The Entrepreneur’s Guide to On-line Etiquette

The Entrepreneur's Guide to On-line Etiquette

Social networks have changed the way many of us communicate with each other. Whether chatting to friends and family or sending messages to colleagues, the way we do it has changed dramatically over the past decade. However, that change can cause problems. The nuances of the voice and how it changes to affect the meaning of words is lost when translated to text. Get it wrong, and you could upset a lot of people and potentially lose business.

The written word is a powerful thing. Books have the ability to change the way people think, make them feel excited when they're down and empower them to take action when they are demotivated. Good books do this well, bad books don't. It's the same with any writing. Good writing will get a point across and entertain you while doing it, bad writing will leave you with a sense of "meh" and wash over your consciousness.

In the past, that was OK. Few writers got their work out to the masses, so the bad books got left by the wayside, and the bad writers were mostly unread. If you wanted to write well, you had to work at it, and the bar was set high.

It's the same with letters. If you wanted to write to someone, to get your point across your letter had to be formed well. If it were poorly written, people could get the wrong end of the stick. Speaking is easy, you can get your point across and nobody sees the missing commas, apostrophes, and bad spelling. This is why the telephone was, at one point, the most popular form of communication. The same sentence could mean different things depending on how it was said.

These days it's all different. We can text people easily, message them through WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. and post on their timelines. There are any number of methods of getting information over to people, and the bar is now set extremely low. Everyone can do it for little or no cost. This means mistakes can creep in.

What's more, those mistakes can be very public and available for a long time. Social media doesn't go away and what you post will likely stay somewhere on-line forever.

This could be a problem. If you signed up for Facebook during your troublesome teens and published a lot of choice material under your own name, it might come back to haunt you when trying to get that job with the law firm.

How Not to Ruin Your Business: Five Tips

Social media is all about being 'social'. If you're now running your business and have an on-line presence, it's still important you don't come across as overly 'po-faced' and boring. People still want to be entertained; you just have to make sure you do it in a way that won't cause offense. And trust me, this is easily done. Take the example of Justine Sacco who made a joke when off on a trip to Africa. The joke would have been fine coming from a stand-up comedian where the irony would have been entirely clear. However, from a PR executive, it was disastrous, and she lost her job while still on the plane. So here are five tips for staying away from such social faux-pas.

Delay Sending

When you tweet, post a Facebook message or use any other app, it's instant. The post goes out and there it is for everyone to read. So when you want to say something, don't just jump on your phone and bang it out there and then. Wait.

Justine probably thought she was making a hilarious joke, and being fair, if taken in a certain way it could be seen as funny and poking fun at people's perception. But it didn't land that way simply because it was straight text and pretty much just racist when taken at face value. She shouldn't have done it and if she'd thought about it, maybe she wouldn't have. Hindsight, eh?

Keep Personal and Business Separate

If you've had a personal Facebook account for a long time, chances are it's filled with lots of pictures of you and your friends doing things that maybe wouldn't go down well in a business setting. So, if you do make it into the realms of big business, set up a new account. Or, if you're starting your own business, create an account for it and use that for all business transactions.

When other businesses follow you, they did it for a reason. Probably because they want to know all about your amazing products and services. It's unlikely they need to know about your 12 hour beer drinking binge at the weekend on the beach.

Don't Send Requests, Especially for Games

If you use your business account and you're tempted to play Candy Crush, don't invite everyone. A request to play it is probably one of the most annoying things to receive, and many people will block or unfriend people who send them. You could very quickly lose a potential business contact.

Watch Your Language

Swearing is an odd thing. It matters entirely in the context of the content whether you can get away with using it or not, but in most cases it's best never to swear. You don't know who's going to be reading it, and if someone is about to order something from you but they see your choice words, they might change their name. Yes, people can be that petty.

Keep It Professional

Your business social media accounts are your chance to shine. You can get information out to the masses in a professional way that will educate and entertain, but they need to remain professional in feel and execution.

One final tip that was told to me by a guy who'd been in the industry from the very start, was to treat it all as if you were writing a letter. Not to start every post with "Dear Sir" and end it with "Yours sincerely", but to be considerate. Think about what you're writing, think about how it could be taken and think about what people are likely to think.

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