Tagging on social media: When is it OK to tag other people?

Estimated read time: 6 minutes


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Tagging on social media posts and photos can extend the reach of those content pieces, which is likely why some of us want to tag everyone and their brother – so to speak. But over-tagging can hurt your brand and can even backfire.

What is tagging on social media?

Tagging on social media means that you are mentioning somebody else in a post, comment or in a photo while typing in their official profile name. That name then links to their profile and also likely shows up in their timeline. Here’s an example of how that looks on LinkedIn:

Tagging on social media - podcast guest

In this case, I recorded a podcast with Jonathan Schwabish as my guest. It’s certainly okay to tag when I share his content as part of my podcast. Most of my podcast guests also share their episodes.



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Tagging on social media – why do people do it?

The reasons are two-fold:

1) They want the other person to be aware of the content. If they are are a close friend and you absolutely know that they will care about that topic, this can be nice.

2) To amplify content. When you tag people that post often gets shown to their friends and followers. Depending on the network they may have to approve the tag first. But some networks just immediately show it in timelines. That can make your content go farther.

But:

Tagging on social media – The Dos and Don’ts

The biggest thing to remember is what your goal is and what you are trying to accomplish. Tagging people that are quoted in an article or the post will likely not be seen as spammy. The tagged people will likely appreciate it.

Read next: How to maximize organic social media

Just tagging people randomly seems to be spammy to me. Why are you tagging me? So I can read that content? Okay, I’ll add it to my list. I read it and didn’t find it that interesting.

Consider how your tag will be perceived by the person that is being tagged. If you are tagging somebody because they offered additional insights and is quoted that’s great. I even recommend that brands have media pages where they highlight all these mentions.

But if you are tagging a bunch of people who have no connection yet to the content that is likely a big no-no.

It’s a bit different when readers tag friends in the comments. Usually they do that to alert a friend. A less public way to do that is to privately share the post with that friend. As a content marketer, I like seeing those tags as somebody else found my content useful and so much even that they shared it with a friend.

Stephanie Steeves
Stephanie Steeves

“I will tag people in a first comment if it makes sense,” said Stephanie Steeves. “Yesterday I read an AWESOME post about the importance of teachers, tagged a teacher in my network.
I try to tag naturally, while yes, understand that it helps with views (sometimes the views for others, too!)”

When it comes to photos, do not tag people that aren’t in the photo.

Some people, however, can “get away” with tagging people who aren’t in a photo. Here are the items usually at play:

  • They have an established relationship.
  • The content shared is highly relevant to the person tagged.

A good litmus test is what the person tagged does:

  • If they untag themselves, the tag was inappropriate.
  • If they like, comment or share in a positive way it was appropriate.
  • If they unfollow or block the tagger that’s really not a good sign. You’ve overdone it.

Read next: When is it okay to block somebody on social media?

It all depends on the relevance of the content, timing and maturity of the relationship. 

If some brand I don’t know tags me because they want to reach all of you through me, that’s often spammy.

Recommended reading: Everyone is an influencer to somebody. 

In general, I would recommend to only tag people in photos – no matter the network (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter all allow it) – when people are actually in them.

Once you have identified a passionate group for a topic you might try tagging people here and there to make sure they saw the content.  Gauge their reactions and adjust as necessary. It’s probably best to only tag people when they are in the photo


This next section looks at the different areas on social media where you can tag people.

Tagging on social media – Posts

The example of tagging people you’ve featured in articles or podcasts or that you want to give a shout-out is a common way to tag people in posts.

Other versions of tagging in posts include versions of this:

I find working remote hard. What are your thoughts <and then they tag a bunch of people>? I want to hear from you!

Tagging on social media – Comments

LinkedIn is currently pushing the tagging of people in comments. Every time I post to LinkedIn, which is automated through Buffer, I get a notification now:

Tagging on social media LinkedIn

Your post has 77 views so far. Try mentioning someone in a comment to get the conversation going. 

I honestly don’t find this very user friendly or community building. It feels like they are pushing me into pushing somebody else into commenting. This type of notification is easy to turn off by clicking on the  three dots and “turn off this type of notification.”

Before I turned it off, I did consider this strategy for a bit. But I don’t even know who to tag and what to say besides: “Hey random friends, since you may have an Alexa, have you tried this before?”

Where to draw the line?

Tagging on social media – Photos

Tagging on social media photos works on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Instagram now.

 

And now Facebook even recommends tags by name when it knows who the person pictured is.

Tagging on social media wrap

It can be tempting to overtag posts, pictures and even in the comments. Don’t do it. It can really hurt your brand and standing with your target audience. Only tag when there’s a chance that it will be seen as a positive by the person being tagged.

If you truly want to share a post to an audience of one consider emailing or private messaging it to them. Of course, that also depends on your relationship with the other person. For example, I get messages all the time from folks that:

  • want me to check out their product for free!
  • read an article they posted and please consider sharing it.
  • share their message.

There certainly are messages worth sharing from others. I do add some into Buffer for sharing later. But when people reach out and ask me to share, it’s often this scenario: They get paid to get free coverage from others. Without an involvement or relationship I refer them to my influencer program, which can be a revenue stream.

Read next: Hire veteran journalist and influencer to promote and cover your event


The section on photos was first published in 2016 and updated with the newly written and edited article published here in 2020.



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