Netiquette: Social Site Etiquette For The Information Age – By Gail Kasper
Gail Kasper, Author, Television Host, Certified Fitness Trainer, and Motivational Speaker
Social media is changing communication around the world and social networking sites are at the forefront of that drift. Using social networking sites is a fun way to interact with friends, family, peers, and business associates and even market your products and services. Yet there are certain guidelines for online etiquette, or netiquette, which should be followed.
With the advent of increasingly sophisticated technology, a boom in use of the Web, online marketing and social networking, social sites have dramatically risen in popularity. People are blogging, they are using FaceBook, LinkedIn, FriendFeed, Twitter, MySpace, Ryze, and many, many more social networking sites, too numerous to name. You can find a good list on Wikipedia: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites).
Social Networking has many benefits. It is faster than e-mailing, people don’t feel obligated to respond to your every post, it can be a low-investment way to market, allows for connections around the world. People are updating everyone, including friends and family and all online. As the Internet grows bigger our world grows smaller. The ability to maintain constant contact with friends, family, peers, and past, present or potential professional associates is both possible and increasingly popular.
The advent of Twitter’s 140 character update means people are communicating even more often… often ten or more times daily. As of December 2008 Twitter had 4.4 million users. FaceBook is also huge, with a reported more than 225 million users as of December 2008. That same month ComScore reported that over 222 million people had visited FaceBook, up 120 percent from the previous month.
Clearly social networking is trendy. It is popular because it is powerful. You can stay connected, reconnect and get connected and interact, almost instantaneously. This means 24/7 contact with friends, family, potential employers/employees and potential customers and clients.
To be successful and happy in social networking, as in any human interaction, it is useful to remember certain netiquette guidelines. Netiquette, like etiquette, involves social norms or behavioral guidelines, sometimes referred to as manners. It is the proper way for people to interact with others on the Internet.
A list of Social Site Netiquette Tips:
• Do be real. Have an avatar or picture, use your real name, include a bio and introduce yourself when starting an account. A fake name implies a fake identity. It is logical and polite for you to introduce yourself to strangers and reveal your authentic self.
• Do be intentional about posting. What, Why, Where and for Whom are you posting? This is your chance to connect with others; do it consciously.
• Do build Relationships. Social networking is about relationships. Relationships are made up of two people. Listen to comments from blog or page readers; respond to @replies or personal Tweets, etc. You may not always agree but a friend focuses on maintaining the relationship, not their own point of view.
• Do make friends. Social Networking is foremost social. It is first for making or maintaining friendships and second for sharing yourself, and your company, business, products or services, with others.
• Do be socially savvy. Would you walk up to a total stranger, on the street or at a party, and say, “Be my friend,” or “I’m Garden State Gardening?” Would you only talk about yourself when you first meet someone or ask them for a favor? Social networking is based in developing quality relationships. It is NOT cold calling.
• Do be a friend first, and a professional second. If marketing your business through Social Networking sites keep it personable and professional. Social sites are for friends or new friends… who may then invest in your products and services.
• Do allow for natural networking. Yes, you can friend potential clients or customers on any social site but wait for natural networking opportunities to occur. If you periodically mention your products/services, while posting friendly, conversational updates, it is likely a friend or follower will click through and explore your website and offerings at a future point when you’ve gained their trust.
• Do post often. Social networking offers the chance to establish or re-establish relationship several times a day. Share what you are doing/what inspires you or something funny or interesting to connect with others.
• Do not post mostly self-promotional items. See “Do not be a SPAMMER,” listed below. Not only is it annoying, but you can find yourself booted out of the site entirely.
• Do get connected. Many sites, Friendfeed in particular, allow interconnectivity. Be sure to consider linking your Twitter and FaceBook. You can also connect your blog to LinkedIn and other sites.
• Do protect your reputation. Your online identity and reputation are an extension of your personal reputation.
