Modern Etiquette: Social Media Do’s & Don’ts

by Grace Bonney

Illustration by Anna Emilia

Good morning! It’s Friday, there’s a massive storm in the Northeast and love-themed posts are everywhere, so it seems like the perfect time for . . . an etiquette post? I know, this post is a bit outside all the Valentine themes we’ve been focusing on, but I’ve been working on this doozy of a post for weeks now, and I couldn’t wait to share it. Not only because it’s a topic that seems to be on everyone’s mind these days, but because the feedback I got from some of my favorite bloggers (who you’ll read more about below) was so fantastic. This week’s topic is social media etiquette, and boy did people have a lot to say.

I want to start by saying that this topic is the one that scared me the most. Social media etiquette is the most requested theme I’ve gotten so far but the one I wanted to discuss the least. Mainly because it’s such a new and rapidly expanding arena that I wasn’t sure I’d gotten a good enough grasp of the landscape to fully understand the ins and outs. But then I sat down and thought about the core issue here — how to talk to people in different social settings — and it hit me. This is no different than talking to people in different real-life situations. The same commonsense and polite behavior applies and, after conferring with several of the bloggers I respect and trust the most, I found that most people felt the same way. Navigating social media was just another chance to form bonds with people by being respectful, helpful, engaging and authentic. And like most other topics I’ll discuss here, I’ve already made so many of the big mistakes that I feel comfortable speaking from a place of what not to do, as well as talking about what might be better to try.

In addition to my thoughts on the topic, I’ll be sharing mini-interviews and feedback with Joy of Oh Joy!, Victoria of sfgirlbybay, Greg from Apartment Therapy, Lucy from The Design Files, Emily Henderson, Julie of Remodelista, Tina from Swiss Miss and Erin of Design for Mankind. This impromptu panel of bloggers was full of great ideas and helped me work toward my goal of representing a wider range of feedback. I hope my thoughts and all of theirs will be helpful in navigating the sometimes tricky waters of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and everything else that’s popped up between the beginning and end of this post. xo, grace

*As always, please feel free to leave your ideas about the topic, your suggestions for best practices and any stories (good and bad) about your experiences with this topic. This column is all about discussing ideas and understanding different people’s perspectives, so I’d love to hear from all of you.

The full post (all 7,000 words and 8 blogger interviews) continues after the jump!

Social Media Etiquette

Part of me thinks this post has the potential to be totally obsolete in less than a year. And then another part of me thinks the thoughts below are timeless. With the way the internet and social media change so quickly, it’s hard to know just how conversation will work online in the coming years. But one thing remains the same: People like to be treated with respect, care and thoughtfulness online. So today’s main goal will be about finding ways to do that through social media.

