Proper Credit

The etiquette of sharing the work of others on your social media business pages
Melanie Warner Spencer is editor of New Orleans Bride and New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and managing editor of Louisiana Life and Acadiana Profile. Spencer’s ever-expanding library of etiquette books is rivaled only by her ever-ready stash of blank thank-you notes. Submit business etiquette questions to


Social media has fast become big business — especially for small businesses.

According to an April article in, 10 million small businesses in the United States have Facebook pages. In addition, “the gig economy marketplace Fiverr shows freelance spending on Instagram has more than quadrupled since the beginning of 2017” and “50 percent of Instagrammers follow a business,” according to

In January, social media management platform Hootsuite posted on its blog that “93 percent of people who follow small- and medium-sized business on Twitter plan to purchase from those businesses they follow — according to a report from Twitter and Research Now — and 69 percent have already made purchases because of something they saw on the network.”

There are, of course, several other popular social media channels, including LinkedIn and Pinterest, which also have impressive numbers.

Given the fact that literally millions of small businesses are clamoring to be seen and heard in the ever-changing social media landscape, it’s even more important to know how best to navigate the etiquette of the medium, especially as it pertains to your fellow creative professionals, such as photographers, graphic designers and writers.

Since social media posts with imagery statistically gain more engagement, perhaps topping the list of priorities is properly crediting (and, or paying for) photographs. We won’t delve too deeply into photo copyright laws here, but a good rule of thumb is that if you didn’t pay for use of the photograph or get permission from the photographer, don’t post it (to your company blog or social media channels) until you take one or both steps.

Keep in mind that many professional photographers will find it insulting to be asked for free use of their imagery, especially by a for-profit business, since they are trained experts and that’s how they make their living.

However, re-gramming from the photographer’s (designer’s or writer’s) account, and leaving in information from the original post is the exception to this payment and permission rule.

It’s also poor form to crop out the photographer’s watermark, so just don’t do it. If you pay for the image, the photographer will give you a version without the watermark.

Sometimes the photographer will offer permission for use, with the caveat that the watermark stays (for the purposes of their own marketing), so again, cropping it out is a no-no. Feel free to ask for one without a watermark, but if the photographer says it stays, they get the last word.

OK, you paid for the image and/or got permission and are now on your way to the perfect post touting your company and getting all the “likes” and “shares,” right? Not so fast. Here’s where we get to the real point of etiquette: Credit.

Did you buy all of the rights to that image to use when and how you’d like on your social media channels? If so, you may not have to credit the photographer. However, while of course it’s just good manners to give credit where credit is due, it’s also good business.

Crediting a photographer in a post is both great for networking and cross promotion. When you credit a photographer, he or she may repost and suddenly you are both getting all of the internet love. It’s a win-win. Note that simply tagging or hashtagging the photographer won’t cut it. Do tag them, but also include a proper photo credit, which can either be “Photo by Jill Smith Photography,” or the camera emoji followed by “by Jill Smith Photography.”

With images that came to fruition via the work of a team, including models, hair, makeup and wardrobe professionals, and other crew, any time you can get this information, include it. Consider this for any post that involves the work of another person or a team, whether it’s video, an article or blog post, logo, photo or release of data or research. Again, you’ll get more eyes on the post, so it’s a no-brainer.