10 Dos and Don’ts for Being a Good Social Media Citizen

Social media sites like BizSugar.com and others are amazingly powerful tools helping to gain visibility for your business, product, service or topic. But first it is important to know the basics of being a good social media citizen. Here are 10 dos and don’ts to be sure you give your social media community as much value as it gives you.


1. Do vote on articles other than your own submissions. This probably sounds obvious, but votes like comments have a beneficial effect. Imagine how nice it makes you feel when others vote for your article. How much more does it make you want to check out and vote for someone else’s work as well.

2. Don’t vote on only the articles of a few select friends. You’ll broaden your network greatly if you go outside the circle of people you interact with regularly and vote for someone you don’t know.

3. Do share a wide range of information from across the Web. If you’ve found an article or resource that has helped you in your business, be sure to share it with the community. You will be seen as a source of great information, paying off great dividends in the future.

4. Don’t always submit articles from your own site. Just as variety is the spice of life, so it is with being a good social media citizen. (Remember, others can check out your profile and click on to your submitted list to see whether you’ve been a good social media citizen sharing other people’s articles or just selfishly submitted your own.

5. Do Make sure to comment on a wide variety of articles. Remember, a good social media citizen is well rounded on their topic so don’t make the mistake of staying within a single narrow category or a small circle of connections. Commenting on a wide range of topics will mean reading on a wide range of topics and will help you in the end.

6. Don’t make comments that are off topic or disruptive. This isn’t your living room or if it is it would be on a night when you have guests, so conduct yourself accordingly. Be courteous and avoid attacking other members or the community in which you all participate. Find civil ways to disagree and keep the topics appropriate to the venue.

7. Do take time to welcome new members. If you see someone new to the community, check out their contributions, add a constructive comment and maybe even vote for the post if you like it to give the new person a boost. It’s hard to be the new kid on the block. Be sure to help them feel welcome.

8. Don’t stay in your own little corner. Ask yourself, is there a pattern to the way I’m voting, the people whose submissions I’m reading, the members whose work I comment on etc. If so, it may be time to shake things up. Your behavior is limiting your exposure to ideas outside your group and stopping you from growing your network.

9. Do think strategically about how you comment, vote and contribute. Think of the ideas you support as a growing resource that you are taking part in creating. Are you helping to broaden your community’s horizons by introducing new ideas and supporting new voices in the community or selfishly trying to promote yourself and a couple of cronies?

10. Don’t look at social media only as a way to promote your content and business. This is not only bad citizenship but short sited and missing the big picture of all that social media can and should be. What’s more, it is a failed long term strategy which over time others in the community will realize your game and simply walk away.

Are you a good or a bad social media citizen and what efforts are you making to be better?

21 Responses to “10 Dos and Don’ts for Being a Good Social Media Citizen”


  1. Rivkah says:

    On a very personal note after reading this I wish to add one item. The deliberate and systematic skipping over of people(s) articles which they put a lot of time and effort into can prove very hurtful. It is devisive and breeds pain and resentment. I know this has been addressed before. I believe and sincerely and respectfully hope it is time for it to end.

  2. Shawn,

    Good pointers. My take on this issue, is that the participants have to learn the meaning of being a “trader in matter & spirit.” The social media citizen has free will and have to decide what to do with his / her time spent on a social media site. The community forum is evolving by its participants. You could probably apply the 80/20 rule on this phenomena too and find that it is a small group of individuals who representing the most part of the content, comments, voting, etc.

    As one of the moderators of BizSugar, I spent a big part of my time online with “cleaning”, i.e. getting rid of spam entries so the site will look good for the real participants. You have to stop the parasites, so the content creators could work on a productive marketplace. After I have removed spam entries, I go through valuable entries and vote on them and comment on the stuff that I could add my two cents to the conversation. From time to time, I submit my own entries.

  3. Shawn says:

    Thanks for the comments. Excellent point, Martin.

  4. Rivkah,

    I want to respond to your comment. Perhaps some people “skip over” (as you call it) voting on articles, because they see the same people ONLY submitting their OWN articles from their OWN sites. Refer to Shawn’s point #10 about not always submitting your own content.

    How blunt do we have to be: it’s not good social media citizenship to just submit one’s own articles all the time, and constantly vote up one’s own articles to the home page. Give other members here a chance to get in the limelight!

    When I have to hear REPEATED complaints from members here about the same people always submitting content from their own sites, and always dominating the home page through their own little voting circles, I can see their point of view.

    So I suggest everyone try to put themselves in the shoes of others, and understand how others may view such activities as selfish. Shawn’s point for everyone is: it’s not always about YOU and what YOU want. This is a community and the needs and sentiments of ALL need to be considered, not just a few.

    - Anita

  5. Anita,

    As a rational egoist, I see nothing wrong in being selfish. A community has to start with the individual and it has to be an exchange on a voluntarily basis. I participate here because it is value for me and I want to meet other individuals who are interested in an exchange of ideas that you could put in action in your personal life and in your business.

