Social Media Etiquette For Brands and Individuals

Blog | 30 Sep, 2016

In life, we are taught that there are rules and common courtesies to follow in every situation. This is not different when it comes to the online world. 

While in real life situations you would generally say please, thank you and not stick offensive messages on public notice boards, it’s easy to get carried away in the online world and lose a bit of etiquette.

The risk of being offensive, ignorant or simply annoying increases when you are online. And due to the fast paced nature of social media a post can go viral and forever exist connected to you online for none of the right reasons.

In this article we let you in on the do's and don’ts of social media etiquette for individuals and brands for you to apply across your social platforms.

For individuals

When posting online, your attitude toward a person or subject can easily come off in a different manner than intended. Do take the time to check the tone of your message as it is a reflection of you as the writer. Social media feelings, GIFs and emoticons exist to add expression to your message and help your readers perceive your feelings correctly. Never type in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS as this generally interpreted as yelling and keep away from offensive or abusive language.

Sharing is at the top of the pyramid of social media elements. Whilst keeping this in mind be respectful of your connections’ time and their interests and refrain from flooding newsfeeds. If you aren’t a Kardashian or a controversial politician, the chances of people being interested in your bedtime routine or tea drinking is highly unlikely.



Examples of hilarious spelling mistakes made on Twitter

Don’t abbreviate every word.  Even though proper English is not a requirement for social media, using illogical abbreviations can give off the impression that you are lazy or unable to spell. Employers often venture to social media before hiring people where those impressions of you may become a huge disadvantage.

People make mistakes on social media, be it incorrect spelling, grammar or tagging the wrong person in photos (Shock! Horror! Gasp!). Therefore, be forgiving of others’ online mistakes and you will most likely be shown the same forgiveness for yours. Keep the grammar patrol at bay unless absolutely necessary.

The number of people actively using social media online in South Africa has grown exponentially and continues to do so. People are now comfortable with sharing their deepest thoughts online and as expected this could get someone into lots of trouble. Think twice before posting content that may offend someone as it can’t be undone. And if you are having a really bad day and desperately need to vent, do log out!

For brands or organisations

Always spell check your draft posts and make sure that your grammar is correct.

Image source:

As a brand, being knowledgeable and logical will increase the levels of respect and trust your audience attaches to you. Take advantage of free linguistic checker tools such as Grammarly, Reverso and good old Microsoft Word.

Do your research before sharing and reposting from others. Often, something that is not 100% correct is shared without a second thought. Therefore double check things such as statistics, dates and amounts as it could save your brand from looking unprofessional.  

Taking into consideration the demographics of people who use social media in South Africa, as a brand you should do your best to approach situations as a human. In most instances a person needs to feel secure in talking to a brand online and being reassured that they are in the hands of someone who can relate to them.

Revenue is one of the most important goals for any brand. Take care to note the content of posts which your audience react positively to.  Including a sales message in every post is not necessary and might even decrease your audience base. Continuing from that point, target audiences appropriately – spend time working out the demographics, interests and locations of people who will actually be interested in your product or service.

Facebook for example has a brilliant tool called audience insights where you can learn more about your target audiences:


Many people treat a brand’s social profile as a platform to voice their happiness or complaints. By them reaching out to you, you are expected to return the engagement and respond to them in an appropriate manner. Make an effort to be sincere and remember that ignoring something online, especially a complaint will not make it go away.

Don’t link to every trend just for the sake of getting involved. Stay brand relevant and make a well-informed decision before using a hashtag as it could ruin your credibility. Hashtags such as #MCM and #WCW are rarely ever relevant. Tags such as #followforfollow and #likeforlike convey a sense of unprofessionalism and will result in your profiles gaining quantitative over qualitative audiences.

Good intentions are good netiquette. A conscious effort to be nice others on the internet

David Chiles The Principles Of Netiquette

Consider time and bandwidth. Depending on the social platform, quick snippets of information complemented by a picture or two are appreciated. Considering that many people experience connectivity difficulties in South Africa, decide whether it is really necessary to post high resolution images or unnecessary amounts of text.

Online social media actions can heavily influence your offline reputation. Being mindful of ‘netiquette’ – specifically on social media – can take your and your brand’s reputation a long way.


We have a hugely experienced team of social media experts, ready to help you understand your current social following, design a suitable strategy and subsequently engage your audiences.

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