambot).

Of course, there are cases in which it’s okay to have a bot help you. Specifically, when you have content on your website that you need to publicize on various platforms. In this case, using a service like to poll your website (via RSS) and feed the results to Twitter or Facebook will simplify your job—especially if you publish content very often.

One more human thing to do is to engage with your audience or with the people you follow more than by simply retweeting other people’s content. Establish your brand, your identity and your personality by creating your own content—but again, make sure it matches the personality that you outlined in your content strategy.

Be cool

But again, be cool as a human, not as a machine. This includes:

  1. when you post something on your Facebook page (or even on your personal profile), don’t “like” it. It should be quite implicit that you like what you just posted, but if you need to add something to it, just add a note before posting, or a comment after posting. If you posted something you didn’t like, just say so
  2. thanking every one of your followers for following you is something middle schoolers might do on MySpace. You don’t need to do that, as it just adds to the noise. Plus, people don’t follow you to do you a favor, they do it because they’re interested in what you have to say.1 The best way to reward your followers is by publishing meaningful content
  3. likewise, sending phatic cues (like an isolated hello) to fellow tweeters, particularly those you don’t know personally or you haven’t previously interacted with, doesn’t just grab their attention (which I assume would be the desired outcome), but it will most likely get you reported as a spammer
  4. don’t rush things. I know, we’ve all been there: the early-morning tweet that we just have to respond to while we’re still uncaffeinated, only to go “D’oh!” right after we send our response off into the world. Sure, you can always delete it or deal as gracefully as possible with the consequences, but prevention is the best course of treatment.

Be consistent

If it’s not just you, but you have a bunch of people managing your social networking, make sure everyone is on the same page. Come up with guidelines that everyone should follow in order to prevent apparent schizophrenia. And, as always, accuracy and attention to detail go a long way.

  1. Unless they’re spammers, in which case they follow you just to get in your way, and you have every right—nay, a duty to report them on the spot. ↩︎