Blogging Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts

Over the past month as I’ve been teaching a course on Business Blogging, my students have come up with some great questions for me. It has helped me learn, refine my lessons and basically become a better teacher.

Here’s one of those times: I was asked about blog etiquette by a few of my students, so I decided to write a blog on it—naturally. I decided to post it because I couldn’t find a straight answer on the Internet about business blogging etiquette—for regular blogs, yes. Business blogs? Not one thing. I can’t say this is a definitive list, but it should outline the main guidelines for bloggers new and experienced.

So, here’s the list:

  • It’s never okay to plagiarize.
  • BUT you can rewrite, revise and make it your own.
  • If you do use something from another source, say where it came from and include a link to the source. Basically, a blog will use the same rules as a research paper or that history paper you did in college.
  • Don’t sell all the time. Yes, you can post about new products, improvements, etc., but if you do it all the time, it will be a huge turn-off to your readers. Raise your hand if you love being sold to all the time on the Internet… No one? Enough said.
  • Taking photos from another website and using them in your blog is not okay and could get you sued. They could have purchased the rights to use that photo from a stock photography site like Corbis, and just because you could copy it off that website and use it on yours does not fly with these people. They have people searching for this illegal usage, and they will find you. I doubt your client will volunteer to pay for the legal costs. Play it safe and use one of the many free stock photography sites out there. OR, better yet, take original photos for your company or client! That’s always the ideal option.
  • Always make sure everything is spelled correctly and grammatically correct, especially if you are blogging for a client. Not only is it the professional thing to do, using the wrong word (complement vs. compliment, their vs. they’re) and missing a comma can change the meaning of the text:
    • Let’s eat, Grandma!
    • Let’s eat Grandma!
  • Don’t ignore your customers! Were you asked a question? Then answer it, and make sure you say “That’s a great question!” even if it’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard. Ignoring comments on social media and blogs is a serious mistake. How offended would you be if you asked someone a direct question and they ignored you? It can be the same feeling for people on social media. They’re looking for a fairly immediate response when contacting a company through the social media channels.
  • Try to break up your copy and start new paragraphs where appropriate. Most people are turned off by large blocks of text.
  • Try to avoid religion or politics, unless of course you are writing for a church or a politician.
  • Try not to be offensive. This is why I recommend a final editor before posting, as sometimes written material can be interpreted by the reader in a completely different way than the writer meant. Many people have had this happen with a hastily sent email, and dealt with the consequences. Don’t let that happen in your blog.

Do you have any additions to this list? If so, I hope you will add them in the comments section below and share them with other readers. In this ever-changing industry, I welcome the opportunity to learn from others.

If you have any other questions about blogging for business, visit my Either/Or Media website or please click here to email me.

Jennifer St. James is the owner and creative director of Either/Or Media, Orange County’s top purveyor of custom, well-crafted wordsmithing and business blogging services. She has over 17 years in the communications and publishing industries in the U.S. and the U.K.
Over the last 12 years Jennifer has held the editorship of several magazines, created three from scratch, and been the art director of many more. As a copywriter, designer and account manager in custom publishing, she has worked extensively with luxury brands, five-star hotels, interior designers and small business owners.
Jennifer teaches an online course on business blogging for the UCI Extension program and consults for many small- and medium-sized companies in Orange County.
She lives in Laguna Beach with her husband James, their dog Kayla and Lenin, a very grumpy cat from England.

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