I. Basic Do’s and Don’ts: 11 Things to Remember Across All Social Media Platforms

  • Comments follow you. Much like comments on a website, comments, responses, likes, dislikes, rants, pictures and hashtags are, for better or worse, forever. Because social media feels like a place where people can just be themselves and say things off the cuff, people often say things they wouldn’t typically say in public. But unless all your accounts are private, what you’re saying is most definitely in public. Deleting tweets and updates doesn’t always solve the problem. When in doubt, if you don’t want something coming back to you, don’t say it online. (Prefacing something with “No offense, but . . .” or “Don’t get mad, but I HAVE to say this . . .” doesn’t absolve anyone of anything.) Cursing as well as spelling, grammatical and factual accuracy fall into this category, too.
  • Pay attention to the purpose. By this I mean, is your or someone else’s handle related to their personal name or their business? It makes a difference. If you find your favorite internet personality has a private personal Twitter feed and a public business feed, which is the right one to contact about work? Yep, the last one. More often than not, people think it’s effective to contact anyone anywhere they can find them. But people name and identify sources of contact for specific reasons. So rather than pitching endlessly at your favorite TV star’s personal account, try using their “contact me” page on the business site instead. Bottom line? Don’t bombard someone with pitches on social media outlets unless that’s their only form of contact (and even then, contact 1–2 times and wait for them to respond). Most people have websites with submission or contact forms. Use those rather than constant tweets and updates.
  • Beware the overshare. Nothing seems to freak out online readers (and people in general) more than a picture/comment/post that crosses the line you’ve established with your audience. If you’re someone who typically talks about design and suddenly you’re updating with details about your frequent trips to an adult bookstore (yes, I actually saw this happen), people might be a little surprised or uncomfortable. Does that mean there’s something wrong with your life choices? No. Does it mean you might need a separate personal account for things discussed outside the realm of your business? Yep.
  • Not everything is personal. I have friends who seem to live and die by Facebook. If someone doesn’t friend them, they think there’s secretly a huge war brewing between them and this now former friend. But sometimes it’s not about you, Facebook or any perceived slight. Sometimes someone missed your request or just isn’t signing on as much. Either way, if you truly feel you’ve been slighted by someone you know well in real life, send them an actual email to ask. If they’re a real friend, they’ll explain, and hopefully a needless Facebook war can be avoided. *Facebook specific: If you’re sending someone a friend request without any note attached and you don’t really know them, you may not get a response. When in doubt, explain who you are and whom you have in common, etc.
  • Beware the overshare, Part 2. I have often been an (albeit unintended) offender of this rule. Whether you’re tweeting, updating or pinning things, most people don’t want to be flooded by updates from someone. Especially if that upload rate differs from your typical post rate. I made this mistake when I finally got into Pinterest (I stupidly didn’t realize uploading a million old things at night would flood everyone’s feeds. Sorry guys, I learned and stopped.), and it tends to be one of the most common reasons (outside of political commentary) that inspires an angry “UNFOLLOW!” comment. So, if you plan on tweeting 40 times a day, let people know. Clearly people can always unfollow you on various accounts, but it’s always polite to give people a heads up that says, “Today I’ll be updating more than normal because of (XYZ).”
  • Consider the tone. Humble-bragging, outright bragging, constant complaining and endless rhetorical questions never go over well with readers. If you find your tone slipping into these territories, it may be time to consider whether this is the right outlet for you. If Twitter has become your only place to vent, people may start to associate you and your business with that tone of voice. When it doubt, try to represent an accurate and realistic range of tones. No one expects you to be happy all the time, but no one wants you to be fake either. Keep it real and try to keep it balanced if you can. Also consider that people can’t always tell your tone online. If you’re being sarcastic and people can’t tell, it might be time to be more direct.
  • Skip the call-outs. Let’s be honest. As fun as it can be to discover internet gossip (I’m pretty sure there are enough sites devoted to that), it’s more fun to avoid the hurt feelings, damaged reputation and upset readers that come with calling people out, vaguely or directly. Sometimes it can’t be avoided (I’ve seen some legitimate copying issues addressed successfully on social media platforms after a lack of email response), but most of the time, calling someone out just makes you seem like a jerk. Just skip it. Talk to that person privately or just let it go. Readers really don’t want to hear most people’s dirty laundry.
  • Think before tagging. Most people want to put their best foot forward online. That foot rarely includes eyes rolled back in their head or shots of their jeans slipping too low. If you’ve got a shot of someone you want to upload, and you’re not trying to embarrass them, reach out to see if they mind you tagging them. Most people appreciate the chance to avoid having their reputation damaged or looking foolish. It should also be noted that personal photos (partying/drinking, vacation in a bikini) are probably best left out of business-related feeds.
  • Ignoring trumps engaging (most of the time). I’ve got nine years of experience dealing with people being mean online. No matter what you write about (people, furniture, kids, pets), someone out there will hate you for it. And those people seem to love attacking on social media outlets the most. It’s easy to trip and fall into a Twitter war or a Facebook comment battle, but when in doubt, let it go. Unless someone’s causing real damage to your reputation, stay out of it or respond with a simple factual response.
  • Act the way you’d want to be treated. If you care about people crediting you, credit other people. If you care about being polite and responding to people on Twitter, respond politely to them. If you want to have people leave insightful comments (and not just promotions) on Facebook, do the same for them. You get the point — be the example you’d like others to follow. If you put positive, responsible energy out on all of your accounts, you’re more likely to get it back.
  • Don’t demand reciprocation. As much as I’d like some of my favorite people (please, Robyn?) to follow me online, I can’t demand that it happen. Constant plugs for follows, likes, friending, etc. can feel calculated and anything by genuine online. Bottom line? Follow, friend, like or pin something because you really want to, not because you expect something in return.


II. Twitter

Twitter is my first social media love. I fought joining it for a solid year, and when I finally did, I found a new home online. I felt more relaxed, more off the cuff and just more ME. I was able to talk about things outside of design (as long as it wasn’t controversial), and I got to meet new people I wouldn’t normally meet. Of all the social media outlets, this is the one I feel the most well versed in. While most of the main ideas apply across all the outlets listed below, I wanted to share a few Twitter-specific thoughts.

  • Twitter seems to be the main battle ground for online fights. Trolls, weird impostor accounts and Debbie Downers abound here. I’ve made the mistake of engaging in arguments and staying quiet when I shouldn’t have. Overall, I learned it’s best to stick to the facts. If someone’s responding with an opinion that you don’t like, just ignore it. If they do nothing but respond with opinions you don’t like, you can choose to unfollow them or block them. Some people are endlessly offended by blocking, but I think it’s the simplest tool you have to end an ugly situation without making it uglier (i.e., yelling at each other online).
  • SPOILERS: Just don’t do it. Wait a day or two and then preface your updates. As much as I hate that people spend time on a site dedicated to live updating on the night of something that’s happening live and get mad about those live updates, it’s usually not worth the fight. If you’re going to live-tweet the Oscars or a show finale, give people a heads up so they can unfollow you for the day/night/week. That said, if you’re not watching the election and want to be surprised in the morning, don’t hang out on Twitter that night.


III. Facebook

Facebook has grown on me over the past year. For years I struggled with it, not wanting to be redundant about what I post on both Twitter and Facebook. For me, Facebook is primarily about sharing images and connecting with people in a way that’s less about short witty sentences and more about stories, ideas and deeper thought. I’ve chosen to keep a personal private account (though it wasn’t always personal and private, so I’ve got some FB contacts that don’t know me in “real life”), and I’m so glad I have that outlet to be a bit less guarded with updates, etc. Facebook’s privacy settings can be helpful in that regard, so it’s a great outlet to help you manage those updates if you want a place to think a little bit less about being “on brand” all the time.

My main note here is about friends/friend invites. I think it’s important to respect people’s privacy, and if they want to keep an account private for a reason, respect that. I’ve sent friend requests to more casual online acquaintances and have been met with rejections that fully explained the reason. I really appreciate and respect that sort of exchange, and I think most people do. If you want someone to “friend” you but don’t take the time to explain who you are or why they should friend you back, don’t be surprised if that request isn’t granted. The “rejection” isn’t always about you; it’s often about that person just wanting a space to be themselves without needing to maintain the boundaries expected by a work situation.

