Social Media Etiquette – The Do’s And Don’ts Of Online Interaction

Whether you’re a fan of social media or not, it’s definitely here to stay and constantly evolving at lightning speed. It’s completely changed the fabric of how we (photographers) do business: from publicizing images to marketing tactics and communication, our daily life is inundated with a constant barrage of notifications and a conditioned head-down-to-phone routine. Unfortunately, if you aren't using social media to its fullest, then you may be left behind.

With Facebook currently under fire for their steadfast push to reduce organic reach to 1% for business pages, it’s now more vital than ever to push creative unique content to our followers and friends. People are sharing and interacting more than ever, so it’s crucial to use social media properly and distinctively. But, that won’t change the onslaught of social media “sins” that people commit on a daily basis. Granted, I may have a case of O.C.D. when it comes to online interaction. But, I always stress the importance of representing a professional quality online just as much as you do offline. Those that know me on a personal level know this is a passionate topic for me. There is nothing more that gets under my skin than a person who knowingly commits a social media faux pas or a "professional" that could careless about how they're perceived online.

Do Use Proper Punctuation and Proof

Somewhere along the line, it’s become passable to use improper punctuation and wording in online communication. While on my daily cruise through the social landscape: I see misspelled words, nonsensical statements, lazy lowercase commenting and people thinking the “Caps Lock” grabs attention. It not only reduces brand professionalism, but simply makes one look un-educated and can be a grave turn-off with a negative impact. It’s important to stop, breathe and take a moment to read your comments, updates and messages before posting. If for some reason, you tap enter before you catch a mistake, use the edit feature when applicable.

Do Share A Unique Story

Everyone is sharing and everyone wants their friends and followers to see what they are sharing. But anymore, just because you tap that “Share” link doesn’t necessarily mean that people will see it. Include a personalized message with that update and people will engage. Your followers want to know what it took to capture the image or perhaps what it’s all about. Remember, the more you share and the less engagement you receive the less your updates will be seen in others feed. Even though Facebook, Instagram or Google+ does not have the 140 characters limit, does not mean you have to write a book. Keep it short and save the rest for a blog. If you'd like to know more about how the Facebook algorithm works check out this awesome article from fellow Fstoppers writer Trevor Dayley.


Do Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Copyright infringement and intellectual property is a hot topic these days. It seems as if there is a new viral story every day about some band or business grabbing an image off Google and using it in promotions without compensation or credit to the photographer. It’s important to give proper credit to those involved and make sure you have the right permission. Whether it be a creative director, makeup artist, model, hair stylist, re-toucher or assistant, everyone deserves credit where credit is due. And please, list the credits in an organized list with titles, not a random blast of names.


Do Know your Audience And Interact

Just because you have a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram doesn't mean people are watching.  Musicians like Lady Gaga or bands like Coldplay didn't grow a magical fan base overnight. It requires a vast amount of energy, time and strategic planning to build a fan base. The key element to gaining success is knowing your demographic and interacting with that audience. If your followers are mostly photographers, then post behind the scenes and helpful tips. If your market is musicians, then post teasers and backstage stories that they will talk about. And, most important of all, when your followers ask a question, take the time to respond. If you connect and grow with your audience, they’ll stick with you through thick and thin. A simple "Thanks!" can go a long way.


Do Be Consistent

Facebook rewards those who use it and those who use it consistently, but that does not mean posting a lot, it means posting with a balance. A recent Facebook study found that posting infrequently as once per week would lose connection with your total audience and posting more than three times in one day would become an annoyance. Balance posts into once or twice a day and make sure it’s witty or original.

Facebook: Two posts a day (9:00am – 11:00am and 8:00pm – 10:00pm). Weekdays, Sunday Only.

Twitter: Five balanced posts daily. Weekdays and Weekends.

Google+: Two posts a day. Weekdays, No Weekends.


Don't  Troll (Deliberate Rude Comment)

After a recent experience with my Color Grading Tutorial, I’ve learned that people love to talk trash with the comfort of hiding behind a computer. Also, many love giving out a public opinion without having any pre-notion or knowledge of the discussion at hand. It goes back to the old saying: “If you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all.” Artists from all creative avenues are passionate people with strong opinions, but if you want to get respect you have to give respect. If you feel the inclination to offer a strong opinion, then do it constructively so it enlightens and does not insult others.

Don't Spam (Private Messaging Included)

Text, Enter. Text, Text, Enter. It happens to me daily, there is nothing worse than a quick "texter" spewing out sentence after sentence giving your smartphone a vibration heart attack. Gather your thoughts and write out a message in a thought out paragraph, your pal on the other end with thank you for it. We live in a busy world, so unless it's friend chatter back and forth, get to the point. With updates, it all comes back to being consistent and posting regularly with a balance. With Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, posting inconsistently or spamming can result in a bad taste in the mouth of your followers, so much they may un-follow or remove you from their feed.


Don't Tie Your Social Networks Together

Yes, there are options available which can sync all of your social accounts together, meaning what you post to Facebook automatically posts to Google+ or anything you post to Twitter automatically posts to Facebook. Sounds perfect, right? Well, it actually has a negative impact on your social engagement. I’ve certainly been guilty in the past, but I’ve learned all networks are different and act differently. No one wants to see the same exact text or photo multiple times over multiple networks. Take the extra time and post to each network, sometimes exclusively and in turn you’ll see increased activity to your updates.