• Do lurk before you leap. This common netiquette phrase means familiarize yourself in new online situations and forums before jumping in and posting. Click through the pages, posts, comments, tweets and profiles of others, to understand the norms and customs of a particular social networking site.
• Do follow the Rules. Every community has guidelines, you must know what these guidelines are and avoiding violating them.
• Do be flame free. Do not flame (deliberately insult) others and avoid being offensive. Do not name call or @reply negative comments or gossip about others.
• Do avoid having a personal conversation. Don’t have a personal discussion, or worse, a debate, in a public forum. No one wants to witness a private matter.
• DO NOT SHOUT. Posting in ALL UPPERCASE is the social equivalent of shouting at the other party. It is also quite difficult to read things written in ALL CAPS.
• Do be error free. Check posts/tweets and the like for errors, including typos… and be certain not to double post or post comment that could be misinterpreted.
• Do not be a SPAMMER. Savvy social networkers avoid shameless self-promotion and ego… they know that 80% of posts and communication should be authentic and personal. Only 20% of posts should be pitching. Don’t constantly request re-tweets, interesting content will naturally be RT.
• Do avoid being too ‘me’ focused. You should give more than you receive and make valuable contributions. Share things that inspire, uplift, motivate and entertain others or make them smile. If you constantly me, me, me…tweet about your blog, new product, new article, yada yada, you will be de-friended, unfollowed and/or blocked (except by similar users who don’t care about you either and just want as many friends/connections as possible).
• Do avoid excessive sharing of invites and applications. People do not want to take every quiz, use every application, or complete every list.
• Do be careful what you post. The Internet is a public NOT private place. Also accounts can be hacked. Pictures, comments, posts and messages from public accounts may be forwarded or shared… post nothing that would embarrass you later.
• Do respond to real (non-SPAM) messages. You wouldn’t ignore someone who said hello to you on the street… don’t ignore others in Cyberspace.
• Do be wary of strangers. Only accept relationships from people you know or want to know. Block, unfollow or de-friend anyone who exhibits antisocial (think mentally unbalanced) behavior and then report them to site administrators. Be careful how you pursue online connections. Never meet a new online connection in person unless you can be absolutely certain it is safe, and then meet in public and inform friends/family of your whereabouts. People can and do fake identities and have used Social Networking sites to find their next victim. Don’t let it be you.
• Do avoid being indiscriminate. Don’t share personal or financial information indiscriminately or express angst in public forums such as social sites.
• Do be careful in posting sensitive material. Unless you intend to inflame others, ignite a discussion, or want to use social networking sites to promote a certain viewpoint, be aware that conflicts of opinion around issues including politics, sex, and/or religion may arise if you post on those topics.
• Do be respectful of others. Protect the privacy of others. Be kind. Ask for clarification rather than misinterpreting the other person, their comment or response. Be forgiving of the foibles of others. We are all human.
• Do be aware of social networking site audience trends. Each social networking site has a general specific target audience (E.g. It is commonly held that FaceBook is for friends and college or university peers and that LinkedIn and Ryze are for professional connections). If you do not have or want a personal relationship with a boss, coworker or other individual, then do not friend them or accept their request. You can always tell someone who asks that you use FaceBook, or Twitter, etc., for purely personal, not professional relationships.
• Do wait to reject friend requests. Leave friend or connection requests pending, rather than immediately rejecting. You may be open to the connection in the future
• Do let relationships fade away naturally. If a person you’ve connected to turns out not to be someone you want to know in an ongoing way… allow the relationship to peter out. Stop responding. If they question you be direct about the lack of fit.
Remember, successfully social network by efforts based in friendship and mutual respect. Sean Carton of ClickZ says it well, “Social networks are communities, and communities have certain expectations about their members’ behavior, not the least of which is that those members actually exist and aren’t trying to make a buck off their friendships”. So, introduce yourself, have fun, develop connections of depth based in genuine regard and interest and follow these tips for successful social networking that is fun and safe.
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By Gail Kasper, television host of Raw Reality, author, and motivational speaker