IV. Pinterest

Ooh, boy. I’ve been pretty vocal about my issues with Pinterest. But after years of being a stick in the mud about it, I decided it was better to engage on terms I felt comfortable with than to ignore it all together. (Though I still lament that it doesn’t feel as “social” as I’d like it to be.) I’ve tried to do that by only uploading images I have the rights to or know are ok to use/promote (i.e., retail images sent by artists and their PR companies). I try to credit photographers and stylists as often as I can and hope that this general sentiment spreads across the site.

  • Pin what you have permission to pin. I know this is probably archaic and old-school of me, but I genuinely hope people respect photographers, stylists and content creators and can credit them as often as possible. I’ve seen good people miss chances at work because someone could find the source of an image or its creator. So when it doubt, making an effort to credit the artist is awesome.
  • Don’t do what I did and upload too much on one day. I learned my lesson. Space out your pins and don’t flood people’s feeds. Although, admittedly, I follow some people whose taste is so exquisite that I’d happily read their feed-floods all day. Especially the cat-related ones.


V. Instagram

I am a late-to-the-party convert to Instagram. I’m not suffering under any delusions that all the fancy filters make me a good photographer (because they don’t), but I love that they can make everyday shots feel a little special. For me, this all-image-all-the-time platform is a natural extension of blogging without losing the unique vision of the person behind it. I like that it gives me a way to see more of someone’s real life and day, beyond blog posts. Here are the things I’ve learned so far:

  • People seem to like people’s feeds to be an extension of what they already do/are associated with online (this post definitely has a common theme). So if you’re a design blogger, people tend to prefer patterns, art and cool houses to be mixed in with, say, every 10 cat photos you post.
  • People have started using Instagram to tag people in unexpected places. Much like the tagging note above, give people a heads up if you’re live-Instagraming someone and they don’t know.


We’ve reached the end of my overall thoughts on social media. If I had to sum up my point of view in one sentence it would be: Treat others the way you want to be treated and don’t attack people with pitches. Feeds are meant to be balanced, so try to offer people a little bit of the good with the bad (if you feel the need to share negative things on a regular basis) and a little bit of the personal with the work. It helps people get a well-rounded picture of you and the important projects in your life.

I was curious to hear what others had to say, so now I’m thrilled to share feedback from some of my favorite talented (and seasoned) bloggers. Thanks so much to all of them for sharing their thoughts and time with us here! (Please note: I’ve edited some of the responses below for length.)

* * *

1. What are your biggest social media pet peeves on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest?

Joy Deangdeelert Cho of Oh Joy!: This is going to sound totally naive, but probably negative comments and negativity in general. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and share parts of your life or your inspirations, so when people are rude or unkind, it makes it a less fun thing to do.

Gregory Han, Tech Editor at Apartment Therapy: Hashtag-itis: a condition afflicting a segment of Twitter or Instagram users, manifesting in a chronic tendency to tag a dictionary’s worth of subjects when a sentence would have sufficed. Hashtags should be used thoughtfully and sparingly; otherwise, they’re the Twitter/Instagram equivalent of wearing a “LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!” t-shirt. Also, I’m sure this has happened to everyone at least once: you share a link on Facebook, then a moment later you see a friend who read/commented your link repost it without sharing via your original post, sans hat tip. The finder’s fee is a small but polite one: credit your source!

Emily Henderson: My pet peeves are mainly by major companies whose PR teams all of a sudden discovered social media and they are doing it all wrong by doing it in such a corporate way. Most bloggers kinda get it, but when big, old companies join, they only tweet out their sales and “Check out our gorgeous throw” instead of trying to tweet something compelling, like “How much do you want to be snuggling under this with Ryan Gosling?” That tweet I would click on. I always think that if I had a ton of money and was a big company, I would hire comedians to write the tweets/posts. Those are the ones that are retweeted the most, clicked on the most and that make the companies look WAYYY cooler than they probably are. Same with Pinterest. Hey big companies: Don’t label your own product “beautifully designed wrought iron table and for more table ideas click on www.i’magenericwebsite.com.” I don’t want to re-pin that without editing the copy, and often I just don’t want to have to edit the copy, I just want to hit “repin.” Lastly, as a stylist/designer, I get bummed that my work is floating around so uncredited. Often the magazine/blog or the photographer is credited, but when you work soooo hard on a project, it’s such a bummer to see it credited to someone else. It’s nobody’s fault; people just forget who did it, and after a few pins it’s a rabbit hole of non-crediting.

Victoria from sfgirlbybay: Each social network has its own petty annoyances. I’m not a huge fan of Facebook in general because I find it so invasive, and I hate how they’re always changing their privacy features — it’s hard to keep up. I dislike being tagged on Facebook with someone’s promotional image or having someone post something on my wall they want to promote. I suppose I would say that on Twitter, I really dislike it when someone never, ever tweets their personal stories, and it’s simply a constant stream of self-promotion. That gets old fast. I also really dislike a stream of complaints. I have my own silly complaints about life, and I am trying really hard not to air them on Twitter. It’s boring. I don’t care for sponsored tweets much either with a ton of hashtags. On Pinterest, my biggest pet peeve is not correctly crediting an image. I think on the web that’s pretty easy to do from time to time, but I think it’s irresponsible to always pin from unknown sources like Tumblr or ffffound. I also really, really hate the snarky, negative criticism on pins. If you don’t like something, ignore it. Or unfollow that board/person.

