Facebook Email Etiquette

 In Facebook for Business, Facebook Tips, Reputation Management, Social Networking

Facebook email overwhelm Are you growing weary from the inappropriate use of email on Facebook? I’m referring to the friends who email you their latest blog post, affiliate link, or MLM program and/or insist on sending bulk emails – that is, emails addressed to multiple recipients. (Facebook allows you to email lists of up to twenty friends).

Though you’ve mutually agreed to be Facebook friends, these types of emails typically come from people with whom you haven’t yet established initial rapport.

And therein lies the problem. With social media, we must think relationships first, business second. You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger (or group of 20 strangers) at a party or networking event and just butt in all about you, you, you… would you?

Even if you’d done your “homework” before attending the event and you knew everyone’s names, what they do, their likes/dislikes, etc. (e.g. you’d read each of their profiles) – you wouldn’t just thrust a big placard in front of their face with your ad. There’s no context, no bridge. They don’t know you from Adam.

Surely you’d take a moment to introduce yourself, engage in small talk, ask a few questions, show your interest in that person(s), share a little about yourself?

With these types of emails, I usually take one or more of these action steps:

  1. Hit delete. (The path of least resistance… but doesn’t prevent future similar emails from the same person).
  2. Hit reply–which is actually Reply All–informing the sender the email is essentially spam and requesting not to be included in future emails such as this.
  3. Reply to the sender (click the Reply link under their name).
  4. Unfriend the sender.

Just the other day I sent this note as a Reply All in response to a bulk email from a guy I’ll call Fred:


To my knowledge, I’d had no prior interactions with Fred. The information didn’t seem relevant to me. And, though I know Reply All may not necessarily be the best choice, sometimes I’ll go for it anyway in an attempt to let the other recipients know about Facebook Email Etiquette.

Perhaps I ought to have been more discerning with my Reply All with this particular Facebook friend. I actually happened to see Fred’s Status just prior to responding and it said something like “Fred is seething and hopping mad about his blog software system.” Not exactly warm friendly words, eh? 😉

Here’s what Fred wrote back to me in response:


YIKES!!! Was I really pompous? Supercilious? Did I bawl this well-meaning but errant child out in front of the entire class? It sure seems I triggered something in Fred. He’s an intelligent professional like so many Facebook users – unfortunately, he simply doesn’t know there’s a certain protocol when using social networks. At least there is for me, and I like to hang out with those who have similar standards. Such is the beauty of being at choice.

Also, on reflection, there was no bridge or context from my end – likely Fred wasn’t aware I teach professionals how to use Facebook for strategic business purposes.

Going forward how can we handle the email etiquette issues? Here’s a few rules I’ve come up with. I’ll test them on myself. LOL

Rule #1: Do not respond right away if/when emotional. Allow yourself time to reflect more rationally. There’s always the delete button. (Uh, hello, Mari?! lol)

Rule #2: Reply in private to the sender. (Though, there may be times when Reply All is appropriate).

Rule #3: If others have already started replying to the thread – then chip in and mention you prefer not to be on the thread.

Rule #4: If in doubt, and the email content and thread is spammy for sure, just go ahead and give the sender the FaceBOOT as I talked about here.

What do you think? What would you have done? Do you think “Reply All” is fair game? Do you think a “Blind Copy/BCC” field would be useful for Facebook email?

P.S. You might enjoy this hilarious “Spam I Am” video by my buddy, Lou Bortone, all about Facebook spam.

Mari Smith

Forbes Top Social Media Power Influencer | Facebook Marketing Expert | Globe-trotting Speaker, Author | 'Mari like Ferrari' | Bubbly Scottish-Canadian!

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  • Glen Crosier

    Hi Mari,

    I’ve only just started on Facebook last week so not getting inbox spam yet. I have been surprised at just how many people are quick to slap ads on people’s walls at the first point of contact…

    Seems obvious to me people are shooting themselves in the foot by using Facebook in this way…I think they would get more connected if they just took a few extra moments to read someone’s info and make a relevant comment to establish some kind of initial rapport…

    Anyway that’s my 10 cents

    Glen Crosier

  • Eva

    Hi Mari,

    The first time I received that kind of email, I DID reply asking them to remove me from their list and got an extremely huffy reply back.

    Then I learned of the “Remove Friend” at bottom of their page – from you, thank you very much for that, by the way – so Unfriended them.

    And now when I get them I simply Unfriend them.

    It’s my path of “most allowance” (as opposed to path of least resistance).

    I agree with you there can definitely be times when Reply All is appropriate!

    And thanks for the link to Spam I Am! LOVED IT!

    So I think sending my spammers to the Spam I Am link would be my new mode of operation!


  • Mari –
    I believe that your comments make a lot of sense. Unfortunately, there are other “gurus” out there that do not share the same perspective. It could be that some of the emails we receive are from people that are not following the right people!

