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Social Media Etiquette and Strategy: Different Rules for Different Platforms

Updated on September 4, 2012

Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest, Oh My!

Social Media has exploded in recent years. It should come with a manual. What works well on one, may completely flop on another. How do you navigate the subtle differences between platforms? Understanding how each outlet works with all the unspoken rules and expectations, will help you to maximize your sharing.

The Patriach of Social Media: Facebook

With Facebook's countdown to their 1,000,000,000th user, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't at least know about the world's most notorious Internet platform. It has transformed the way humans connect across the planet, with hundreds of new definitions infused into our culture such as,

  • "Facebook me"
  • "PM me"
  • "Tag me"
  • "Poke me"

So how do you use Facebook to share your work, photos, and other online content?
The Facebook newsfeed includes your friends. When you post something online, chances are your friends and family will see it the next time they log on. Since people tend to check Facebook frequently, it is important you don't post things over and over in the span of a couple of hours. Facebook has this nice "ignore" feature, which means you could be sharing all your work to friends who have blocked your updates from appearing on their feeds! Since your friend list doesn't change, you won't know!

Join groups or create a page
Since so many people have friends from all different walks of life on one profile, consider joining groups that are tailored to your interests. When you have something of interest to share, post it in a group, rather than spreading it through your regular profile. Keep in mind, if you are in multiple groups with a lot of the same people, it is rude to post the same item in every group. It clogs up the newsfeed. Pick one or two, or instead of doing all the groups at once, stagger it over several hours.

Another option is to create a page that links to your articles or blog. By doing this, you will gain fans that are interested in the particular topics you write or share. Once you have over 30 fans, you will be able to see insights into their behaviors; meaning you can check to see if your status updates are getting shared or ignored!

What kind of content works well on Facebook?
Facebook is sort of the modge podge of the social media world. Photos, links, videos, status updates, and shout outs all work well. However, since many people use Facebook to spam, it seems that photos and personal status updates (without links) have the highest "response" rate. If you are running a page that links to your blog, be sure to include photos and status updates interspersed with your links. It will help drive reader engagement.

The Matriarch: Twitter

Quickly following in Facebook's footsteps, Twitter has done a damn good job of rivaling Facebook. Unless you are a Twitter groupie, a lot of people don't understand the differences between sharing on Facebook versus Twitter.

With Twitter, you can have an unlimited number of followers. In many cases, most of them may not even be people you know. Whereas Facebook is designed to connect you with people you know in real life, Twitter is aimed at connecting you with people that have common interests. So on Twitter, you'll want to pick five or six topics you like to post about, and stick to them. People will find you based on your brand.

The newsfeed
The Twitter newsfeed works much faster than Facebook. Therefore it is okay to post several times in a couple hours, since you are limited to 140 characters. Chances are you won't be taking over anyone's profile if you post one update an hour. Automated services that help people schedule their Tweets can be helpful, but just like Facebook, people want real and personal. A bunch of automated links isn't going to really get you anywhere.

You do have the option of linking your Facebook and Twitter accounts, but it is not recommended. If you are posting five times on Twitter throughout the morning, all five Tweets will post to Facebook. That can get annoying, especially if you are posting the content on Facebook too! Keep the two separate.

Creating lists
Lists on Twitter work similarly to groups (or lists) on Facebook. Your followers can choose certain a certain list to subscribe to, so that they can receive updates only about the things that interest them.

Facebook vs. Twitter

Friends and family
Colleagues and common interests
Number of friends
Unlimited followers
More likely because of the "like" and "comment" buttons
There is the option to reply or retweet. A bit less personal.
Frequency of posting
Several times a day
Several times in a couple of hours
Groups, lists, or fan pages
Private interaction
Private messaging or chat
Direct message
Usually "friended" because of real life connection
Connect through specific profile description of common interests.
Using the @ sign
Using the @ sign or # sign to connect with trends
Pinterest is all about the visuals.
Pinterest is all about the visuals. | Source

The Daughter: Pinterest

Just when you thought that the Internet market for social media was maxed out with Facebook and Twitter, along came Pinterest. This pin board sharing site took off at first, like an exclusive country club. Members were only allowed to register through invitation, adding to the appeal.

The premise had a lot of the same features as Facebook and Twitter; inviting family, friends, and colleagues to follow your pin boards; digital cork boards where people share things that inspire them. You label your boards according to interest or category, and whenever you see something cool, you pin it to your board.

This social media outlet instantly attracted users who had photographs, recipes, DIY projects, and other visually appealing content to share. You have the option of following one particular board of a friend, or you can follow all their boards. Repinning, liking, and commenting are all done with one click.

What to share on Pinterest?
Images! If you have a great article or blog post, it will not do well on Pinterest unless you create a fantastic photo to go along with it. Choose your pins carefully, as people will follow you based on the content you've put up. Since Pinterest doesn't really do profiles with lots of descriptive information, your images make or break your popularity.

How often can I pin?
Pinning frequently doesn't annoy people quite the same way as a feed full of tweets. However, you will want to keep your pins varied. It is annoying to get online and see 8000 new dresses that someone pinned when looking through the Nordstrom catalog. Try to keep your piled up pinning diverse enough that you don't lose followers.

Which site do you spend most of your time on?

See results

The Son: Google +

Even though Google is considered an online giant, hosting the world's most popular search engine, email server, Picasa, Youtube, and others, it is relatively new to the social media world. After several attempts that fizzled out, Google + is now their attempt to take all the good from Facebook and Twitter and remove the bad.

You can trend on Google + with hashtags. You can organize your friends and colleagues in circles, so you don't have to mix business and pleasure. The +1 button allows content to get "liked" or ranked by other users who are digging what you post. Google plus is fully integrated with mail, documents, and calendars, making sharing information across platforms a cinch.

Unlike the female dominated Pinterest, Google + is male dominated. You can create business profiles (similar to the page on Facebook), and privacy is not as much an issue as Facebook.

Despite it's ease, integration, and layering, Google + hasn't picked up the same type of momentum as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. However, given that Google is the search engine king, it is crucial that online writers have a google profile. You can link your profile to the pages you author, giving users the chance to see your photo under search results. This adds a hook to your pages, and gives you more opportunity for traffic.

The best platform for content

Best Platform
Personal updates
Twitter or Facebook
Article Links
Google +
Pinterest or Facebook
Blog updates
Facebook, Twitter, Google +
Feel-good updates
Pinterest or Twitter
Facebook or Google +

Rules that apply to all sites

  1. Fill out all your profile information completely, so people can get in touch with you through the right channels.
  2. Keep colleagues, friends, and family organized according to groups, lists, boards, and/or pages.
  3. Do not spam people with constant links or bossy images that demand people to share or like.
  4. Promote content from other sources that is meaningful or helpful to your readers/followers.
  5. Reply and respond whenever you can to direct messages, questions, or comments.
  6. Don't forget to be a 'real' person. Posting pictures, updates, and messages that relate to you in rea life is good.
  7. Don't just follow people randomly. Better to have quality than quantity. You will not be able to keep up with your followers if they do not share content that is of any value to you.
  8. Spell correctly! Use proper grammar. Don't shorten words or use text shorthand.
  9. Remember that you may have the same followers across multiple sites. Rather than posting everything to all of them, strategically pick the right platform for your particular content.

What about LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is a social media platform that connects employers, employees, clients, and other business relationships. It is not included in this article because it is really a separate entity from the typical sharing sites. While you can share links, blogs, and other things on LinkedIn, the primary reason for connecting is to network with other people for the purpose of furthering your marketability or business relationships. It is not a personal site meant to promote your own status updates, photos, and links.


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