Lucy from The Design Files: Our biggest pet peeve on social media would be unwarranted negativity! Your nana was right when she said, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” These outlets are so great at fostering and encouraging a positive online community, but unfortunately they’re unmoderated, and people don’t always have nice things to say. It’s a real shame when people get nasty.

Julie from Remodelista: Long public discussion threads that should really be private conversations (DMs). Excessive snark. When an individual or a website “clogs the feed” and overwhelms their audience with too many posts, too many pins, too many tweets.

Erin from Design for Mankind: I don’t have a ton of pet peeves related to social media, because I try not to take these sorts of platforms too seriously. I think when we place too many rules on certain online outlets, it’s a sure sign that we might be placing too much value on them as a collective society. I do, however, have little tolerance for bullying on these platforms. There’s no place for mindless name-calling or finger-pointing anywhere online (or offline, for that matter), especially on such viral avenues. I’ve unfollowed/unfriended many users for sending out intentional and continuous negativity into the world, but again, that’s a personal preference of mine and is an immediate reflection of my life offline, as well.

Tina Roth Eisenberg of Swiss Miss: Overhashtagging drives me completely crazy.

2. What are your top 3 tips for being a considerate social media user?

Joy: Be positive. Be polite. Be inspiring.

Lucy: (1) Share, share, share! You can’t expect to gain from the online community if you are not contributing to it. (2) Credit work that is not your own. (3) Be kind, always!

Gregory: Ask and never assume. 99% of the time that I’ve asked permission to share content from its original owner/creator, the answer is usually a resounding “yes” . . . they usually end up thanking me for showing interest, [creating] the opportunity for better and original content beyond what they might have already shared. When you enjoy a great meal at a restaurant, do you credit the waiter/waitress for the fine cooking? No . . . you compliment the chef! So goes it for online content. Make the effort to credit the originating source and not just the person who hat-tipped you to a site or images, especially true in this era of Pinterest and Tumblr where images are shared without a thought. Don’t flood the stream. I’ve had to stop following certain Twitter accounts after multiple incidents where they’d post 5–10 tweets in a row, blanketing my feed. This doesn’t endear anyone to read your updates.

Tina: Contribute to the conversation. Don’t hate on people. Keep it upbeat.

Julie: Be kind (if you wouldn’t say something in person, don’t say it on social media). Don’t spam in an effort to get noticed or to drive traffic to your own site (or Twitter feed or whatever). On Pinterest, don’t issue random Pinterest Board Guest Pinner invitations (we sometimes get invitations to contribute to bikini boards, for instance!). Be yourself; don’t invent a “persona” to get attention.

Emily: It’s so tricky. I can tell you what I appreciate: when I feature someone and tag them in a post, that they not only favorite it, but retweet it to their followers. If someone goes out of their way to credit you and blog about you, then the least you can do is tweet it out to your followers. I hereby apologize for all the times that I haven’t done that, and I now promise to do that because I appreciate it so much. In general, I’d say be generous with your tweets — if you see a lot of effort in a blogger creating original content, TWEET IT OUT.

Erin: (1) Consider the recipient. Social media platforms are all too often focused on the sender of the message, rather than the receiver. I think that’s partially why so many “etiquette guidelines” are being broken. If we take a moment to consider the reactions of others and how our messages might be interpreted, each platform will likely become more enjoyable for all. (2) Consider the medium. Indeed, the Internet never forgets. It’s so easy to feel as if we’re adding thoughts to a fleeting conversation, but it’s important to remember that nothing online is temporary. I have a personal rule for this: Never write what I wouldn’t share with my grandmother. (Luckily, I share a lot with my grandmother!) (3) Consider the message. Social media platforms are noisy. I think it’s considerate to, at times, pause and think before you add your take. By self-editing our messages to be (a) relevant, (b) positive or (c) necessary, we’d likely trim a lot of the fat. (Edit: That’s not to say that I don’t love a good cat photo any day of the week. Cat photos are very, very necessary.)

Victoria: I think it’s important to not just use social media strictly for promotion. It’s much more fun and engaging to let your followers know the real you and to see your personality through your tweets and posts. I think there’s some rule of thumb someone made up about two-thirds you, one-third promotion. Also, I don’t retweet or repost links to my blog posts over and over. I usually do two tweets maximum for a post (once in the morning, once in the evening). And on Facebook, I only post it once. Give proper credit to your sources and add links to your tweets and posts. Try not to have a running chat with friends if possible. I know I’ve been guilty of this on occasion, and I’m making a conscious effort not to do it. It’s a drag for your followers to see a back and forth chat between one or more tweeters go on forever in their Twitter stream, and I think it makes people feel excluded.

3. Are there appropriate ways for people/businesses to contact you through social media? If so, what do you prefer?

Joy: I prefer emails for business-related contacts. Since those messages require a longer response than what can fit on a tweet, I’d prefer to have that dialog over email.

Greg: I’m always happy to hear from readers, PR or followers via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. I think my only requirement is to respect my time and not to overdo it . . . I’ve had some PR contacts (very few) be over-aggressive about pushing their interests.

Emily: I like a DM-ing through Twitter or Facebook. But any way you want to contact me, you can. I try to respond to most emails that are a question.

Victoria: I prefer to be emailed via my blog if possible. But I think a quick tweet asking me to take a look at something is fine. I’d rather businesses didn’t post on my Facebook page, though.