    I am grateful for the opportunity to participate on this marketplace and I see a bright future for BizSugar!

    1. I’m sorry, Martin, but I strongly disagree when the selfishness reaches the levels of keeping out other members from having great content get more visibility. This is a community for 60,000+ members, not just a handful. You need to look at the bigger picture, and consider the needs of ALL, not just a few. I’m trying to build a community here, not the personal sandbox for a few.

      1. Anita,

        I value the fact that you have created this place and as I said before, I want to meet other individuals who are interested in an exchange of ideas that you could apply to your worklife. The more, the merrier! I am trying to spreading the good word as much as I can, and I am seeking out new members of this community in order to give a positive welcome message and highlight their new submissions. I am appreciating Shawn’s role as chief moderator and his division of labor work.

        We could have a philosophical discussion about the true meaning of rational selfishness and the mainstream view of it at some point in time.

        1. Martin,

          Would you prefer that I do what Sphinn recently did, and eliminate voting altogether? See: http://blog.sphinn.com/20100901-094957.shtml

          Then the content that gets visibility would be determined by the site owner and a handful of moderators, instead of by the community.

          I don’t want to go to that length. I LOVE the voting feature. But read that article from the renowned Danny Sullivan at Sphinn.com and tell me what you think.

          Because you see, there are many sides to any story.

          - Anita

          1. Anita, Thanks for the input and the link to Sphinn. Personally, I like the voting feature and I think you should try to keep that. It is sad to see people try to game the system, but I am convinced that the good guys will win in the long run.

            Have you listened to Leo Laporte’s and Amber Mac’s interview with Kevin Rose about the new version of Digg?

            http://twit.tv/natn163

            Digg has had a dilemma of people trying to burying stuff that they didn’t like and if I remember it right, they had an “unlike” button in place. I think you should focus on the positive force, but at the same time “take care off” users who are trying to destroy the good atmosphere and creatures that are trying to spam the place. I call them parasites who are trying to suck out the lifeblood of a organism. If they don’t like the rules, they could start their own thing and play there instead. But that is hard for them, because they had to create something then…

            I am sorry for the rant! ;)

          2. Martin, Spam we can deal with. The bigger problem is voting rings constantly trying to grab the home page spot, dominate the newsletter and dominate the Top 10 widget, and not letting other members shine in those spots. That’s our biggest problem. That’s why we emphasize being good social media citizens. So what I’d like to suggest is that people seek to give to others more than they take for themselves. That would solve the biggest problem we have at the moment.

            Anita

          3. The same problem had Kevin Rose of Digg. It was a small click of people who were very opinionated when Digg changed the template so you could start follow your own content, instead of only the first page that could be manipulated by voting rings.

            Is it possible to create a spot for new highlighted members on the first page, similar to the top picks list?

            I have given a lot by spreading the good word and trying to be a good social media citizen. Please look at my track record (610 comments and 4385 votes so far).

            I have been a member of a business network called BNI for about six months. We work according to something called “Giver’s Gain” (formulated by Dr. Ivan Misner). I have put plenty of seeds into the ground and have let it cultivate. I will harvest eventually. It is like my chile pepper plants. It could take more than six months before I could eat a chile pepper fruit! I am more of a farmer than a hunter. My former job as a purchaser has probably something to do with it. I have an “allergy” to overselling and sales pitches in absurdum.

  6. Shawn,

    Thanks for your kind words. I look forward to your weekly posts here on BizSugar blog! :)

  7. Tristan says:

    Great points, Shawn. I think the main takeaway from this is just to promote other people’s [good] stuff as much as possible and they’ll take notice and promote yours. I’ve seen it time and time again on my blog and on Twitter.

    Thanks for the great post!

  8. Henry Ticker says:

    Well said! Nowadays, some social media users are dumb.

  9. Pippa says:

    I’ve only just joined bizsugar and I’m looking forward to using it and gaining access to lots more blogs and articles topics that I would never of otherwise found. Search engines are great if you know what you’re looking for, but we need places like to help circulate new idea.
    I try to be a good citizen and when I sign up to sites I do try to leave valuable info and insite behind. Yes a lot of us probably sign up originaly to promote our own work, but to develope ourselves and our ideas it’s important to read around topics, so sharing with others as you go, means that they can go on learning too. Thanks for posting

  10. I couldn’t agree more, especially the part about not using social media ONLY to promote. It’s not why it was created. Bravo!

  11. Brad Harmon says:

    Great list, Shawn. I particularly like this suggestion.

    “If you see someone new to the community, check out their contributions, add a constructive comment and maybe even vote for the post if you like it to give the new person a boost.”

    I am new to BizSugar, but I have been a member of other communities like BlogEngage and this type of attitude from the members makes blogmarking sites successful.

    Thanks for sharing these tips with us.

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