Blog Post

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 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?

14 Responses to “8 Social Media Pet Peeves (and What to Do About Them)”

  1. This is one of the best summaries of SM etiquette I’ve read. There are a couple of Linked-In groups I’m a member of where there are vigorous conversations about Twitter usage. I’m going to post this link!

    Must say that I’ve become a big user of “Block & Report for Spam” of late. Anyone who tries to sell me something gets treated that way. In my experience, there are so many great people who are anxious to get to know me as a human being that I don’t waste a second of my precious time on the aggressive folks.

  2. @Darren I hear your perspective but I still like the idea of saying hi – doesnt have to be a long involved conversation, just letting the person know you too are a person and not some bot.

    But either way I definitely do not agree that when someone follows me I should be expected to greet them.

  3. 8 doesn’t bother me for the reason that I often schedule tweets to go out on one account or the other while I’m in meetings. I also don’t find this to be inauthentic. I mean, let’s face it, the half-life of a tweet is probably about 30 seconds. Yes, I want to interact with you (which is why I use a scheduler) but I cannot respond immediately if I’m in a meeting or otherwise engaged. It’s possible that kills the conversation but in general I think some delay is manageable for most of us.

    @Dan interesting idea. Currently when I follow someone I generally check out what they’re into but I don’t always have a conversation starter – I’d still rather follow them and wait to see if there is something genuine than to force an interaction that isn’t necessary. I like to learn about them for a while first.

  4. One thing I don’t get is in #1 you say you’d rather receive nothing in response to your following rather than an auto-DM. Don’t you think maybe when you first start following someone on Twitter YOU should be messaging THEM. Just a little blurb introducing yourself and engaging with them.

    How many times a day do we all get random people trying to build their Twitter numbers by following tons of people and hoping they get followed back, or even get followed by random bots and spammers. I’d love it if people when they followed me said hello. I really don’t see why the onus is on me to start the conversation with them. It seems backwards.

    Of course, what I say above assumes that you don’t already know the person in real life in some way or even had a conversation with or were engaged with them via Twitter/a Social Media outlet already.

  5. Dacques

    Solid advice but it misses my most recent pet peeve about social media. I am getting sick and tired of tweets that link to subscriber only content. I see an interested news bit and click on the link and get a page that says I can view the story for only $9.99 a month. Thanks for wasting my time. The next click is on the unfollow button.

  6. Good post. However, I never read DM’s, with 90% being spammy why would I, and I do not feel guilty about it. I do however read all my mentions, so I take the view if they have to get hold of me, it is not that hard. I cannot understand why twitter doesn’t provide emails for the mentions it’s be a lot more appropriate.

    On the twitter thing, I run several twitters but I try and keep the flow consistent for each one so readers get content that interests them. Might be partially automated but I do list like crazy from the Bio’s to try and balance up the issue.


  7. headoflettuce

    Great article, it’s like you were in my head :) I was going to write a piece on this subject for my blog, instead plugged yours. I couldn’t even pick a favorite, because all of these drive me nuts, and I find it how many self appointed social media gurus violate these simple principles. Again great article:)


  8. I am so guilty of not returning DMs. Or not returning them for days. I would use the excuse that 99% of my DMs are autoDM SPAM because it’s the truth. But it’s also true that I run five Twitter accounts between my own and my clients. Sometimes I just forget to check DMs. I’m trying to get better though.

  9. Golly gosh, these are ALL my pet peeves when it comes to social media – for definite. Especially 4.

    Which ironically, I got one of just before typing ‘especially 4.’

    It said:

    “@Super_Carly Just saw your tweet @ online biz. This works really well with it -> http://LINKREMOVED (retweet)?”

    Total, total spam.

    What’s worse is: THEY’RE PRETENDING IT’S PART OF A CONVERSATION to make you click. I get them all the time. They use something at the start like ‘yes, but…’ or ‘I agree’ to make them think they’re replying to a random Tweet of yours – but they’re not – they’re spamming you! They know you’re more likely to click a link that way. Urgh. I’d much rather they invested the time, money and effort into actually engaging in a conversation.

    If the bloke selling the ‘how to earn money online’ program had actually bothered to chat with me and tell me why his programme is good, I’d probably have taken a serious look… that’s the sad thing….

    Back on topic – number two also really hacks me off! I get dozens of these requests a week and I respond to them all with ‘How do I know you’. Rarely anybody replies.