Tina: I enjoy it when people point me to products/sites on Twitter. I do not, however, like it when companies pitch me stuff through this platform. That’s what email is for. The other day a big reputable firm asked me to follow them on Twitter so they could DM me. I did, and then they just simply asked me if I used their service. That was completely lame.

Lucy: I am always happy for TDF readers to contact me through social media, but if a business or creative would like to send a pitch, we prefer that they email us. With such a small team of just two people here at TDF, we find it is easy to assess all submissions in the one place, with images attached!

Erin: Absolutely! I’m pretty open to any communication in any way, but I think the easiest way is to send a brief tweet (or DM, if the message is personal). It’s an amazing way to connect quickly on a basic level, and I reserve email for more in-depth questions or conversations. I’ve heard of so many people ditching their inbox entirely in lieu of Twitter, and although I wouldn’t go that far, it is amazing to see how beneficial Twitter has become in terms of touch-and-go messaging.

Julie: We always respond best to solicitations that come through social media when the sender (or vendor) is gracious and knows Remodelista well and believes their product/idea is a good fit for our site. When you can tell that the person getting in touch is unfamiliar with the site and is sending multiple solicitations, it’s off-putting.

4. Did you make any rookie mistakes on social media outlets that you learned from?

Joy: Yes! Posting too much and too often especially on things that show up as feeds. It’s good to spread out tweets and Instagrams so that you don’t bombard people with 20 in a row. Then, they can appreciate the single message or image without being overwhelmed by too many at one time.

Tina: I tend to use caution when using DMs, as I have had a few tweets go out that were not meant for public consumption. I have learned to realize that Twitter is quite the perfect tool to be misunderstood. I try to be as clear as I can be when writing something somewhat critical. Also, never question Americans’ love for sandwiches. Never!

Gregory: Assuming others know your intentions and assume the best of you. Engaging one-on-one with readers and followers is great, if not required. But knowing when to walk away from interactions is just as important. Not everyone wants to be your friend online, and there’s always a troll under the proverbial bridge waiting. Early on, I treated my professional social media channels like my personal one, hoping I could be on positive terms with everyone. Unfortunately, the reality is that good intentions aren’t always enough, so knowing when to fold the cards and play a new hand is important with engagement. Also, when I first began, I remember duplicating content too often. This annoyed friends who followed by both the Apartment Therapy account and my personal “typefiend” one. I was a dupe dope. A recent mistake I made: forgetting I had temporarily connected my Instagram updates to the Apartment Therapy Tech Twitter feed for CES coverage. I’m sure there was a bit of head scratching amongst AT Tech followers seeing updates about photos of tasty meals and cute cat antics via Instagram.

Emily: Nope. I’m perfect. Except opposite. I had someone who worked for me who had me signed up with a sponsored tweet program that I didn’t know about, and all of a sudden I was tweeting out about Jimmy Dean Sausage and how I lost 5 pounds in one day eating some stupid berry. While I do love sausages and I wish I could lose 5 pounds in one day, these were clearly sponsored and TERRIBLE, and I thought I was being hacked. Meanwhile, followers were pissed. So no matter what, don’t sign up for those programs. Sponsored tweets can be fine if they are for a brand/product/company you use and like, if they pay well enough and, most importantly, if you can write them in your own voice, but unless its those three things, stay away from them. Also I didn’t and still don’t have my Twitter username “em_henderson” and my Instagram username “emhenderson” the same, and that was a MASSIVE mistake. There isn’t anything I can do about it now, and as my friend Bri told me, it’s social media suicide, but that was a TERRIBLE mistake that I wish I could undo.

Julie: When we first created a Remodelista Facebook page, we used Networked Blogs to auto-generate posts (synched to our site). Disaster! People don’t like automated content. Since then, we’ve gone down to a single post a day on Facebook, and we also post original content and newsy items, which seem to resonate more with the Facebook crowd.

Erin: Oh my gosh, so many! I think that’s the nature of these outlets — we’re all learning as we go. I’ve made a ton of what I’d consider to be social media mistakes in the past: pinned affiliate links, misplaced image credits, set up automatic tweets — the list goes on. I’ve learned a lot since then, but I think the main realization for me has been that social media is just social media: You post what you’re comfortable with and try to hold yourself to your own standard of accountability. We can’t really expect everyone to interact at our comfort levels all of the time, so it’s important to extend a bit of grace to our fellow users. That’s what makes it a community, yes?

Victoria: Yes, and I probably still do from time to time. I didn’t know, for instance, that if you tweet back to someone you follow and you want other followers to be able to read it too, you have to include characters in front of their Twitter handle (e.g., “hey @designsponge did you see this . . .”). I also have been known to tweet personal complaints (see above), and I’m trying not to bore people with those. No one cares that I ran out of mayonnaise. I think whining in general is a bad idea, and I’ve been guilty of it. I’ve also tweeted personal political references, and sometimes I’m not sure that’s a good idea. But on the other hand, for instance, this last presidential election was important to me, so I felt like I’d like to share my views. If I could encourage someone opposed to my point [of view] to consider it another way, then I consider that a plus. I’ve certainly lost some followers doing this. But I’ve gained a few, too.

Lucy: Once we ran a Twitter giveaway where everyone had to tag “@thedesignfiles” at the opening of a tweet to enter. We later realised if you @ tag someone at a beginning of a tweet, only those who follow the tagged user can see the tweet, meaning we missed out on an opportunity to gain new followers who might like what TDF has to offer! Uh oh. Luckily we quickly realised and were able to fix our mistake.

