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Mind Your (Online) Manners

February 9, 2011 - 3 Comments

There it was, in my living room against the wall. My comfy couch. The couch that has been the place of many fond memories. Now, I was on a quest and I had to sell it. I had couch 2.0 on the way. I decided to post an ad on an online marketplace and after many spam emails, several scam attempts and an invitation for a drink (ha, no, I did not post my ad on, I did get emails from people that seemed genuinely interested. A great start, or so I thought. I responded to each person and called those who provided their phone numbers. To my surprise, I only heard back from one person. This experience got me thinking: has the social web, and electronic communication in general, made it too easy to ignore our fellow human beings? Do we forget that there are actual people behind all of this communication and information sharing? Do we only participate on our own terms? Do we not mind our manners? Or do we simply think that online manners don’t matter? The way I see it, manners are manners: on the web or off the web. It’s ok if you have changed your mind about my couch. It’s really not about the couch. It’s about the interaction. Here are some basic lessons we should remember when engaging on the social web. Not as social media practitioners but as human beings:

  1. Be there to help: If you’re in a position to do so, answer questions and provide sufficient information to help another person make his or her decision. Don’t push your agenda; make the other person feel comfortable.  
  2. Follow through: If you start a conversation with someone, close the loop with him or her. Don’t leave people hanging.
  3. Take the high road: Learn how to separate spammers and trolls from people that are genuinely interested. Stay away from conversations that lead nowhere or down a path you know you shouldn’t be on.
  4. Respect each other: Remember that behind every (legitimate) email, tweet, screen name, etc is a real person. Put yourself in their shoes before responding (or not responding).
  5. Don’t take things personally: unless it really is a personal attack on you, don’t take other people’s response (or lack thereof) as a personal attack on you. (But if you find yourself in a situation in which you are the target, handle it with class.)        

Now let’s take the same principles and apply them to business. Even though the above example was my personal experience, these are good business practices too. What other suggestions do you have to help make the social web a friendlier place? …Just like the place my couch was for so many of my friends and family.

Thanks to Cisco’s Dennis Mancini (@snapini) for the illustration.

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  1. Petra, a great piece and a reminder about the importance of good manners on and offline. This can be summed up as do unto others as you would have them do unto you!

  2. These are great suggestions, Petra. Sometimes we can get caught up in the chaos that is online communication and we forget that there are actual PEOPLE underneath the information and behind our computer screens. We are not robots (ok, maybe some of us are, lol! ;-)), we are human and we should treat each other the same way we would if we were meeting in person, face-to-face :-)