Netiquette: Let’s All Sit Down At The Same Digital Table

When it comes to Netiquette, what we’re talking about today could very well be completely different a year, a month, or even a week from now if the platform you’re using rolls out a new game-changing feature (Facebook hashtags, I’m looking at you). The fact that will remain steady no matter how trends change, is that Internet Etiquette (AKA Network Etiquette) is there to make sure that we are all able to facilitate conversation by agreeing on the standards, whether for social media, email, or websites.

When considering the use of Netiquette, especially for professional reasons, it helps to take a look at the core subject of this particular portmanteau, which is, of course, etiquette. When I think about etiquette, the first picture that comes to mind is one of the perfectly-set table adorned with doilies, utensils and plates arranged “just so” and intended as a testing ground for propriety. In the digital space, it’s also important to know how and when to properly use the tools at hand. The “why” of it all is very straightforward: the less offense we cause, the better the online discussion is going to be.

One of the most difficult challenges with Internet-based discussion is trying to figure out tone of voice. Many a web user has lamented the lack of a sarcasm font, and for good reason. Digital communication can often contain subject matter that makes better sense in our mind than it does in pixelspace. That’s because we know the intention behind the text we’ve written, but others might not, and hopefully some of these pointers can help avoid confusion and/or ire.

Every platform has its own set of rules. Researching which social media platforms are right for your business is a great starting point. From there, it’s a matter of being a digital tourist for a while. Observe what people are posting, if there are any trends in format, such as hashtagging, or linking users/accounts, or even the way conversations are unfolding. Are people joking when they comment or not? Are they posting links? Including images in their posts? Is there a socially-mandated size limit on those images? The best way to find any of this out: READ THE FAQ

If there isn’t a Frequently Asked Questions section of the platform you’re considering… maybe consider something else first (unless anarchy is your sort of thing, then by all means, go for it).

Some general rules to follow for Netiquette: credit your sources (especially by linking to their account or content), don’t take credit for the work of others (you will almost definitely be found out), and use the Golden Rule.

Remember that virtually everything you write online, even if you think it is private, still has a chance of making it into the public. It happens with celebritiesgovernments, and even regular folks like you and me. So if you wouldn’t say it in person, you probably shouldn’t say it online.

Here are some quick Netiquette guides for some of the most popular platforms:

 (and more)

These are all great resources to begin finding out more about Netiquette. Hopefully this helps when considering your approach to social media and other digital communication. You are certainly free to break any of these rules as you see fit (and at your own risk), but it helps to know them first.

WEIGH IN: What are some Netiquette tips that you live by? Helpful links? Have you ever made a Netiquette mistake? What happened and what was your reaction?

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