The Etiquette of Social Media Sharing (i.e. How Not to Be a Content-Stealing Jerk)

(Graphic: Kat Borosky/TueNight)

These days, we live to share. With the click of a button we’re instantly sharing posts, tweets, photos, videos and screenshots.

But often when we share, we’re not following good social media etiquette.

For example, some platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) enable us to easily credit the originator of the content we’re sharing; others not so much. As a result — and often unintentionally — proper attribution of the shared content becomes entirely lost or worse, incorrectly ascribed.

I’ve seen some cases where people intentionally pass other people’s work off as their own, and other cases where a sharer doesn’t mean to steal, but just doesn’t know how to properly credit the content. So instead, he or she does nothing.

There are a few simple things you can do when sharing other people’s content that not only will show you’re practicing good #SMEtiquette, but will endear you to the people whose content you’re sharing. All it takes is a little extra time and attention.

And if you give credit where credit’s due, you might just find the other person reciprocates. It’s called karma, plain and simple.

Retweet, Repost: If you’re dealing with a Twitter or Facebook status update (when a person is expressing his or her opinion and not linking to anything), just click that “share” or “retweet” button and add whatever commentary you care to. As long as you don’t edit out the source of the original, it will be properly credited to them, and all others will see.

If you want to share a piece of content, such as a video, image or link, it can be a bit trickier. But taking that extra couple of minutes to do it right is always the right thing to do.

Credit the Creator: If your friend is sharing something she created, a simple click on a “share” or “retweet” button is usually good enough. But if she’s sharing something that someone else created or shared, it’s considered good manners to include a credit to that person, as well as the friend you’re directly sharing from. For example:

I shared a post that my friend Karianne Stinson wrote on the Search Engine People blog. I tweeted, “So You Want to be a Marketer… Now What? by @Karianne in @senginepeople.” I gave credit to Karianne, the author, by using her Twitter handle (@Karianne) and also to Search Engine People, the website (@senginepeople). I knew Karianne’s Twitter handle, but had to look up the blog’s handle. It may have taken me an extra few seconds to do so, but including it served two key purposes.

First, it gave credit to the website that hosted my friend’s post. Secondly, it gave my followers extra context regarding where the post came from.

I do sometimes forget to take that extra step, or if I’m really crunched for time or space, I will leave off the publication or author. But I always try to include at least one of the two.

Tip Your Hat: On Facebook, it’s easy enough to find the originating source, as it’s evident on every link. But sometimes you may be posting something that you found through a friend (i.e. not the original creator of the content). Even if you’re sharing directly from your friend’s post, it will show you who originally put it on Facebook, not the pal who alerted you to it.

In these cases, I’ll add a little tip of the hat, in the form of the abbreviation “h/t” to the friend who led me to the post in the first place.

For example, my friend Lani Rosales posted a very funny video from Daily Grace last month. I shared it, but it showed up as having been a video posted by BuzzFeed. So I gave Lani the h/t credit so people would know who was responsible for alerting me to this gut-buster, despite the fact that Lani didn’t create it herself.

Extend Your Tags: Sometimes you’ll have to look up the social media handles of the people or organizations that you want to tag. Do it. Take the extra time. That time won’t render your post irrelevant, and it will go a long way toward upping your social media sharing cred.

If you find something that you want to share, take the time to look up the social handles of the author/creator/illustrator/actors and include them in your comments. It’s not only polite, but it also adds extra info to your updates. A reader may really like one of the people you added and want to click through.

Find the Image Source: Images can be the toughest when it comes to finding their original source. They often float around the interwebs, cleaved from their home with no easy way to track back to where they originally came from. But there are ways.

You can use a Google Reverse Image Search or a TinEye search to find the originator. When sharing images yourself, try to use ones where you know the source, or the source already is credited, rather than just some photo that you know your friend didn’t take, but has no credit info to go along with it.

Do I always follow all these rules? No. But I try to.

Basically, do your best to give credit. Take the extra time. Put yourself in the content creator’s shoe. It’s the right thing to do.

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2 Responses

  1. Editor’s Note: Sharing is Caring | Tue Night

    […] Vernon shows us how to share smartly — and ethically — in social […]

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    […] The Etiquette of Social Media Sharing (i.e. How Not to Be a Content-Stealing Jerk) […]


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