Netiquette Do’s and Don’ts

Co-authored with Eileen Soisson, the President of The Meeting Institute, a company focused on training and organizational performance. She does her best to reform Internet barbarians like Dr. Dave.

Don’t you just love all the new parlance that’s coming out of cyberspace? It’s enough to fill a new dictionary every year. The word ‘netiquette’ is a new one to me. At least it was until I attended a training class taught by Eileen Soisson. It was taught as part of the gsSCENE educational series for 2010.

I have to admit that I didn’t like the class at all. It was like a bad sermon, pointed straight at me the entire time. She could have at least talked about/to someone else instead of addressing all of my netiquette faults.  With that said, the class was extremely enlightening and eye-opening. I learned a lot. Soisson is an excellent teacher and made the information easier to swallow.

Strictly speaking, netiquette is a set of unwritten rules for behaving properly online. It’s important for several reasons, the most important of which being that it’s nearly impossible to separate online and offline life these days. We need to be cognizant of our behavior wherever we are. The main problem with online behavior is that sometimes we don’t understand what our behavior means to others. Simple actions like using capital letters and bright colors could send the wrong idea.

Without an actual warm body in front of us, there are no non-verbal or physical cues to pick-up on. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that there is a real person on the receiving end of a message. With the proliferation of social media and the ability to blast e-mails to thousands, it may be hard to actually picture who may be reading the message. We should remember, though, that our goal is to establish good behavior and effective communication while on the Internet.

Just as in life, try to follow the Golden Rule with all Internet communication.

Here are a few tips to follow when using e-mail…

  • Avoid offensive behavior
  • Watch your presentation, grammar, and spelling
  • Avoid the use of improper capitalization. It comes across as YELLING!
  • Keep messages short and sweet
  • Don’t forward spam, jokes, or cute stories unless you know the intended recipient actually wants it
  • Use paragraph breaks
  • Confirm that you have received an e-mail (even with a simple “got it- thanks”)

Those are just a couple of general tips. If you sat down for a few minutes, I’m sure you could come up with a much longer, more personalized list of your own pet peeves and complaints. Again, though, remember the Golden Rule.

Now that social media has spread far and wide there are new sets of rules that, though unsaid, people are expected to abide by. Remember one key item regarding social media. Everything is public. Social media used to just be MySpace and YouTube, but now there are hundreds of sites and networks available. There have already been innumerable instances where jobs have been threatened or lost and even criminal actions have been taken due to photographs or comments posted on social media sites. Choose your photographs carefully and think over all your posts twice before hitting the magic button that releases it to the world.

Be social, but not overly social. If you seem to be online 24 hours a day, it will get back to your family, friends, and coworkers somehow. That sick day at work or the time you missed your mom’s birthday are poor excuses to be sitting at home on your computer.

Also, pay attention to the limitations of the websites. Twitter, for example, is limited to 140 characters. In other words, it’s not really meant for long conversations. For a long conversation, it might be better to use e-mail or disconnect completely and pick up a phone.

A good example of this would be a break-up. You could send an e-mail to break up with someone that would come off resembling a “Dear John” letter. If you used Twitter, it’d be better just to say, “We’re through. Don’t call me anymore.” If you wanted to cause public humiliation, Facebook would be the ideal route. You could update your status with “So-and-so stinks and doesn’t take showers, so I’m breaking up with him. I just wanted to warn women worldwide that he’s a pig.”

How we communicate with our customers over the Internet is also very important.  More customers today use social media to share opinions (ratings,reviews, blogs,tweets) so staying abreast of  what is posted out in cysberspace is key to staying competitive and in the know.

Gary Henderson of Interactivity Marketing in Myrtle Beach is considered by many to be a social media guru. In regard to netiquette, he has this to say, “When it comes to Netiquette, things are pretty simple. Talk to someone in the same method they talk to you (if they talk via Twitter, respond via Twitter). Interact on a personal and business level and keep your private business private. If you wouldn’t want your mom, pastor, employer and/or significant other to see it, then it shouldn’t be mentioned online.”

It’d be hard for you to know every rule of online conduct, because every person is going to be different and have their own set of rules. Just be aware of how people act and respond to you online and always try to err on the side of kindness.


3 thoughts on “Netiquette Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Pingback: 2010 in Blogo-Review « The Daily Grind

  2. Pingback: The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Social Media | mmaitriw

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