Online etiquette: The ultimate guide to social media manners

Here’s a status update that’s hard to ignore: Social networks and online apps are suddenly among today’s most popular communications tools, with over 1.23 billion people now logging in daily to connect with friends, family, and colleagues on Facebook alone.

Which rules of conduct should you be following when connecting and communicating with others online, or reaching out regarding potential business opportunities via social networks? As we discovered while researching new book Netiquette Essentials: New Rules for Minding Your Manners in an Online World, the answers may surprise you:

• Social networks may seem like informal settings, but they should be treated with the same respect as any public place of business. Professionalism is imperative — if you wouldn’t say it in a social or work setting, don’t say it online, in the most public of forums.

• Be advised that conversational nuances and subtle shifts in tone or personality may be lost in the translation to digital, and that individual users may interpret messages differently: Consider how posts will be read and perceived before sending. Note to outspoken individuals: Sharing extremely-opinionated viewpoints (e.g. political leanings or thoughts on controversial topics) can be a lightning rod online. Think twice before liking supporting status updates or posting such opinions, which can incite and aggravate others (and live on in perpetuity).

• Note that images can easily be taken out of context online as well: Posting embarrassing, revealing or negative photos of yourself should be avoided at all costs. Remember: Pictures you share may be taken at face value, and/or viewed as representative of your character – not to mention live on forever on the Internet. What seems cute in high school or college may not seem quite so endearing to potential employers.

• Before connecting with your colleagues on social networks, consider if you’d still want to be connected to them if they weren’t your coworkers, i.e. if you ever leave the position. Prior to requesting or accepting connections from colleagues, think about material you’re apt to share as well – is it appropriate for their consumption?
在社交网络上和同事联系之前,请仔细考虑如果他们不是您的同事了,比如您离职之后,是否还想和他们保持联系。 在发送或者接受好友申请时,同时也要想一想您要分享的内容——这些内容是否也适合他们阅读?

• Avoid posting on social networks unless you have a tight grasp over your privacy settings, and are completely comfortable with the group of online friends that your updates will be shared with. Also note that anything shared online, although designated as private and confidential, has the possibility to become public at any time – if it’s best left unsaid, don’t say it.

• Understand that various online forums (social networks, blogs, digital communities) have their own rules of conduct, social norms and methods of interaction. Before utilizing one, take a moment to step back and observe how interactions take place, so you can discern appropriate rules of posting, sharing and behavior. 
要明白各种在线论坛(社交网络,博客,数字社区)都有相应的行为准则,社交规范和互动方法。 在使用之前,花一点时间回顾并观察下这里社群是如何互动的,这样可以分辨出恰当的方式来发布、共享信息,进行互动。

• Relationship or personal drama is best kept private. If you cannot resist the urge to share, do so sparingly – and in the most vague, unspecific terms possible – for the sake of involved parties, or friends uninterested or unwilling to participate in the situation.

• With rare exceptions, if a prospective online contact wanted to be pitched, you would already have their email address – contacting them out of the blue on social networks with a direct sales pitch is inappropriate.

• Under no circumstances should you pitch a product, service, or prospective business opportunity on someone’s public wall or profile. Some users will, however, provide professional contact information on their public profile – using it to contact them may be acceptable in some cases, though reaching out via any personal contact details is not.

• Should you choose to email, keep communications short, and be sure to quickly get to the point, including a general summary and any key questions or queries in the first couple lines. Also be sure to include your name and contact information in all communications, and be respectful with e-mail and message signatures.

• Bear in mind that more employers and job recruiters are turning to online search engines to research prospective partners and hires – be aware of the results that come up, including potentially damaging or embarrassing content and links. It will help you in your efforts to build and maintain a positive online reputation to post helpful, high-quality content that’s of service to others, and do so frequently.