Appropriate Social Media Behavior

We all get involved with social networking for different reasons.  Some join to make new friends or to converse with old ones.  Some simply look to cultivate contacts that might benefit them in the future.  Maybe they are looking to start a new business or are open to getting a new job, and they need that channel to grow those necessary connections.  Some already have a business or product and that social network is simply a way to find potential clients or customers who might be interested in their product.  For some, they do it for more than one reason.  And there are a select few who use it to find a potential mate or conduct a tryst.  This boggles my mind, but whatever site you use (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest or any other social media out there), there are certain behaviors that are just not appropriate.

1)      Harrassment.  Whatever you do, don’t harass people.  Use your timeline and Facebook pages wisely.  If you are in discussion groups and you are selling a product, find an appropriate group to post in.  Do a search for a related group and read the rules to make sure you can post freely.  Use common sense.  If you are selling sunglasses, don’t post in groups about books or writing.  Do not tout your unrelated product or service on other people’s posts.  There is nothing more infuriating than when the individual sees you have posted something about a financial institution or bank loan on a post that has nothing to do with that.  If you insist on staying in such groups, foster discussions by liking and commenting.  If you must mention a product, give it as an example, but please make sure it is associated with the topic of the group or post. 

Also, don’t direct message people randomly with a plea to buy your product or service.  That gets old.   

I suppose, if you really have the time, you can politely ask someone to “like” a page if you’ve liked theirs.  But, just keep in mind that it’s not cool to keep asking, especially if they have already liked your page.  Don’t show your desperation.  It’s best not to act desperate in any case.  Just don’t inundate people with requests via direct or private message.  This is the equivalent of having an annoying neighbor asking you for something all the time.  If you need page likes, the best thing is to post your plea in a related discussion group or to find a Facebook group/event that is specifically designed for gaining likes.  They do exist.  There is a good “like” exchange on those, and your numbers will naturally increase.

What other kinds of harassment are there?  Oh, yes.  If you’ve joined social media to find a date, good luck.  You have to keep in mind that most people are not on there for that reason.  If you’re going to seriously date online, don’t you want to make sure it’s feasible in real life?  Be reasonable.  Here is an example:  if someone lives in Botswana and they pursue someone in the United States, that is not going to work.  Long distance relationships are hard, but by doing this, you have made it impossible.  

Choose someone that lives closer to you.  Also, pay attention to an individual’s status on their profile.  If it says “engaged” or “married”, that is pretty indicative of the fact that they wouldn’t be interested or even open to flirting/dating anyone online.  Leave these people alone if you’re connected with them for romantic reasons.  It is wrong to harass someone you know is unavailable, especially if he or she has already stated they are taken and not interested.  This is stalking and it’s not comfortable for the recipient.   If you want to date online, there are dating sites for that.

Just don’t harass at all.  According to, harassment is defined as “the act or instance of harassing, or disturbing, pestering, or troubling repeatedly; persecution, torment or confusion by persistent attacks or questions”.  The word is also derived from the Old French word harer, meaning “to set a dog on”.  All of these descriptions are negative.  Would you want to be dogged by someone?  

Especially do not connect with someone and immediately start hitting on him or her, either dropping blatant sexual innuendo or by talking about how that person is the love of your life and you know you’ll be happy together.  Really?  That is totally inappropriate behavior.  If you dropped such hints in real life, you would either get slapped or punched by that person, or by their significant other.  And if you confessed your undying love for a complete stranger in the public domain, you’d be viewed as a social pariah.  If you’re a man, women would use any excuse to get away from your blatant approach.  Just don’t harass anyone that way.  

Harassment is wrong.  Period.  This also includes blatant direct messages, trying to get someone’s attention.  If they don’t respond, they are probably not online or have stepped away from their computer or phone for awhile.  And that leads into my other thing about harassment.  Never call a complete stranger via Facebook or Google unless they have given you express permission to do so.  If they wanted to talk via phone or video chat online, they would tell you that.  It is definitely not appropriate to harass anyone, but especially via social media.  Some of the stuff I’ve seen on social media is amazing, and not in a good way.  Here is one example and it has happened to me twice.  In my Twitter notifications, someone said, “OMG!  Marie Lavender, what you said was so hilarious!” Of course, this got my attention because I couldn’t remember what was so funny.  They included a link that my virus software flagged as malicious.  Okay, obviously someone hacked into their account or something or maybe they are a hacker.  Whatever the reason, just don’t do this stuff.  Do you want to get blocked or unfollowed? 