5. Do you use the main social media outlets for different purposes, or do you like to use the same content for all of them?

Joy: I definitely use them for different purposes. And to be honest, I don’t use them all equally, as there are so many, and it’s tough to spend a lot of time on all of them. For me, I spend the most energy on two (outside of my blog) — Twitter and Pinterest — simply because I enjoy them the most, and they work best with the way I work or think. Pinterest has become my go-to for saving inspiration and ideas, and Twitter is just a fun way to quickly communicate with others.

Gregory: I’ve mostly divided social media into professional and personal accounts (except for Instagram). So what I post on Apartment Therapy’s Twitter feed is only occasionally the same as what I post on my personal account. Facebook and Instagram are more closely tied to my personal life, used for engaging with friends I know, while Pinterest is the least tied to active social engagement since comments are rare and the sharing aspect is less immediately satisfying than the other three.

Emily: I use Pinterest for work, fun and to get readers to the blog. I have simple boards for “rugs” and “sofas,” which make it so easy for client work. Instagram is purely fun — sometimes I Instagram what I’m featuring on the blog, but not too often. Mostly it’s just what I’m around and want to share. Facebook is for real active engagement with followers where I ask questions and post contests/giveaways, and Twitter is for broader fast engagement and talking about pop culture. Actually, Twitter is how I engage with other bloggers more than anything else. Ultimately my daily goal is to have my social media posts be so compelling that people are curious enough to actually click on them and read the post, not just read the tweet or the Facebook post about the blog post. Instead of writing, “Check out this living room I designed,” I write, “Check out this living room I designed inspired by Chuck Bass’s bachelor pad, pre-marriage to Blaire, of course. Do you think he’d approve? #gossipgirl.”

Victoria: I use Twitter to post “teaser” tweets to read my blog posts, and I also really use it to stay connected with friends and to find inspiration. I follow people who I think share interesting links more often than not, and I love Twitter for that. I use Facebook primarily to link to my blog posts, including an image from the post. I don’t normally share many personal posts on Facebook. Like I said, I can find it to be a bit invasive. Old boyfriends hunt you down! :) I use Pinterest a few ways: I link an image from each of my posts; I pin images that inspire me and that I think will inspire others, whether it be decor or art or a DIY idea. I also use the private boards to save images I’d like to blog about down the road and kind of want to keep to myself while the idea for the post brews. I also use Pinterest to share boards with others I’m collaborating with — like a decorating project or, for example, Rena and I used a pinboard to share ideas for how Makeshift Society should look. It’s a great tool for that. I use Instagram mostly just for fun. Sometimes I will share an image for the blog but not that often. Sometimes I create posts from my favorite Instagrams, though. Either mine or a collected theme from others (always crediting back to their original link).

Lucy: We use them for different purposes. We love Facebook’s new timeline, as it is visually rich and allows us to share our beautiful imagery with our readers like it’s a mini TDF notice board. On Pinterest, we also share our own images but are seriously addicted to repining the magical images others have created! Twitter is more conversational and allows for more spontaneous interaction with our readers. And don’t even get us started on Instagram — we are obsessed! We think it’s more laid back and a great way to give our readers a behind-the-scenes look at TDF.

Julie: Since we are a small team with different affinities for the four top social media outlets, we take the divide-and-conquer approach. For instance, I am a compulsive user of Pinterest (I even have a Cats board). Our San Francisco editor, Sarah Lonsdale, likes Instagram. Our London editor, Christine Hanway, has a knack for Twitter. And our SF-based associate editor, Alexa Hotz, was an early adopter of Pinterest. And Stacey Lindsay manages our Facebook presence. We live in fear that another social medium will arise!

Erin: The social media outlets I use actually have very different purposes. I find that I use Twitter a lot to connect with readers who prefer to engage in a conversation on that platform rather than in a blog’s comment section. I use Pinterest strictly for cataloging visual inspiration and “someday” ideas, and Instagram is a just-for-fun place where I often share personal snippets of my day and my family. I recently deleted my personal Facebook page (best decision ever!) because I never really loved that outlet, but I do keep business pages for both DesignForMankind.com and DesignForMiniKind.com as a way to share additional content that I might not post on the blogs themselves.

Tina: Yeah, there’s definitely different purposes for some of them. Also, I enjoy it when I follow someone on all of them to see content that is platform specific.

Suggested For You


  • How about not posting photos of friends’ weddings before they do? I eloped this weekend, not in the traditional sense, but had a very small wedding where only family and local friends knew. A few guests posted photos of it on Facebook and Instagram, et voila, surprise ruined. I hadn’t wanted to send out a social media policy to my guests before the wedding, but at my next one, I will ;)

  • What a great post, thank you; insightful and informative in equal measure… and great to have such a range of contributors. For me the most resonant message was the one about positivity, and thinking of the recipient. I write a small, craft-based blog and from time to time my content gets picked up & featured on major sites – I’m always surprised and disappointed by how ready a small minority of people are to make negative & thoughtless comments (‘that looks crazily complicated’, ‘I pity her kids’, ‘who’d want to wear that?’) … it’s so unnecessary; they almost certainly wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, so why online? Despite being countered by a huge volume of lovely comments and feedback, it’s the kind of thing that makes you want to just withdraw. Hopefully pieces like this help to spread the positivity a little further!