    The gentleman mentioned that “someone” had told him you would be interested… Boy, wouldn’t a single message to you saying so-and-so said you would be interested in my new program…… have made a big difference?

    As a productivity consultant I am frequently recommending automation to make your business run better, however, I do not always take the same stance on Web 2.0 applications! It is all about the relationship.

    Clear communication can make or break any well intended person. Thanks for sharing the tips and keeping us all together.

  • Mari, this is a tricky one and I think the netiquette you suggest at the end of your post will be an effective but gentle way to go. There is no pint in putting someone else’s back up as well as our own 🙂 There is also the multi messages from groups and my thinking is that if you belong to a group then you are acquiescing to group emails. What’s your view?

  • Hi Mari,

    No I don’t feel u are being pompous… people who do this kind of stuff have little or no respect for other time.

    Many of them are still following “old” marketing blasting methods.

    Personally I feel your Facebook Fortunes course should be required 4 any one wanting to use Facebook as a marketing tool.

    Ann Rusnak
    “The Time Diva”

    PS. tnx 4 the video share…LMAO

  • Spirit Coach

    This is a tough one and I Think we each have to follow our own intuition here. Personally –after years of receiving email in law offices (my former career) and having been caught out and sliced up on more than 1 occasion due to my itchy trigger finger on the send button — I’ve learned to definitely wait till later to respond. Sometimes I go ahead and draft the response — and put it in DRAFT — which I guess we don’t have here in Facebook — so then if I had to get it off my chest I’d write it in Word and then put it away till later. I just feel better about myself that way . . . : )

    Stephanie Bell the Spirit Coach.

  • Hello Mari Smith

    I am new to facebook and am still learning how it used and I think the four points you have put up is the right way to go

    Govindji Patel

  • Mary McD

    Hi Mari,

    It’s never fun to hear less than complimentary things about ourselves… oh dear!

    I’ve found that, once I can get past my own feelings, I can usually ‘hear’ what the other person is saying, and view the issue from their perspective.

    I’m sure Fred doesn’t think he was initially out of line; that’s his perception. So, he contacted you “in good faith” from his perception, and felt that you were a bit harsh with him. Perhaps he’s right… perhaps he’s not. Either way, if you are interested in other’s perceptions in order to view yourself from ‘outside’ yourself, listen to what he said and remember it in the future. If your own perception is sufficient, then let his note blow away like the chaff from wheat…

  • Leslie Sansone Williams


    Your 4 points are ‘right on’. The ‘in your face’ type of marketer just doesn’t work for me.

    Thanks for your post.

    Leslie Sansone Williams’s last blog post.. Facebook’s President Announces the New ‘Facebook Connect’

  • Hi Mari,
    Excellent, thorough and honest ‘ta boot! I love that you’re able to look at your own actions and turn it into a learning opportunity for everyone. This is why you are the expert, always growing – no sitting on your laurels!
    Today I actually took on a “friend” with a very sexually explicit status update. The exchange went from defensive to complimentary — took 3 exchanges to get there but it was good – as you did- to handle something that’s offensive in a clear and straightforward way, not opt for disconnect ion first and try to be friends with our friends. I love your real world analogies – what goes on here should definitely mirror the real world – we even need more of the graces of life since we don’t have the benefit of visuals and body language.

    I like the BCC option, that would be a winner.
    I just love your work and your spirit!

    Best, Julette

  • Matthew Hunt


    A very interesting post and I think the best advice you gave was never respond to an email when emotional.

    Emails can easily be taken the wrong way.

  • Lisa

    I am so glad you covered this. Yes, these emails from my Facebook contacts have been grating on my nerves also. I agree that you are totally justified in asking the person to cease emailing you their spam. (Which, BTW, your request was polite IMHO) However, I would have sent email in private.

  • Thanks for sharing this experience, Mari. It shows the situation from both sides – protecting your own time against Facebook assault, but also perceiving how your (justifiable) response can come across.

    On the subject of avoiding ‘morning-after email remorse’, I think the trick is to disentangle the need to ‘express’ from the desire to ‘effect’. When I’m hell-bent on expressing my irritation or frustration I rarely get the outcome I want. Doesn’t sound like that’s your problem, though!

    (If interested you can check out my post here: http://www.happinessstrategies.com/blog/2007/10/11/expressiveness-versus-effectiveness-or-how-to-prevent-morning-after-email-remorse/)

    Michele Connolly’s last blog post.. Printable To Do Lists To Get Organized

  • Hey, Mari…

    Interesting post. Replying to All to teach someone or anyone a lesson is less than gracious.

    While certainly Fred may have been in error, informing him alone instead of in front of others would have been proper and also didn’t shine a bright light on you as the nice person that you probably are.

    BCc should always be used when you are sending to a group of folks that do not know each other. That said, if done so with motives of trying to point out someone else’s faux pas or as a way of “informing” others of the same, Fred’s reaction was justified and understandable.

