8 Social Media Pet Peeves (and What to Do About Them)

As more individuals, organizations and companies adopt social media tools for communications, there is bound to be some chaos as everyone clamors to the microphone. Some people don’t take the time to study the landscape, listen to the conversations and contemplate how to contribute meaningfully. With that chaos comes annoyances: abrasive, aggressive, off-target, inappropriate actions or interactions that really grate on your nerves. What can you do about them?

You can usually take one or several of these stances:

  • Ignore. Just take a deep breath, exhale, move on.
  • Delete. Rid your world of unnecessary clutter from clumsy communicators.
  • React. Chastise the offender publicly with a well-worded lashing.
  • Lead. Set a good example to everyone of how to behave well in the social media sandbox.
  • Leave. You have the power to sever the links between you and your connections.

Here are some common social media faux pas that can really get under your skin and how to turn a peeve into a pleasure (with thanks to my Twitterfriends for their tweets about what they don’t like as well):

1. Auto-responders

I’m not sure why auto-responders rub me the wrong way, especially on Twitter. I’m almost willing and able to forgive email auto-responders if they provide something helpful while I wait for an official email response. But Twitter DM auto-responders are so impersonal that they give me the impression that the offenders simply do not care. I’d rather receive nothing in response to my following you than a canned message that is often promotional or sounds fake: “I can’t wait to find out more about you and read your tweets.”

What to do: Take a deep breath and exhale. Chances are the person is simply misguided and believes an auto-responder is better than no response. If you really want to follow them, just let it go. But unfollow on principle if you feel that strongly about it.

2. Friend requests without context

Why do you want to be my friend or connect with me, especially on Facebook or LinkedIn? Please add a personal note giving me some context. Granted, sometimes even I forget — or can’t find the link to open up the personal message field — and send an impersonal friend request. But 99 percent of the time I say something like, “I enjoy your column in such and such magazine” or “We met at that conference and spoke about @foursquare.” This is not just netiquette, it is plain old-fashioned good manners.

What to do: Why not respond and do a little educating at the same time? On Facebook, I started sending back a message to total strangers who have sent me friend requests saying: “Hello, this is my personal Facebook account, and I am careful with whom I connect. Could you let me know why you are looking to connect with me? If you are a fan of my work, please fan me at http://facebook.com/alizapilarsherman. Looking forward to your reply.” Nine times out of then, they are a fan and go fan my page. Occasionally they are someone who really wants to network with me because we have shared interests or contacts. Every once in a blue moon they are someone I actually do know but they’ve slipped my memory. Either way, I am gently training them to be a little more courteous and contextual with their requests.

3. “Broadcast only” social media channels

Sometimes, the first point of entry for the inexperienced online communicator is to broadcast from their account; not taking the time to interact with others. While in many instances this is a horrible use of social media channels, there are certain cases that can actually prove quite valuable. For example, @malburns broadcasts about the virtual world news that he is reading, and I find his tweets to be a human filter for solid news and information about a niche topic so I continue to follow him. In other cases, companies are pushing nothing but promotional information with zero interaction, and I find that to be obnoxious clutter in my Twitterstream.

What to do: Unfollow the account if it is really driving you up the wall. If you find little or no value from a connection in social media, disconnect.

4. Spammy @ tweets

Does anyone really think that a constant stream of impersonal tweets that address half a dozen Twitterers at once saying, “Hey, you, check out this product,” will really attract anyone who cares? Abusing social media channels is as offensive as abusing people’s email inboxes. Enough already.

What to do: Unfollow, delete, disconnect, cut ties, report, block.

5. Over-promotional “social” channels

Everyone has the right to use social media channels in their own way. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to endure something you don’t like, want or need. If someone wants to do nothing but promote themselves, so be it. They will either learn that they’ll have more success being “social” in social media channels or risk offending and repelling people, or they’ll find their posse, their tribe, their followers; so be it.

What to do: You control your connections. Let them strut, pontificate and fawn all over themselves without you.

6. People who don’t respond to direct messages

First, don’t take it personally. Everyone has a different degree of attention that they put toward their DMs. While I feel very strongly that one of the first things you should do when you dive into Twitter is check your DMs — those direct messages that could be something more meaningful than an auto-responder — I can still be very guilty of not checking DMs often enough or responding quickly enough to really respect those who have reached out. We’re all human. All of us should find a way to better manage our communications and correspondence, or just do the best we can.

What to do: Find a better way to reach out to someone if they are not responding to your DMs. And keep in mind that they may be busy or might not actually be monitoring their Twitter account. Twitter DMs aren’t necessarily the best — and certainly not the only — way to reach someone. Do your research, and reach out thoughtfully.

7. Social media chain letters

I can’t express how wasteful and annoying chain letters of any kind are to everyone. Just stop them in their tracks today. No puppies will die, you will not be cursed with bad luck, nothing awful will happen to you or someone you love if you stop the madness. Sarah Kimmel at Tech4Mommies summed up social media chain letters well in her Community Voice Keynote at BlogHer ’10.

What to do: Delete.

8. Social networkers who forget that we’re all reading

When asking about about social media pet peeves on Twitter, I heard from Mitch Joel, digital marketing commentator and author of the book “Six Pixels of Separation.” He commented about the people who fail to realize that their activity in social channels can reveal more than they think. “I especially love those who can’t make a meeting and then you see them tweeting away,” he wrote. Increasingly, we are all experiencing people who dismiss us offline only to find they still communicating nonstop on Twitter or Facebook — even when they’ve just told us they are “unavailable” or “don’t have time.”

What to do: Call them on it. This is a good opportunity to bring to someone else’s attention about how their blind, incessant use of social media is making their unavailability seem unprofessional and false. And while you’re at it, make sure you’re not guilty of this one. It could mean the loss of a business opportunity or job or worse: the loss of a friend.

What are your social media pet peeves, and what do you do about them?

Photo courtesy Flickr user Rev Stan, licensed under CC 2.0

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Can Enterprise Privacy Survive Social Networking?