  • Wow. What a lot of effort in creating this post. Thank you so much. I am new to blogging and this will certainly be a key reference guide. Thanks to everyone inovloved for sharing. Great read.

  • Hi Grace,
    Thanks so much for tackling this subject: it couldn’t have come at a better time as I just started blogging myself and have lots of questions, especially as it pertains to image (re)use. I’ve always looked to you, and the guest bloggers you’ve interviewed here, as mentors (no pressure!). When I want to post an artists’ work, I usually email them and ask for permission first, and I’ve always gotten a very appreciative response. But I’m wondering if it is truly necessary to get permission first from every single artist? It seems that if a link/credit is provided the original creator would be happy to have their image shared? Hence the nature of social. Btw—I’ve often wondered why there is no “pin it” button on design Sponge….now I know!

    • sue

      we’re actually going to be adding one soon ;)

      that said, i think it is important to ask, but i think the rule of thumb a lot of people seem to be operating under (for better or worse) is that people SELLING something (etsy work, etc) would be ok having their work on pinterest if the credit is included, so they can drum up sales and press.


  • You’ve made some really excellent points. There are a lot of things I just don’t think of, being that I’ve only been blogging for just over a year… I’m still pretty new to the entire aspect of blogging. I’m also new to the world of facebook too, in a way, as I deleted my personal account a few years ago and only joined again for the sake of creating a a blog page. And you’re right, some (if not all) of what you shared is timeless in regards to the principle behind courtesy and respect in the online atmosphere.
    I had a less than merry experience with a blogger whom I chose to advertise with when she didn’t follow through with the written promise of a group feature post, which usually brings a lot more attention than a sidebar advertisement. Long story short, I was able to get a partial refund for what I paid to sponsor her blog, but ultimately because I was the one coming to her and even having to ask for the refund because she did not follow through with what was promised left a bridge burned and ultimately, I also became uninterested in her entire online reputation, which includes a blog and shop. I think she does great things with her shop and blog, but she handled a business transaction very poorly and I’ll never forget the disappointment and kink that it put in my own business plans.

  • I just wanted to respond to your reply on my earlier comment. I totally agree with you that no one should take other people’s work and post it to pinterest. I just love to collect lovely things on pinterest, and rarely put my own images on it.

    Thanks for all of your hard work, Grace!

  • I’ve Pinned the title graphic of this article to a work life board on Pinterest with a url to bring people here. I have also posted it in LinkedIn. Hope that’s alright. If it isn’t, I’ll remove stat. Just thought it was an article worth sharing. Thank you.

  • This is a wonderful post that I shall link to on Facebook and my blog. Thanks for dealing with this important topic so thoroughly. Initially I set up a personal Facebook account and a business one. I assumed that I could play traffic cop and people would get it. I kept content separate and only accepted friend requests from those I knew. Over time I realized that over and over again, people wanted to be on BOTH my personal site and the business site. I thought it was odd because I wouldn’t want to be on both for anyone else. Over time, however, I began to realize that I am part of my brand and that although I would prefer to separate business and personal cleanly, that others want to (for reasons I’ll never understand) know that we bought a new apple tree or that we’re rode 50 miles on our bikes. Like it or not, not sharing that innocuous stuff makes people feel less connected to our work and brand. So I began accepting friend requests from people I didn’t know who clearly were fans (you can tell by looking at their page) and using the groups settings for truly personal stuff that I just want to share with close friends and family. After I accept their friend request I thank them and ask them to like my business page as well, explaining that’s where the business chat is. It’s a way of giving people what they want, while also maintaining the option for personal posts. Oddly, 99% respond that they want both personal and business news. I don’t get it but it’s clearly important to them to know the person behind the brand.

    • Thank you,I learned alot.before I just felt really dumb,and I think to much,I really don’t like to post.they said if u don’t hit like or comment they would be block.is it wrong to remove people that you don’t know?cause I notice when u friend someone you get all their followers,I received a text from my friend asking why I unfriend one of her followers,I said if I don’t know them I hit remove,is this being disrepectful?if u address this sorry for repeating this,I’m 56 and really new at this,it’s scary and I really don’t like telling people everything,and I don’t talk politics,cuss , just shock with language at times.well I bore you with this,reading what you had I learned alot.just thought removing someone I don’t know I was just repecting I feel odd reading someone page that I don’t know.thank you,for your help,melissa.

  • One issue that’s not addressed here is some (not D*S’s) blogs’ tendency to delete any comment that is not glowing. I am a reader of one of the bloggers interviewed here, and have never ever posted anything remotely critical. However, I have noticed that she only publishes glowing/gushing/fawning, praise from readers, with a very very rare mildly not-gushing comment. Honestly, this is too much! It’s not intellectually honest.

    While I don’t think any blogger should embrace mean-spirited or abusive comments, if you aren’t going to publish anything but compliments, then change the name from “comments” to “fan-girls respond.”

  • These are comprehensive list of etiquette while you in social media. These reminds me that you can’t do all things because it will reflect in your personality. Just remember, you are in social media to build trust, be lovable and be friendly.

  • I would also really like to see more people with Twitter accounts responding to comments that people tweet at them. It’s meant to be an interactive forum, not a board for opining about whatever’s on your mind. I know some people get a lot of tweets, but it’s bad public relations to ignore your audience.

  • What a useful information this is. I am so behind with this social media stuff but I am learning what kind of social media is useful for what based on the Q & A above. Also, I am overwhelmed with so many social media out there right now like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. but now I have a good insight of what they are {again from reading this post}. Thank you All for sharing.