Don't Abuse Tagging

Let’s face it, people have the tendency to be tag happy. Some tag others even though they may have nothing to do with the image or update. There is a pre-conditioned stigma that more tags equals more reach without thinking of the unfavorable consequences of that tag such as a reported photo or an unfollow. Be smart with your tags and stagger them over a period of time for more favorable reach. But don’t go overboard, such as tagging others in concert flyers or repeated tags in photos that do not include that person. When uploading images to Facebook, tag your collaborators or subjects in the photo itself and not the caption. This will give you more flexibility and will allow you to spread the tags over a period of time. No one wants two notifications from the same post, which is exactly what would happen if you tag someone in the caption and the photo.

This abuse can also be said for hashtagging: playful terms meant for searching. To many social media fanatics it has become more about the likes and follows that come from hastagging than the actual content uploaded. When used properly hashtags can be fun, witty and informative, but excessive use results in spam.

Don't Beg For Engagement

Luckily, Facebook has decided to crack down on what we like to call “Like Bait,” a photo or update which includes something such as “Please Share!” “Like This And Win!” The algorithm should help eliminate a lot of spam accounts, but there will always be those starving for attention. My recommendation: instead of asking for attention, ask a question and your audience is much more likely to engage in conversation. If you have good creative content or imagery, it will share itself.


After reading all this you’re probably feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Maintaining a solid social media workflow is almost as important to me as my photography. There are shortcuts to this whole social game, but it’s very much a give and take state of mind. In order to take those precious likes and comments you’ll need to give good original content.

In the words of my friend and entrepreneur Bret Jarnigan: “We’re not just photographers, we’re original content creators.”

Clay CookFacebook | YouTube | Instagram | Twitter

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rtimko's picture

Also, read Jab Jab Jab, Right Hook by Gary V. for some additional insight into being better at social media. It should be required for anyone using social media for marketing!

Clay Cook's picture

Absolutely! That is definitely a great read!

Hassan Buyondo's picture

great article clay

Clay Cook's picture

Thanks Hassan!

Jared Monkman's picture

such a great article, and it reflects my personal experience to a T. Great insight, and thanks!

Clay Cook's picture

Thanks Jared! Really appreciate that!

Chris Blair's picture

I'm soooo not using social media correctly...thanks for the post Clay:) I can barely function on Facebook and I have photog friends that are bringing in clients left and right on it....I see a Facebook makeover in the future.

Clay Cook's picture

Thanks Chris! Keep up it, hard work pays off my friend.

Alfredo Rodriguez's picture

This is a good article, however, the only thing I disagree with is posting at 9am & 11am or 8pm & 10pm. I like to spread my posts for example: 11am & 6pm.

Clay Cook's picture

Hey Alfredo! Thanks for checking it out! It's all about your audience. I have a lot of audience on the West Coast, that is why I prefer to post at later times such as 8-10pm, when everyone is off work. Good luck out there man!

Ray Mez's picture

Great Post! Put me back into shape for the social media world.

Clay Cook's picture

Thanks Ray! Appreciate the feedback!

Nighat Nabi's picture

What a useful article! Thank you for emphasizing the importance of proper punctuation & proof. I will definitely ask my 11 year old to read your article. He is already writing blogs & writing product reviews & this article will come in handy.

Clay Cook's picture

That's awesome! Thank you for reading!

Brian Bray's picture

Good article, but deliciously ironic that the phrase "professional that couldn't careless" appears right before the section on proofreading.

Guest's picture

Thanks for reading! I suppose, sometime things fall through the cracks! Thanks for the catch Brian!

DH's picture

"Thanks for reading, Brian" & "Thanks for the catch, Brian." - remember to use a comma before the person's name when talking to that person directly =)

Clay Cook's picture

Thanks for reading Brian! I suppose sometimes things fall through the cracks! Thanks for the catch.

Stevie Reid's picture

Great article Clay, very useful tips indeed!

Clay Cook's picture

Thanks man!

neilvn's picture

golden! ---> "Do Use Proper Punctuation and Proof"
As an example, when someone lazily confuses "their / they're / there", then no matter how eloquently you state your story, you've just lost me. I'm sure I'm not alone on this.

Worse yet, are people who don't proof-read their website or blog postings.

Clay Cook's picture

Indeed! Thanks for reading!

Erick Ocasio's picture

I`m guilty as charge. Thank you for sharing.

Eder Novacki's picture

This should be sent to eveybody on earth ahahahhaha

Roger Paige's picture

Good information.

Begging for engagement. Nothing turns me off more than this, as soon as I follow someone on twitter I get the canned direct message asking to also like them on Facebook.

Intertwining media platforms. So true! What works on twitter may come across as gibberish on FB or G+. Hash tags have their place and each platform has their own version of etiquette.

Consistency. I along with many others fall victim to not being consistent. A great use I found is KLOUT, and it is FREE. You have the ability to schedule postings for any day or any time of day. If you are having a mind block and can't think of anything Klout has topics you can search through with quality content. You can also choose whether you want the posting to hit FB or Twitter, or both. I wish Instagram had one, now that they are becoming a big baller.