Social (Media) Graces (aka Don’t be a jerk.)

For some time now I have been trying to put my finger on why some folks get how to use social media to market themselves or their services and some completely miss the boat. I’ve been trying to identify exactly why one person drives me completely nuts, and another person’s message is welcome, and even met with a smile and desire to share their message. Then it hit me. Social graces. Good, old fashioned manners, courtesy, humor and genuine interest in others. You know, how people have been building relationships since, well, forever. “Social networking” is still just networking, period. Networking is still about people. Just talking to people and building relationships. Hopefully that relationship has value for both parties, whether it’s emotional value or monetary value, it doesn’t matter. You define that value.

So, let’s say you met me in real life. If every other thing out of your mouth was “Read my blog!”, “Buy my stuff!”, “I’m so great!”, “Have you heard how AWESOME my blog is?”, I would run away. Seriously. I might even have to resist the urge to smack you upside the head.

(Ok Sara, then tell us. Tell us how to market ourselves without being an obnoxious doucher.) Gladly.

Ask yourself a few questions:

Am I being myself? — Seriously. Be yourself. This, apparently, is easier said than done. Even the “social media experts” that preach the ever hyped “authentic/transparent” strategy don’t always practice what they preach. How do I know this? I’ve met plenty of them in real life that are quite different than they portray themselves on social networks. That doesn’t work. Why? Because the ultimate goal of networking is usually a real life conversion. If you aren’t really who you portray yourself to be online, you lose my trust.

Do I talk about myself/blog/business too much? — This is highly annoying in real life, and amplified on the web. If the majority of your activity on social networks is telling people about all the great stuff you are doing/have to offer/etc, you are probably coming off as narcissistic. Please stop. Thanks.

Am I courteous to others? — Are you prone to hijacking tweets? Do you take other people’s ideas from one forum and re-purpose as your own on another? Do you “borrow” other peoples snark/funny/content without giving credit? Well, that’s just douchey. (And also plagiarism, asshole.)

Am I the know-it-all? — Yes, yes, you may be a genius. You may have thought of everything before any of the rest of us. We know, you have an opinion on everything. Bless you. Here’s the thing. It’s ok to just shut up every once in awhile. If you did this at a cocktail party in real life, you wouldn’t get many future invitations. Dial it back, mmmkay?

You see, when people in my social network are helpful, courteous, knowledgeable and friendly, I WANT to hear about what they’ve got going on. I WANT to advocate on their behalf. Why? Just like in real life, I want to help my friends. In turn, those friends will want to help me. Together we will both grow our networks of friends, acquaintances, clients and so on.

Unless you are painfully socially awkward, you can do this. You have been building lasting relationships your whole life. Employ what you already know! You know how to NOT be a douchebag. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your online relationships are any different. They require care and work and time to grow. Be yourself. Listen when other people are speaking. Remember it’s not always about you. If you wouldn’t do it in a real life conversation, don’t do it in an online conversation.

And keep your elbows off the table.

Later Gators.


  1. Trish Hundhausen

    Interesting thoughts. And it would certainly seem that people who successfully navigate the highways and byways of social media are ones who also fare well in the “real world.” I, myself, always, always, ALWAYS–say the right thing. ;) …Well, practice makes perfect, at any rate, right (at least one would hope)? However, and on transparency and authenticity… these certainly are big buzz words these days, aren’t they? Sara, you mentioned that being yourself is “easier said than done,” for some. Could it be that just as it goes in the physical realm, in the realm of social media, some folks are more comfortable in their skin than others? A lot of non-writers are trying to figure out how be pithy in 140 characters or less, e.g. This ain’t no small thing. So. People are learning… and that can take time. And your tips, here, are poignant. I think Social Media can be tricky on a lot of levels. Maybe the biggest thing for some is that they forget that while the first part of the phrase is “Social” the second part is “Media.” Personally, I don’t want to know everything about you (“You,” in the general sense), and vice versa. I enjoy having a private life. There is a side of me that I share with loved ones only and I’m happy with that. I like and respect movie stars more who like their private lives to remain private. I enjoy love scenes in movies more when they show less. It’s sexier. I like art that speaks to me, but also leaves something to the imagination. I like social media when I get to learn something–and when I’m entertained. I don’t like it when it feels “club-y,” or limiting. As far as being “jerky” or “douchey” goes, we’ve probably all been guilty once or twice. ;) So to your points, too much of anything is, in short, too much. On the flip-side, smart, talented, creative people have opinions and egos (a.k.a. “personalities”)… thank God.


    • Sara

      Great comment!

      We all certainly have a “social self” and a “private self”, as it should be. I agree with you that I enjoy social media when I am learning something and when I’m entertained, very similar to how much I enjoy people’s company offline.

      i think you hit it right on the head, everything in moderation.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. :)


  2. Mare

    I am repurposing this blog post to put on my future blog so people don’t use my blog on theirs. Please R/T

    I love this, Sara. You are so right on many levels.


  3. bullmeister

    Certainly striking the balance between focus and variety is in order too. When you say don’t talk about work all the time, that doesn’t mean half your posts should be Foursquare check-ins either.

    Another classic move is to beat to death what you’re about to do. “Stay tuned for big changes!” “I’m preparing an epic blog post!” “I’m thinking about a blog that will revolutionize things.” Gaaaaahhhh!

    That said, I’ve got a great blog post about this on my site… ;-)


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