Social Media Etiquette

Social media has become an integral part of our lives. What started as a simple way to share with your friends and loved ones, has turned into a marketing tool that any savvy entrepreneur or artist can use to propel their business forward. Never before have we been able to reach people across the world in such an instant and yet personal way virtually all for free.

But along with the incredible advancements the internet and social media have afforded us, comes the inevitable negative aspects. I’m a big believer that there is a way to give criticism and to interact with people on the internet in general. In this post, I’m going to explore some of my tips for social media and internet etiquette.

Disclaimer: I might be going on a bit of a rant here but I feel that this needs to be said. Some of this might seem obvious to the average decent person, so rest assured that this is not directed towards you, and keep on being awesome!

1.Don’t Be a Jerk in the Comments Section
Ah yes, the dreaded comments section.  A place where you can lose and regain your faith in humanity all in a single scroll. I’m not sure how many times I’ve read something and then clicked on the comments only to immediately regret making that decision. Here’s the thing, just because you aren’t saying something directly to someone’s face doesn’t make it okay. You don’t have to agree with everyone or everything but name calling or giving someone negative unsolicited criticism is not cool. Just because you can say whatever you want, doesn’t mean you should. The only way the negativity starts to change is if we collectively decide that it should.
2. Don’t Hijack the Comments Section
I get that it’s hard to get eyeballs on your work with all the algorithms and saturation but there are times and places to do it. I see this happen a lot on Facebook. The admin of the account will post about a featured artist and then someone will post a photo of their own artwork in the comments. It usually has nothing to do with what the post is about and is essentially just them doing it to get people or the company to see their work. I consider this poor etiquette because they aren’t posting something relevant to the conversation of the post, they’re just trying to use that as an opportunity to promote themselves. Generally, everyone is too nice to say anything about it, so it usually is ignored. There are times when this is acceptable however such as when those same companies make specific posts asking people to share their work. It’s also acceptable if you are posting a photo of your work to support a technique you are trying to explain when someone has asked for help.

3. Don’t Play the Follow Then Unfollow Game
An issue with social media is that it can become a virtual popularity contest to some extent. The way I look at this, specifically on Instagram, is that you should follow me if you like my content and if I like yours, I’ll follow you back. I never expect that when I follow someone that they will automatically follow me back. In my opinion, I don’t see an obligation to do that.
What a lot of people tend to do is follow you and then after a period of time if you don’t follow them back, they then unfollow you. I can almost always tell who’s going to unfollow me in a few days. Generally, it’s an account that has nothing to do with art or has little to no posts of their own. Sometimes it’s someone with a high follower count who is essentially going around and following a lot of random people hoping that someone they will follow back and they will retain that person. Most times even if the person does, they unfollow them anyway. This seems to work for some people but the goal should always be to have followers who are genuinely engaged in your content. Leaving a meaningful comment about my work will make me way more likely to check them out and see what their account is about and leave a comment back. Also, don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t follow you back. They might be limiting their feed for many reasons, none of which are a personal slight towards you.

4. Do Make an Effort to Interact 
Social media, after all, is about being social. If someone comments on your post or asks you a question. Make sure you answer them back, with either a thank you or response to their question. If you are trying to run a business as an artist it is part of customer service. It’s ok if you don’t get back to them the second after they post but do your best to reply within the next 24 hours if possible. Social media is time sensitive. If you reply 2 months later the person probably has either sought their answer elsewhere or assumed you ignored them. That being said, I can understand for people with higher follower counts that get a lot of comments it can be difficult to get back to every single one. Even something as simple as hitting the like button on their comment lets them know that you at least saw it. People just want to be acknowledged and you’d be surprised how little goes a long way.

5. Do Use Relevant Hashtags
Instagram has a great feature, that when you start to enter a hashtag is will tell you how many posts are currently using that tag. This is a great tool for helping get your posts seen. Where this becomes a problem is when people use hashtags not relevant to their content just because it’s popular and they are hoping it will help get their post be seen. Having a good hashtag strategy is sometimes a bit of trial and error, but don’t spam the feed of a hashtag just to be seen. For example, it’s kind of obnoxious seeing a stream of selfies in the hashtag for ‘art’ or ‘drawing’ so don’t do the same thing in a tag unrelated to your art.

Instagram limits you to 30 hashtags in your post. Some people think it’s a good idea to use all of them while some believe 8 to 10 is appropriate. I think you should use your judgment. Sometimes I don’t have 30 tags relevant to my post, so I only use the ones that are. I also try to leave a space in between my descriptor and the tags if possible. This usually requires pre-typing the message in my Notes app and adding the space in since Instagram does seem to let you add in the returns while typing in the app.

If you’re already being a good social media citizen, good on you! If you saw some areas that might need improvement, that’s good too. I’m sure this post will continue to evolve as social media does. In the meantime, let’s all just try to make an effort to be nice to each other out there.

Barb Sotiropoulos

Barb Sotiropoulos

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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Hey, I'm Barb!

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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