Social Media Etiquette: A Better Way to Get People to Like You

I got a LinkedIn invitation the other day from a woman I had never met. I usually accept such requests, and follow with a short note asking what prompted the invitation and how I may be of service.

In this case, she responded with instructions on how to like her business (an automobile related business, which I had also never heard of) on Facebook so she could win a contest to raise money for breast cancer. She invited me to visit her website, presumably so I could know get to know the business I was being commanded to like.

It felt like one of those door-to-door sales calls where the salesperson tries to get you to buy magazine subscriptions so he or she can win a fabulous trip. I thought it was a stunning breach of social media etiquette, thoroughly inappropriate for a professional networking site, and just plain bad marketing.

It was also a reminder of how so many well meaning, probably otherwise well-behaved people still don’t ‘get’ social media, and just how badly a misguided effort can hurt your brand. Social media etiquette isn’t all that different from in-person etiquette. I doubt this woman would approach strangers at a networking event and immediately ask them to like her page. Or maybe she would.

Social media platforms have democratized marketing, making it accessible and affordable on a mass scale. That is by and large a good thing, enabling messages to have reach and velocity like never before.

It has also given reach and velocity to a lot of boorish marketers using these new platforms simply as bigger, louder megaphones to promote themselves. It’s not that boorish marketers didn’t exist before, they just didn’t seem as loud or ubiquitous.

Social media success requires a different touch, one that is focused about 90% on building relationships. Offer nuggets of value that improve people’s lives first and foremost, and you’ll grow an audience that is attracted to what you have to say and by extension to what you have to sell. Being helpful is at the core of social media etiquette. With this approach, the people who ‘like’ you will actually really like you.

I suspect there may be a lot of quiet Facebook ‘unlikes’ for this business after the contest ends, not to mention the very real unlikes their tactics have engendered.

So what might a better social media strategy for this business look like?

  • Helpful information on auto maintenance and repair, probably on a company-owned blog and on some guest blogs
  • An email newsletter with seasonal or topical car care tips and a coupon offer
  • Regular tweets sharing car care tips, links to articles by other car experts, alerts about local car related events, shout-outs to ‘car’ people and the occasional coupon offer or plug for the company blog
  • Ancillary content car people and others would love–cool car photos and fun facts (e.g., did you know the original Batmobile was a Lincoln?!), and invitations for fans to contribute

As for contests, choose something relevant to the business. How about a Facebook contest to tell a story about the best car you’ve ever owned, maybe a fan-judged car photo contest, or worst breakdown story ever? Don’t make it about you. Make it about them.

Famed marketer Peter Drucker once said, “the point of marketing is to make selling unnecessary.” Good social media etiquette and a solid strategy draws people in, so there’s little need to cold call strangers to get them to like your page. Providing value and engaging with the audience you’ve built will keep your business top of mind, so you’ll naturally be the one they think of when they need your services. There are very few shortcuts to real engagement, but the reach and velocity you can achieve make it well worth the effort.' About Lynn Bruno

Lynn Bruno is the owner of Virtual Ink Marketing, which helps small businesses and subject matter experts create smart content and smart content strategies for the web. Lynn is a former writer and editor for The Wall Street Journal. She has also written for and She is a Google AdWords Certified Professional, and holds Master Certificates in SEO and Social Media. Learn more about Lynn at


  1. Amen! Thanks for bringing up this topic. I hope it spurs enough discussion to sift down to those who need it. Overly enthusiastic sales people are all too often found taking advantage of online and offline networking groups, throwing a damper on the value of these activities.

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