Today on Professional Ambitions, we’re going to talk about Social Media Etiquette.
Last month we talked about why social media matters, and this month we’ll talk about how to avoid offending people with your online behavior.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m the Miss Manners of Facebook (especially since the real Miss Manners is pretty protective of her name), but I’ve been on the internet for a long time. From chat rooms to message boards to Instagram, I’ve watched the growth of the social side of the web, and I’ve seen a lot of good and bad behavior. Most of the time I don’t think people are willfully being rude, they just don’t know any better. So my goal is to help you never put your virtual foot in your virtual mouth.
The Basics of Social Media Etiquette
I could probably write an entire book about the etiquette of online interactions, so I’m going to try to stick with some of the basics in this post, especially as they apply to belly dance and other creative art forms.
- Do not add people to groups without asking first. This is one of the biggest complaints I see on Facebook. It used to be you could invite people and they had the option to accept or decline, but a few years back Facebook decided it was a great idea to just let people add their friends to groups, willy-nilly. Now you might say “But if they don’t want to be in the group they can just leave!” and that’s no big deal for someone who is on FB regularly, but if you don’t have a lot of time to be on social media, it’s very annoying to discover that you’ve been added to a group you didn’t want to be in, and now you have a ton of notifications about it.
- Do not invite people to small events that are not within driving distance. It’s one thing to invite people from around the country to your large festival, or your weekend intensive with an Egyptian dancer who rarely teaches in America. Those are things someone might want to take PTO, book a flight and stay in a hotel for. It is not OK to invite non-local dancers to your belly dance class, student hafla, or workshop weekend with a mid-level dancer who tours a lot.
- Read and abide by the rules of any group you join. Most Facebook groups have specific guidelines about advertising. Some may allow unlimited advertising, some may have a special ad thread, others may not allow any advertising at all. Read the rules and follow them. Double-check before posting an advertisement.
- Make sure that the group is actually a good fit for you. I help admin a group called “Bellydance Illuminati.” It’s a group for belly dancers who also love geeky stuff, like Game of Thrones and cosplay. But a lot of people just seem to read the “Illuminati” part because wow do we get some weird join requests. I also see a lot of dancers joining local groups for metro areas they don’t live anywhere near.
- Don’t advertise your event or product on someone else’s advertisement post. Just don’t. It’s really tacky.
- Take time to interact with people! Social media is not just a void to be shouted into. Whatever network you’re on, take some time to find posts to like, comment on, and share as appropriate. Offer congratulations, sympathy, encouraging comments and witty jokes. In short, be social.
- Avoid posting graphic content. A lot of people, especially within artistic communities, have a very vivid visual imagination. Images of abused animals or people, or surgical scars, can linger in our minds and pop back up when we least expect or want them. Especially if your profile is primarily for promoting your dance or other art, you don’t want to disgust or scare people.
- Be discerning in who you friend. You do not need to accept every friend request that comes your way. Realize that when you friend someone on Facebook, you open the rest of your network up to them. Watch out for “collectors” (guys who friend every belly dancer or attractive woman they can find), MLM reps (people who sell Younique, LuLaRoe or other “social selling” products), and people whose profiles seem oddly generic.
- Don’t Vaguebook or SubTweet or whatever the equivalent is on Instagram. Avoid stirring up drama by obliquely referring to other people in your community or relationship problems. Such things are best handled privately, or spoken about openly. Don’t hang out in that weird shadowy in-between realm that leaves people guessing what you’re posting about… especially since they’ll often guess wrong.
- Be authentic. Post content that interests you and share your genuine thoughts. Help make social media a more interesting and vibrant community by being yourself instead of just sharing memes. Start conversations. Join in discussions on other peoples’ threads. Talk about what matters to you and what’s on your mind.
If you follow these 10 basic rules, you should avoid most of the social media landmines. Of course, if you want more guidance about how to curate your social media content, you can sign up for my Belly Dance Business Academy class, Social Media Presence: How to maintain privacy and authenticity.