    Reply to All, Cc and BCc should never be used to reprimand others publicly as that only serves to make the sender appear petty. 😉

    Reply to All should only be used when:

    a) You know everyone on the list and

    b) They know you and and your reply is a constructive part of the ongoing conversation.

    HTH! Tons of info on this on my Blog and my site in the Articles area if you are interested in further resources on the topic of E-mail Etiquette — which doesn’t change just because you are on Facebook.

    At your service,

  • The tone was a bit off – but mine would have been the same under similar circumstances (a British thing methinks !) but I think the reply 9all)was the best policy as it spreads the message further afield. Like you I have over 500 unread messags the majority of which are people telling me about events that have naff all to do with my business interests or my groups. The reply you got was unncessarily chastising.

    Gillian’s last blog post.. Commenting on Blogs

  • Ribeezie

    In most cases I give the person a private reply asking that they please refrain from sending me any such emails in the future. Should they get upset and and seem to not understand or appreciate my wishes respectfully, I remove them as a friend. That usually seems to take care of the problem. But there’s just so much spam there regardless. I guess that’s why my favorite social network remains LinkedIn; though I have grown a deeper appreciation for FB.

  • In my “real-life” email, I know that “reply all” is “bad”, but if someone does a mass e-mail that perpetuates falsehoods (think snopes-disproven stuff) or is otherwise frustratingly obnoxious, I can’t help myself–I hit “reply to all”.

    I haven’t yet experienced this kind of spam on facebook, but I would think I would respond the same way.

    To be fair, I do know at least two people who inadvertently sent a SuperWall post to their entire address book–I really think that’s a problem with that application, though.

    Rain’s last blog post.. Sunday blogging against racism #45–of museums and misconceptions

  • Maris,

    Thank you for addressing this issue. I cannot stand being treated like another “customer” with some people on social networks. I am a human being, not a dollar sign.

    This was a great post that definitely needed to be written!

    Best Wishes,

    Krisy’s last blog post.. Awesome Tweet shirts!

  • @Glen SO true. Your 10 cents is right on the money!!! lol. Seriously, it’s ALL about reaching out to connect individually… at first. Once the relationship is more established, ‘en masse’ communication may be more acceptable. Or simply use Groups.

    @Ann – thank you so much, oh master of da clock!!! Very well said.

    @Stephanie – I love the draft items suggestion! Wish we had a draft folder in FB, but next time I could type up in Outlook first! 😉

    @Mary – yay, very wise words. I’m a big fan of AFGO’s no matter how unpleasant at the time. Hubby and I have our fair share. (AFGO = another f’ing growth opportunity!)

    @CoachEva – I really love your outlook and the reframe of ‘path of most allowance.’ Brilliant! Excellent suggestion to send ’em LouTube’s Spam I Am vid!! hehee

  • While I think that his email was harsh I also felt that you could have handled it better by responding privately. Not only did it probably embarrass the man you did the very thing that you were complaining about… you sent the note to many people who probably didn’t really want to receive that message either.

  • Cynthia Clinton

    I would have emailed him privately because “reply all” does seem like you purposefully were pointing a finger at him and making sure everyone knew it – though, I do agree with what you said.

    Part of me thinks he deserved it because he knew he was spamming and was hoping no one would say anything, but another part of knows he would feel provoked and defensive by being called on his behavior in a public manner.

    I tend to write what I really want to say, then butcher it down to just the information the person needs. I feel better for getting it out and I’ve deleted the less than helpful stuff from the mail before I ever mailed it.

    Yes, I think a bcc would be very helpful 😀

    Cynthia Clinton’s last blog post.. Skin Color And Attractiveness

  • Hi, Mari!

    This is excellent! I’ve been on Facebook for several months and I’m just starting to see the real value in it. Thank you for providing loads of value and leading with integrity!

    The Gay Guy’s Love Coach

  • Mari thanks for slippin’ on a banana for all of us. I learned the gentle but FIRM approach from you! Thanks!

  • Mari, your blogpost was “right on”. His e-mail was pure spam and has no place on Facebook. I’m frankly tired of receiving invites to events from people I really don’t know. So, every 2-3 days, I hit the “delete” button and move on. A real time waster.

    Loved the “rules” in your post, also.

  • Mary Cullen

    I see this as very similar to correcting an email error en masse. It may cause more harm to the other reader’s perception of you than the correction is worth. In this case, a private message may have matched your objective best. But, your tone was kind and fair, not “supercilious.” I addressed this topic: http://www.businesswritinginfo.com/2008/09/11/correcting-an-incorrect-email/

    Mary Cullen’s last blog post.. The Inigo Montoya Guide to 27 Commonly Misused Words from Copyblogger

  • Catherine

    I think your guidance here is perfect.

    You were in a group that I am in and you wrote the most gracious note to all of us to let us know the chain emails were more than you could keep up with.

    It is impossible for me to put pompous or supercilious in the same sentence as Mari Smith!

    Thanks for the help, as usual. Facebook is manageable with tips like these!


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