Social media etiquette tips and abbreviations cheat sheet

There are some unique considerations to online etiquette when it comes to social media (think: hashtag use). By following these basic guidelines, you should avoid a social media faux pas.

The way you use social media to promote your company or your professional side is very different from how most people act online when engaging with friends and family. Unless your organization is directly involved in politics, leave politics out of your business's social media discussions. Watch your language and be careful that you aren't saying anything, whether on purpose or accidentally, that may offend readers. The last thing your company (and your career) needs is an angry Twitter, or worse, Reddit, mob pointing out your mistake. Here are some guidelines to help you avoid angering the online masses.

  1. I can't say this enough: If you use a smartphone to manage your personal and business accounts, always, always, always double check what account you are posting under before you hit Send.
  2. Consider grammar when writing posts. Sure, it can be difficult to get a message across in 140 characters, but if you can't make it legible, then Twitter isn't the platform for you.
  3. If you're in charge of the company's social media, brush up on apostrophe use and word forms. They're, there, and their do not mean the same thing.
  4. Take it easy with the #hashtags. When posting from business accounts, do a little research and figure out what hashtags are relevant to your audience. Capitalize the first letter in every word in long hashtags to increase legibility. #nobodywantstoreadamessyhashtag #SeeIsntThisBetter?
  5. DO NOT use all capital letters. It is considered yelling, and, frankly, always has been. Everybody should know this by now. Don't yell at your audience, or they will unfollow you in a hurry.
  6. You don't have to follow everybody back, but follow as many of your followers that are relevant to your business.
  7. Impersonal, automatically generated direct messages are obnoxious.
  8. Don't get too personal with individuals from your company's accounts. Your business is not a friend, and it's weird when a business tweets replies to personal stuff. How would you feel if you posted "Went out with the nicest woman last night" and a company tweeted "Did you walk her to the door?" in reply? It's just... awkward. Engage with people; just remember that a business has no business in peoples' private lives.
  9. Take it easy with the punctuation. Not every sentence deserves an exclamation point! No sentence needs a bunch of exclamation points!!! You aren't a teenage girl -- you provide technology services. More exclamation marks do not make your message more interesting. Use punctuation wisely to ensure that your message isn't lost to poor punctuation choices.
  10. Learn how to use appropriate abbreviations. When in doubt, Google it, because every platform has slightly different abbreviations and they evolve with the technology and society. Here are some of the most common for quick reference.
  • MT (Twitter): Modified tweet. Use this when quoting somebody else's tweet if you change any part of their original message.
  • RT (Twitter): Retweet. Use this when quoting somebody else's tweet if you don't change any part of their original message.
  • PRT: Please retweet. This is asking for folks to retweet the message. Use it sparingly.
  • AFAIK: As far as I know.
  • FML: Forget (or another F-word) my life.
  • BTW: By the way.
  • IDK: I don't know.
  • #FF (Twitter): Follow Friday. On Fridays, Twitter users use the #FF hashtag to recognize great people they think others should follow.
  • FWIW: For what it's worth.
  • NSFW: Not suitable for work. This abbreviation indicates adult or explicit content.
  • SFW: Safe for work.
  • SMH: Shaking my head.
  • TT: Trending topic.
  • YOLO: You only live once.

If you don't know what an abbreviation means, check it before retweeting a message with it or using it in your own messages. Twittonary is a good resource for checking the meanings of abbreviations you see on Twitter. Facebook offers more characters, so there's little reason to use abbreviations there or on LinkedIn.

Most of the etiquette rules are more easily followed when posting from a computer, but being a social media manager often means working on the go from a smartphone or tablet. Next month, we'll discuss mobile apps that make social media management easier.