Online Etiquette: A Refresher Course/Sharable Moment
Posted at 8:00h, 24 Oct 2017 in Advice by Bonnie Halper No Comments 135 Likes Share

Email has been around for quite a while now, and it’s no doubt will the #1 form of online communication. LinkedIn and Facebook are also very good ways of reaching out to people whom you know – or whom you might want to know/get better acquainted with/need something from. Hey, they’re tools and if you have the tools at hand, why not use them, what, eh?

Caveat: always be careful with your tools. Show them respect so that they’ll always be in good working order. And don’t take them – or the people whom you might want to know/get better acquainted with/need something from – for granted.

Here are some simple rules to follow and points to remember, which no doubt many of you already know and in which you do not engage, but feel free to share them with offenders, and you know who we mean, and we know that we’re not alone in encountering them:

  1. No subject line in an email should be a mere question mark, much less several of them, in case we didn’t hear you the first time. We’ve encountered that more than once. Use words. Always.
  2. Emoticon/emojis do not constitute a conversation. They may be added for punctuation or to underscore a point, but email is a form of written communication, and should involve words. At least a few of them. Do you know who communicated in pictures and drawings? Cave dwellers, as in prehistoric humans. So if you, too, wish to communicate this way, do not be surprised if the recipient dismisses you as being something of a Neanderthal.
  3. If you decide to send a LinkedIn invitation to someone whom you do not know, good idea not to send them the boilerplate please add me to your LinkedIn network. Take the time to write a personal note. Tell the person why you want to connect/how it could be mutually beneficial. The operative here, in case you missed it, is mutually.
  4. ‘Mutually beneficial’ does not mean a sales pitch that’s so head-on that you lost me at ‘hello.’
  5. Behave yourself. On all of the social media platforms. Do your best to exercise discretion and try not to post offensive comments. If you disagree with someone politically, don’t post a nasty comment that will do nothing to move the needle – or the relationship – forward.
  6. If/when someone posts something that pisses you off, take a breath. Take a walk. Take a break. We know that this may well fall under ‘Behave yourself,’ but altered states such as anger deserve their own bullet point.
  7. Never post drunk. And friends should not let friends post drunk.

An investor friend complained to us that lately she has been getting an inordinate amount of LinkedIn requests from people whom she has absolutely no connection, or if she and the sender did have a second degree connection or two, that sender had neglected to utilize them. Most sent the boilerplate please add me to your LinkedIn network, to the point where she wondered why LinkedIn didn’t have a ‘f#ck off’ button. A bit direct; we include it here as an ‘FYI,’ in case you’re wondering why some of your invitations to connect are being ignored.

  1. We know that LinkedIn has that people you may know feature, as Facebook has its friend suggester. Refrain from clicking the add all button. Ever notice that there’s an ‘ignore’ feature, too? Be selective. You are not a bot. Don’t let some bot/algorithm make your decisions for you.
  2. The Golden Rule applies to online as well: don’t say something online that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Professionally or personally.
  3. Be careful. Online, not only can your friends see what you post; others can as well, by virtue of the network effect, and repost, copy, share, or retweet anything you put out there. So use discretion. The whole world is literally potentially listening.

There’s no doubt that social media and online at large has blurred lines – especially when it comes to who and what is a friend, and even how to network effectively. We use ‘friend’ as in ‘friending’ someone on Facebook. We connect on LinkedIn. Both of which are fine, but if you’re going to ‘friend,’ make sure it is a friend or someone whom you know or have met in real life. And whom you have at least spoke to. And with whom you have something in common, or mutually beneficial goals. Same with connecting. Connect. People have become so accessible that we neglect to think of our online world/domain as the place we live online, to a large degree, and would you leave the door to your home unlocked and open to all comers? If you do, don’t suddenly wonder what the hell is going on when you wake up one morning to find that all of the silverware – or your online reputation – is gone.

Andrew Weinreich got it right with his early social network, Six Degrees. There were levels of relationships: inner circle, acquaintance, etc. Not everyone was lumped into the same relationship level. The new network effect is all about eyeballs/ad dollars. The various networks want advertisers to know that your messages are reaching everyone, and not certain things to certain groups.

  1. The Internet is forever. There are no take-backs and do-overs, and if/when a link or comment goes viral, you own it. Forever.

We build our online databases/’communities’ and sometimes neglect to consider that Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram et al are platforms. They’re telephones/means of correspondence by any other name. They’re utilities, not the neighborhood playground, local bar or water cooler and hopefully will be designated as such in the none-too-distant future. Until that time comes, remember: they know who you are – and may know more about you than anyone on the planet – remember who they are, too, and a good idea to keep in mind this above all:

  1. The various platforms already consider us users their products. The last thing you want to be is a tool.

Onward and forward.