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The Rules of Netiquette for Business Networking

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Sometimes I reach the digital tipping point when my inbox is flooded with emails of newsletters that I never signed up for, nor did I have any interest in. Sound familiar? If you're wondering when to add someone to your business mailing list, read on. It's time to brush up on your netiquette skills as you blend traditional business networking and digital correspondence.

The good news is that networking both online and offline can have an immediate impact on your business. This is why social media plays a significant part of almost everyone's life. Good and proper netiquette is no longer an option for web enthusiasts. In the old days, you'd sign up for a Chamber of Commerce meeting or perhaps an alumni event armed with a stack of business cards. At the end of the evening, you'd go home, perhaps write a thank you note or email, set up an appropriate follow up meeting, and add them into your overstuffed Rolodex.

In today's digital world, individuals and companies have weekly newsletters filled with advice from what to wear to a wedding, to recipes or coaching programs guaranteed to boost your sales and enrich your personal lives. Post offices and stamps have been replaced with newsletters, tweets and status updates, and often, it's information overload.

Last year, over 107 trillion emails were sent on the Internet, with almost 300 billion messages sent daily. Just ask most recipients who have fallen victim to the unauthorized email blast. The CANN-Spam Act of 2003, requires businesses and individuals to get permission before adding someone to their email list for business solicitation. It's a safe bet to say that hundreds of millions of emails were sent to those who didn't double-opt in or agree to be on a list.

Here are a few Rules of Netiquette that you must adhere to before adding that new business contact into your email database.

1. Don't put someone on the spot when you receive their business card by telling them you'll be adding them to your newsletter list. You still need to develop a relationship and build trust.

2. Do get their permission before sending a sales email or newsletter. The dermatologist who grabbed my card at a networking function and told me she'd be adding me to her mailing list, got deleted immediately. I was happy with the doctor that I already had. Sound familiar? Since that time, I've automatically been added to newsletters from nutritionists, life coaches, and even for one telling me how I can lose up to 50 pounds in 90 days. Considering that I weigh just a bit over 100 lbs., I wasn't their target market, nor was I pleased.

3. Don't post your sales offer or business opportunities directly on someone's Facebook wall. You need to protect your friends on Facebook. With someone else's product prominently placed on your wall, it creates a false endorsement and is a netiquette no-no.

4. Do make sure you have an opportunity for someone to unsubscribe from your mailing list.

5. Don't send an unsolicited tweet to someone you don't know with an affiliate link to purchase your product or service.

6. Do send a personal message along with a Connection request on Linkedin or a Friends request on Facebook. Personalization goes a long way.

7. Do remember, SPAM is a four-letter word, so keep it out of your vocabulary both online and offline.

If someone truly shows an interest in your business, then by all means do let him or her know you have a newsletter in case they want more information. Give them the professional courtesy of deciding if they want more details on your products or services.

Julie Spira is a netiquette and relationship expert and author of The Rules of Netiquette: How to Mind Your Manners on the Web. Like her at Facebook.com/RulesofNetiquette