Do we need an Emily Post for social media etiquette?

Filed in Facebook , Interview , Sharisax Is Out There 10 comments


“To be or not to be . . .”

“To DO, or NOT to do . . .”

I got a “dressing down” the other day when I asked a question on various social media platforms.

This was my message:

“ARE PRESS RELEASES DEAD?Ā  I would like to publish an article on my blog,”

I received many relevant opinions and this surprising response:

“Don’t use my wall to promote your blog.”

Had I missed a rule?

Honestly, I was quite taken aback. What on earth had I done that was WRONG?

So I looked to the ‘wisdom of the crowd” and asked a few of my social media friends — many of whom had received and responded to my question: “What rules had I violated?”

Most said that they hadn’t been offended in any way, but one suggested that some people can get very “persnickety” about their Facebook profile — and that if I really wanted the Scoop on “Doing the Right Thing,” I should ask Etiquette Expert George Kao, a social media coach whose webinar I had attended and written about a month ago: The Circle of Reciprocity begins with Free.


“People are forgiving of your social media mistakes — if you don’t keep repeating them. Someone will usually let you know if you’ve done anything wrong.” — George Kao

George suggested to me that people should not be afraid of making mistakes. “The social web is so new, that the rules for etiquette may not be obvious,” he said. If in doubt, take action, he suggested.

“Focus on adding value to people’s lives and business.”

If you want to do the Right Thing online, then think of the Golden Rule: “Do Not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.” AND “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.”

Here are some of George’s suggestions:

  1. Give others the experience you would want.
  2. Be aware of actions that would be intrusive [like over promotion].
  3. Build “Social Capital” [i.e. authentic relationships] before you spend it.
  4. Duplicate the types of online actions that you like AND don’t do the ones you don’t like.
  5. Be “Open Hearted.” We tend to be open-hearted with those who are open-hearted with us.

Facebook Walls: What to post and what not to post

Many people seem to be confused about Facebook Walls, George agreed. “Think of the Wall as someone’s Front Porch or a public office space,” he said. “Your Wall is where you post messages for all visitors. Your updates go on your wall,” he explained.

When someone clicks through to another person’s Facebook profile and writes on that person’s wall, it should be about that person — like a birthday greeting or an endorsement. The only people who see that Wall message, however, will be the Facebook friend and any mutual friends, according to George.

When you comment on one of your friend’s updates, it’s visible by all the person’s Facebook friends as well, so be aware of that.

“Everyone has a responsibility to manage his or her own Wall. If someone writes something you don’t like, you can remove it — and you ought to.”

George’s final caution: “When you are communicating and updating on Facebook, make certain that you don’t post anything you wouldn’t want the world to see.”

Do you have any online pet peeves that you’d like to shareor resources for rules? We’d love to know them and help spread the word.

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Posted by Shari Weiss   @   20 November 2009
Tags : , , , , , , , , ,
Nov 20, 2009
7:48 pm

Good post Shari – one of my pet peeves is getting to be the auto-direct messages on Twitter. I used to use one, but stop using them months ago … many are quick “thank yous” directing me to their website, but I can already see that in their profile. On the plus side, I’ve come to appreciate a genuine direct message from a new friend on Twitter. My two cents …

Author Nov 20, 2009
7:55 pm

Hey, Marc.
Thanks for finding me
I’m with you, though, on the automatic ROBOTIC responses — especially when i have followed someone simply because they’ve followed me. It almost makes me want to un-follow. but as you point out: We all do stuff in the beginning that we later learn is not-so-good.

Nov 21, 2009
3:02 pm
#3 George Kao :

Great to connect with you the other day, Shari, and thanks for this great post!

Regarding Twitter auto-direct messages (using services such as — I used to as well, and then stopped months ago.

One of my passions is ethical and sustainable business, and my ethical/sustainability barometer is simply this:

“If everyone were to use this practice [whatever we’re evaluating] would the world work better?”

So if we were to apply that barometer to auto-DMs: if everyone were to use them, the world wouldn’t work better. Twitter DM box would be completely useless — the vast majority of DMs would not be “direct” messages from one human being to another. Unfortunately it’s already happening because of so many desperate marketers and “me first” Twitterers. I stopped auto-DM because I no longer wanted to add to the “pollution” of the stream!

“Be the change you want to see in the world!” (Gandhi)


Nov 23, 2009
1:35 pm


Brilliant stuff from you as always! I love your tips and will be retweeting for sure! I agree with almost everything. I recently had a post on my Facebook page that was misconstrued as racist. What an interesting debate! I love that kind of thing, difference of opinion and all that! I chose not to remove it, and the person who psoted it on there unfriended me because of a comment someone else made (sheesh!) I loved it because it truly showed the passion of my friends, their beliefs and their reasons for it and their differences. I wasn’t too concerned about how I would be perceived, my friends on Facebook are exactly that.

It would be a different story in my business. I guess it depends on your platform, what you use it for and what you intend to say and do with it.

Interesting comment you received, I have also had some very interesting comments on my blog, which is all about perception isn’t it? You are wise to consult and then learn and share, I wish there was more of it!

Thanks again Shari, always leading the important discussions!

Author Nov 23, 2009
4:40 pm

One point that you bring up is how we may choose to use our social media platforms differently: and that is all right — of course.
However, just because one person chooses a certain level of participation on Facebook, for instance, does not mean that every connection will automatically KNOW — or even be required to follow the same type of interaction.

The key in my mind — which was verified by George Kao — is that we should treat each other as we would want to be treated ourselves. And then we can listen to individuals, and the crowd.

Nov 23, 2009
4:25 pm

Hey Shari,

Great post and important topic to raise. So many of us unknowingly offend, especially at first, and I think it is really important to discuss it openly.

Your post did not offend me, but then we share the interest in, and passion for, social media so that’s hardly surprising. I am offended at times by the people who post a whole stream of posts at the same time, or those who are obviously promoting without interacting. My response though is to hide the offender’s updates (remove them as a friend if they are really obnoxious)or put them in a list that I can check each time I want to read their 37-updates- within-5-minutes. (lol)

I would think you could follow up with the person who commented about your post and start a conversation to see what she found so offensive and gently teach her about using lists to segment her friends.

Well done, my friend. Keep the excellent content coming. You are doing a fabulous job!

Author Nov 23, 2009
4:47 pm

You know what’s fascinating about this whole Social Media Revolution AND doing a blog about it — I am always learning and so that gives me a continuous stream of info and experience to talk about.

Although your suggestion to follow up with the person who made the “angry” response might work with many people, I do know some things about the person and don’t think that further conversation would be fruitful for either of us. There are so many positive people “out there” to engage with; why waste time with the others.

One of the most wonderful lessons I’ve learned in my more “mature” years, is that in so many instances I have the choice of whom I interact with.
And you, ‘my dear” :-), are definitely one of the people I love engaging with.

Nov 26, 2009
6:59 pm

Nice article Shari. What some people find offensive on their wall, others may not. It’s best to show discretion and not write anything that may cause embarrassment.
People want their wall to represent the best side of their face, as one never knows who or for what reason their wall is being looked at.

Dec 3, 2009
3:07 pm
#9 Natalie :

Shari you know George! It’s such a small world! But yes great post! love reading your stuff!

Author Dec 3, 2009
3:11 pm
#10 Shari Weiss :

How do you know George? I’ve done two posts now based on his great workshops. And another is in the works. Glad you are enjoying the blog. I love writing it. šŸ™‚

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