Social Media Etiquette For Freelance Writers
Updated: Mar 4
I am an avid user of social media, particularly Facebook, and for the past couple of weeks I have been studying posts written by other writers (mostly freelancers) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
I have observed that there are two kinds of writers: those who have excellent social media etiquette and those who are sorely lacking in this department.
Often, those who belong to the latter category do not realise that what they've been doing on social media is unacceptable at the professional level. Some however, realise but do not care about the consequences of their actions.
I've got news for both groups of people: once it's out there, you can't take it back. It is for these two groups that I've written this post.
Let's start by examining some of the mistakes people make on social media:
1) Ranting about a former or existing client. I have seen this happen more than once on writers' Facebook walls, as well as in Facebook groups. In groups, the moderators often remove the comments or at the very least edit them, but this still happens occasionally.
What you can do instead: Avoid damaging your own reputation by ranting privately on social media to people that you are close to and can trust, if you intention is to warn people about a problem client. Ways you can rant privately include private messages or simply avoid naming the client. The bottomline is that word gets around and you might soon find yourself out of work for a one-time public rant.
2) Ranting about a former boss or colleague. I see this happen all the time, even by writers who are still employed full-time. It is a big no-no, because it will affect the way future employers perceive you. Like with the previous point, word does get around and no one is immune to being shunned by future employers or clients.
What you can do instead: Avoid using social media to rant about your current employer or colleagues, private message people if you must but don't post on your Facebook wall or via Twitter.
3) Pitching potential clients at first contact. I have personally never experienced this, but I have heard of other more established freelance writers, as well as publications who get pitched to at first contact. Slow down, folks! No one likes being pitched to the instant they are added on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media. It is presumptuous and too in-your-face and it's a mistake I have made before.
What you can do instead: Take the time to know your potential client on social media, by liking and commenting on their posts, sharing their content and the like. Take the time to get to know them properly before you pitch to them. Also, craft your pitch carefully once you have caught their attention, then approach them. And don't be disappointed if you don't get the response you want immediately. Pitching is all about preparation, timing and a little luck.
I hope this post has helped you learn more about how to use social media for your own benefit. For further reading on social media etiquette, I recommend reading Shame Nationby Melissa Schorr and Sue Scheff. My friend and fellow blogger Elizabeth Tai recently wrote an excellent review on the book here.