Business Tools

5 Tips for Minding Your Online Manners

By Elana Scherr, Kahn Media Senior Account Executive

Veteran etiquette gurus are swamped these days with questions about how to politely refuse Facebook friends and what to do about a teenager who texts at the dinner table. Hurt feelings and bad manners have gone virtual. Social Media and mobile technology have given us a whole new way to share with a much larger audience, but that comes with the risk of offending a much larger audience!

The problem of developing etiquette rules for online interactions is not restricted to personal profiles. As businesses make use of social media sharing opportunities, there are a few common social media gaffes to watch out for.

1. Thou Shalt not Steal

Never in a million years would any of us consider walking out of a party with the hostess’ silverware in our pocket, yet people regularly grab images and text from online outlets without making any reference to the original source. This is rude in any medium. Whether you’re sharing a Facebook photo or an online article, mention that it is borrowed and, if possible, include a link back to the site where it was originally published.

Note: When borrowing a photo from a Facebook fan, simply mention that the image is from a fan, perhaps with the person’s first or last name. Due to varying Facebook privacy settings, it may not be polite or desirable to send your whole fan base to look at a private citizen’s profile.

2. That’s Enough About You, Have You Heard About Me?

“Tagging” is common practice on sites, such as Facebook and Twitter where a simple mention of a name can link your post to a partner or customer’s page or profile and allow their friends and fans to see it. This can be a great way to cross market, or it can be the equivalent of butting in to a conversation about Renaissance art to talk about the time you did a finger painting in kindergarten. Use tagging sparingly and make sure that what you are tagging is relevant and flattering to the tagged party.

3. Hold the Spam

It can be very tempting to use the comment section on a blog or Facebook post as a spot to promote one’s own business. Unless the post is asking “How many of you own your own exhaust shop?” don’t post about your company. It’s blatant spam and it will likely get you banned from the page. Start your own fan page or blog and build a community around your brand.

The same goes for forum posting. It’s just rude to invade a thread with unrelated self-promotion. If you’re a sponsor with a new product, start a new thread or look for a conversation that’s more relevant in which to post your photos.

4. Are We There Yet? How About Now? Now?

Invites are polite, but with so many social media sites, and new ones coming up every day, some folks might start to feel bombarded with Google +, Storify and LinkedIn invites. If you feel like you’ve arrived at the party early, invite a few co-workers who share your enthusiasm for online socializing and simply wait for the rest of the world to catch up. Basically, don’t be pushy; it’s not any more appreciated in the online sphere than it is on the phone or in person.

5. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Most social media articles end up with the same message. The online world is not an alternate reality; it’s an extension of the physical world in which we live, especially for businesses. Respect people’s creative rights, their privacy and their opinions and you’ll build a reputation for your company as refined and respected as the products you provide.