We all know that etiquette and playing by the rules have a big impact on social success. From Emily Post to Dear Abby, it’s obvious that we Americans need help navigating the social spectrum of daily living.
These days, with all of the time we spend online social networking, chatting, emailing, blogging
, sharing and more, playing by the rules isn’t just confusing, it can get downright exhausting. However, as long as you remember to play by the same rules online (particularly the Golden Rule) as you do in your daily life, you can expect similar results.
We’ve compiled a list of seven rules to live by online that will help keep you on the up and up.
Even if you can’t remember all seven rules, just remember to treat others as you’d like to be treated — even online.
- Play nice and make friends — The whole point of most online communities is to bring people together through the sharing of information and bonding over similarities. Therefore, it’s in your best interests to play nice and be diplomatic, especially when functioning online for business purposes. Don’t shut yourself in, either. Look for networking opportunities and seek out influencers to follow online, while allowing others to find the content you’ve shared, as well.
- Don’t steal — Pretty much all of the content that you find on the Internet, from blogs, articles and news items to photos, graphics and illustrations belongs to someone. Don’t get yourself in trouble by running afoul of copyright laws. Always cite your sources and link back to the original article or blog. With photos, make sure you obtain permission; otherwise, use creative commons images or purchase stock photos. It’s far cheaper than a lawsuit. Everyone likes to receive credit for their work.
- Don’t create a monster — As I’m sure you’ve heard countless times, once something’s posted, it’s out there. Make sure you don’t use your online voice to air your dirty laundry or grievances, particularly with other businesses and your clients. Sometimes, something typed in anger can come back and bite you, even years later. You certainly can delete statuses and try to recall emails, but these aren't fool-proof solutions — there are still ways to find this information.
- Don’t lose sight of what’s real — Emails, social networking and the like, are wonderful tools that have completely revolutionized the way we do business, but they are not the end-all be-all. Always remember the value of face-to-face conversations: a warm handshake, a hug, a hand-written thank-you card and other important human conveyances that simply cannot be adequately expressed online.
- Don’t be a copycat — Just because another company is employing a certain online strategy or using a new social site doesn't mean you should follow suit. Save your time (and your sanity) by always remembering where your clients may be found. Are your clients (as well as your strengths) most favorable to email marketing? Then why are you on Twitter?
- Remember the ROI rule — If your return on investment online is not as great as the cost (and remember, your time is money, too), then just don’t do it. Yes, we know it might sound good to tout all of the places your company may be found online, as well as all the cute little social share buttons you can use, but if you are not actively maintaining these sites and seeing returns on your investment, what’s the point?
- Don’t make it all about you — People love to tell their stories. They want to talk about their hobbies, their kids, their pets and share things about their lives. Make sure that you remember the rules of conversation etiquette, even when carrying on a conversation online. Leave openings for others to have a voice, ask questions and encourage participation. You may be pleasantly surprised with the amount of interaction you cultivate.