There are two ways to avoid becoming a social media pariah.  Ask yourself: 

1. If this was real life, if I was in public, could I get away with any of this? 

The answer is most likely a resounding “no” because you’d want to avoid a lawsuit or getting punched.

2.  How do I want to be treated? 

If you want respect, you have to show respect and that includes not harassing people.  

Plus, if you use the basic moral principles you were taught from childhood and you learn how to be diplomatic in your conduct, that can help you a lot in life.  Sometimes I think people harass online because they think they can get away with it.  I guess it’s appealing to do something that is taboo; they like the risk.  But, don’t do it.  It will only leave you wondering where all of your “friends” on social media went.

2)      Do try to avoid topics that can create problems.  Politics and religion are good ones to avoid.  There is always going to be someone who disagrees with you, and that individual won’t hesitate to start a fight about it.  In any case, especially if you have to worry about a business reputation, it’s best to avoid hairy topics.  This leads me to my next point.

3)      Review before you post anything.  As an English major, I might have said this specifically for grammatical purposes, but we can broaden that a little for this article.  I’ll say it again.  Review before you post anything.  You know that moment when you’re in a heated argument and you said something you didn’t mean, something you regretted later?  No matter how much you apologize for it, you know you said it and it was wrong.  And that person may never forget it even if they do forgive you.  Well, social media has a way of biting you long after the fact. 

It’s best to seriously evaluate anything you’ve written, but especially if your reputation or your business’ reputation is on the line.  Stop and think about how smart it is to retort to something someone said.  Think about how well a complaint could be taken.  What is it you’re posting about and how important is it in the scheme of things?  Yes, in most cases, you can delete or edit something, but what if you couldn’t?  Technology is glitchy at times.  What if people did see it even if you removed it later on?  Think about your emotions too.  Do you really want to post when you’re not as level-headed as you could be?  I’m not just talking about what you put on your timeline on Facebook, but how you comment on any kind of social media.  

You’re in the public eye now (don’t pretend otherwise), and it’s your reputation at stake if you lash out and behave unprofessionally.  It’s all on you.  If you need to, find a friend and vent.  You are accountable to yourself now.  This is real life and there isn’t going to be a parent or teacher to keep you in line.  If you say something that can drastically affect you, you’re the only one that will regret it.  This leads into my next point as well.

4)      Tit-for-tat.  If someone has said something negative about you or product online, it may seem very appealing and easy to seek some kind of revenge on that person.  Don’t.  Be smart.  Let it pass and don’t be petty.  Sometimes just getting distance from that person or their comment is the smartest plan. 

Also, never expect any kind of return or reward for what you’ve done.  Just because you’ve done something nice for someone doesn’t mean the favor will be returned.  Continue to do those nice things for others.  That’s great.  It does get noticed.  If they didn’t “like” your page, they probably got distracted with life or maybe Facebook put a hold on how many pages they could like.  Whatever you do, don’t track that person down and beg for something in return.  It only makes you look desperate, and this is just harassment too.  A lot of people don’t have a ton of time to spend on social media, and you have to respect that.  They may only have just enough time to check their notifications and sign back out.  Don’t expect anything in return, but give when you can.  Diversely, know your limits with social media.  Don’t commit to something (like an event) you can’t do. 

5)      Observe.  If you do use social media to grow your business, one of the best strategies is to observe others who appear successful and see what they do.  I am not telling you to copy anyone.  We are all unique, and you will excel by creating your own voice in the world.  But, it doesn’t hurt to see what works and what doesn’t and to use those tools or tips effectively.

6)      Use your best judgment at all times.  If your gut is telling you that it’s a bad idea, you probably shouldn’t do it.  We have to get back to listening to our moral compass, our conscience.  Sure, it’s tempting to let loose and say whatever you want on social media, but if you’re concerned at all about reputation, you probably shouldn’t.  Think about it.  You’ll thank yourself for it later.

I know I probably haven’t covered everything in this article.  This is all I can think of for now.  If you know me, you know that I’ll come up with a “part two” to this if I think of other tips.  I can’t stress enough that if you can’t get away with it in public, why should you get away with it on social media?  Overall, just use your head.   

Oh, and don’t forget to have fun!  Social media shouldn’t be serious all of the time.

I hope I’ve helped to steer you all in the right direction.  Happy posting!