  • I will keep this brief! This is AMAZING content and very much needed, for me. Thank you so much for posting it!

  • Very interesting article. I would love to see an ‘etiquette for bloggers’ post – too often I feel that bloggers miss the value of interacting with readers rather than just posting, tweeting, instagraming for the sake of making blog-related announcements.

    Responding personally to comments, answering emails and interacting with readers is a valuable tool to engage with and (more importantly) keep life long followers. It’s positive, friendly and even, well, polite. Sometimes that’s more effective than ‘reaching the masses’. I don’t think many bloggers consider this…

  • I agree :), that’s why I think even an automated reply thanking a reader for their email can be as great as any personal response. I totally get the job-kids-home situation and that everyone’s time is so incredibly valuable. On the flip side, it’s usually the BIG bloggers that make their living from their blogs that are the worst with correspondence. There’s nothing as degrading as not receiving a reply after you’ve enthusiastically written to one of the bloggers you follow on a regular basis to share how much you admire their work, or to ask a question related to a recent project. Not that I do that often… but I can speak from experience as well.

    Responding to every email – even with the world’s quickest reply – was one of those 101 lessons that I learned in business school but one that I don’t think everyone considers as etiquette. Just my 2 cents for all of those lovely bloggers out there! Especially the ones that do so well and have garnered a fantastic audience.

  • My dad died last week and many people posted a simple condolence post, some publicly and some privately. Is a general public comment from me thanking them sufficient, or should I send a message to each one on their message board with a thank-you?

    • howard,

      i think when the loss is on your end, you’re more than safe to post a general ‘thank you’ to everyone. they know you have important things you’re dealing with and won’t expect an individual response. however, if people send flowers or something more specific, it would be nice to mention it to them personally later, when you have time.


  • I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your website. It’s a very easy on
    the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here
    and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme?
    Outstanding work!

  • When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several emails
    with the same comment. Is there any way you can
    remove people from that service? Many thanks!

  • Grace, do you have a place you can direct me to where you have written about using Pinterest? I am concerned to only pin from sources where I see the button is there – but how can you trust the site you’re pinning from that they have the rights to the content they have even uploaded? Is there a general rule of thumb you use when pinning and how can we enjoy this site but make sure we don’t breach copyright issues or discredit others? I know you must be sooooo busy, but I don’t know where to find advice on this and it really bothers me!!

    • Hi Martha

      Google image search is your best friend here. If you want to pin an image that isn’t an obvious product shot or photo clearly belonging to a blog, just pull the photo onto your desktop, go to Google search, then click “image” then in the search bar you’ll see a camera icon. Click that, upload the image and it will show you (90% of the time) the original source of that image, so you can credit properly :)


  • Hi Grace,
    I’ve been searching the internet for an answer to this question, but haven’t really found one. So I’m going to ask you. Is it proper to share photos from Instagram, Twitter, etc. that a person posts and tags a friend of theirs who happens to be a celebrity? Or should the photos only be shared if the celebrity themself shares/posts/retweets the photo?

    I run a fan page on Facebook for a newer not well known actress. I don’t personally know her either. From paying attention a little, myself and other fan sites have figured out who some of her friends are on Instagram and Twitter. Her friends post pictures of her and sometimes will tag her. So if they’re public already, is it okay to share them on the fan page? What are your thoughts? Sometimes they seem innocent enough to share, other times I feel it could invasive of her private life and time.

    Oh the dilema. :)

  • Hi Grace,

    This is a great article!

    I’m trying to get as much information as I can regarding live-tweeting for a TV show without overwhelming my current followers into un-following the account?

    Hypothetically, let’s say I give my followers a notice that I’ll be live-tweeting a 30-minute or 60-minute TV show and I’ll be tweeting at a much higher frequency than usual. If that notice is given and most of the noteworthy events occur after the final commercial break, how many Tweets at most would you suggest I post during the hour that the show is on? How many in the hour or so after the show ends?

    Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank You!


    • Hi Erik!

      I think as long as you warn people (I’d say an hour ahead) that’s good enough. If you do a live tweet every week then maybe start a different account (ie: ErikLive) and re-tweet the occasional tweet from there to your main account so people know it’s happening, but can choose to follow you somewhere else if they don’t want that frequent type of posting. I’d say no more than 10-12 tweets per 30 min show?


  • Hello!
    My biggest pet peeve is when people post pictures or information about me without getting my permission. Don’t I have a right to keep my personal life private if I want to?

  • I like what you guys are usually up too. This kind of clever work and coverage!

    Keep up the fantastic works guys I’ve you guys to my own blogroll.

  • Good information.
    I will occassionally make comments on Facebook however do not utilize any other social networking sights. Email is my main medium for communicating, aside from actually talking with people on the phone.

  • I think of all of this information is very good and a must know. I feel it is very important to respect others and treat them as you would want to be treated. I try to keep things on social media very short and to the point and never never use it against someone. I do most things in person and use telephone and email as my main lines of communication.

  • To me its more of a you get what you put into it kind of thing.
    I like FB and I keep up with my children through that and basic texting. I have read many things and some I agree with and others I do not agree with, However, that does not mean I needed to voice my opinion. Because truth be told most of the time your only getting half of the story.

  • We shall all be aware of the consequences of lack of privacy once on social media.
    It surely can be a great tool but also harmful, and rules of conduct shall always be applied.

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