SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

This week, we asked: Do you feel like you have a solid grasp on the rules of etiquette for each social network you are active on?

  • Yes — 63.64%
  • No — 25.87%
  • Not sure — 10.49%

This week’s poll question was inspired by a blog post from David Spark, who shares some ways we can be intentionally ill-mannered via social networks. The post was popular with SmartBrief readers, and I suspected this might be because people are worried that they don’t fully understand the rules of proper behavior in a social media world. But it turns out that almost two-thirds of you say that you’re comfortable with your knowledge of social media manners. And that worries me.

I moved from the U.S. to the U.K. this year, and I can tell you from experience that thinking you know all there is to know about the social niceties of an unfamiliar place is a sure road to putting your foot in your mouth. I won’t pretend that I’m the Emily Post of social etiquette. Maybe you are doing everything exactly right. But as this is a field that is still evolving, it might be worth periodically re-examining your practices to make sure you’re staying in your fans’ good graces.

A few clues that you might be doing something wrong:

  1. Your behavior is highly atypical. I’m not saying you can’t innovate or that you shouldn’t be true to your brand. But if you’re shouting and everyone else is whispering, you might be doing something wrong. Look at the behaviors of your target audience. Are you mirroring them? Or do you look out of step?
  2. You’re being ignored. Is everyone doing the digital equivalent of staring at the floor and trying to pretend you’re not there? It’s easy to tell when your followers are mad about something you said — and easier to bounce back. But if you say something that’s awkward or inappropriate without being downright offensive, you might incur a reaction of stunned silence. If your usually chatty fan base clams up, that could be a sign that you’re engaging in anti-social behavior.
  3. You’re treating a diverse group like they’re all the same. Chances are, your audience is more complex than you realize. Take the time to learn the ins and outs of your community, so that you know how to respond in a variety of different situations. Otherwise, the careful branding and personal voice you’re trying to cultivate are liable to fall flat.

What rules of social media etiquette do you wish more people adhered to? What are you doing to make sure your presence is always on the right side of good manners?

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