How Not to Be an E-Hole: An Online Etiquette Refresher (Plus: Free eBook Download!)

By Lisa Hazen

How Not to Be an E-Hole BookYou know the saying that if you can’t find the asshole in the room, that it’s probably you? Well, the same logic applies to e-Holes. E-Holes are people who misuse, abuse, or annoy people through social media. And unfortunately, being an e-Hole is really easy to do. You may not even know if you’re being one.

“There are a lot of accidental e-Holes,” says  Sarah Browne, author of How Not to be an E-Hole: The Inspired Irreverent Guide to Online Etiquette. “These are otherwise sincere people who come out of an workshop thinking, ‘I’ve got to get on Twitter’ without knowing the rules and vibe of the channel and find themselves misusing the medium.” Here’s a look at common missteps with social media and how to avoid them.

Using Social Media as a Broadcast Medium
Social media is not an excuse to blast your followers repeatedly with self-promotional messages—it’s about developing relationships. “Twitter and Facebook are not places to shoot out links like an Uzi,” says Browne. “These are tools for developing relationships and getting a conversation going. If you don’t understand that 90% of social media is about listening, you will find yourself in trouble.”

You’re Boring
You know what’s boring? Using social media as what Browne calls “the me megaphone.” The key is curating innovative content for your followers as a way to promote your brand. (And yes, in the age of social media, you are a brand.) “It’s fun to be random, but try not to be too random,” says Browne. “Do be fun, fresh, and unforgettable. Share quotes from your book. Engage conversations with readers, and ask for feedback.”

You Never Follow Back
You don’t need to follow everyone who follows you. But if someone is contributing to your conversation and engaging with you, repay the favor with a reciprocal follow. “Following back is at the heart of relationship marketing,” says Browne. “Communication is the whole point of a service like Twitter. If you’re not going to take the time to manage this part of the service, you’re apt to royally tick people off.”

You’re Highly Automated
Tools like HootSuite or IFTTT are efficient ways to spread your message across different media. But they are also potentially dangerous. Not only can you slip up by posting something that you may not have intended to (for instance, something personal to your business account), but using automation means that you will be less spontaneous and in the present with your marketing, and more flat overall, since you must adjust for scheduled posts.

“Be careful with your technology,” says Browne. “It’s too easy for stuff to happen when you’re fully automating your social media. Know that Google never forgets.

Typing Before You Think
It will happen. Eventually, an e-Hole will get under your skin. They may go on your Facebook page and insult you, your craft, or your mother. (Possibly all of the above.) Although it is tempting, resist the temptation to engage defensively.

The best bet is to let the message go entirely, but occasionally, you may need to address your critic. “If you must answer someone, be positive—for instance, thank them for taking the time to check out your book,” says Browne. “If you want to open up a conversation, state that you are always open to suggestions and invite them to share more.”

When you respond, be careful in your (ahem), phrasing. “As a rule of thumb, if you would be uncomfortable if your grandmother read it, don’t post it. You simply don’t need to get into it. You’ll have far fewer problems if you sit back and listen.”

Be an E-Hero Instead
“Strategic serendipity is what happens when you are an author who connects with her readers,” says Browne. “Social media won’t work for you unless you really create a return on relationships. There are so many people ready to champion you. If you give it a chance, social media really and truly works.”

To download Sarah’s entire book for free, visit:

Lisa Hazen is a Chicago-based Web Designer who specializes in author sites. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, or just the WWW.