Not another set of rules? I'm afraid so. Today's new forms of social media -- Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Skype, texting, YouTube, Instant Messaging, and those indispensable smart phones -- require follow-us-wherever-we-go rules, and they are changing as you read this! Social media are the new e-mail. These networking tools have exploded in consumer popularity in both the business and social worlds.
Growing up, we were bound by our first set of rules: the basic courtesies of saying please, thank you, and may I. But online, social graces are even more important, as there is no face-to-face communication (with some exceptions). We don't always realize how much body language and facial expressions work to convey meaning and tone. Without them, the reader can only puzzle out words on a screen.
It's hard to over-emphasize the importance of the new social media in our lives. According to www.Socialnomics.net, Facebook has 500+ million users; its fastest-growing segment is 55- to 65-year-old females. The second-largest search engine in the world is YouTube. E-mail is old hat to generations Y and Z. There are currently over 200 million blogs; the majority of bloggers post or tweet daily. The great majority of companies use LinkedIn as their number-one tool to find employees. And there are currently over one billion iPhone applications.
Sherrick Murdoff of SRM Consulting (www.smurdoff.com) helps companies of all sizes accelerate their growth through implementing Social Media. About Influence Marketing he says, "we control 50% of the relationship but influence 100% of it."
The Internet today means something very different than it did just a few short years ago. As with any culture (and cyberspace has a culture all its own), good online behavior is easy if you know the rules. If you don't, you're liable to offend friends and colleagues without meaning to do so. To make matters worse, we tend to forget that with each point and click there is a human face on the other end, not just numbers, pictures or characters.
So just what are the rules? Here are some basic Do's and Don'ts.
Do remember that your "digital signature" will be posted on the Internet from the minute you use any kind of social media.
Do use spell check. Although electronic messages are meant to be quick, proofread them as carefully as you would a handwritten note.
Do remember that deleted messages can be discoverable in a court of law. Just because you delete something doesn't mean it won't be seen later on.
Do try and respond to messages in a timely manner (ideally within twenty-four hours) so the message will not be lost.
Don't pass on jokes or attachments. Viruses are much too commonplace and can ruin a friendship or a hard drive.
Don't use capital letters except to highlight a positive word or statement.
The Ultimate Social Media Etiquette Handbook sums it up best: "Remember that social media communities are real relationships and real conversations, and you should treat them as such. It's not a me, myself, and I mentality. It's about the collective community, and the common good."
Focus on the Golden Rule as it applies to social networking: Don't ever put anything in writing that you don't want to see on the cover of the New York Times, especially if you ever plan to run for political office.
Lisa Mira Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the City & County of San Francisco and the founder of The AML Group (www.AMLGroup.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Cornell University and Microsoft to Nordstrom and KPMG. She has been quoted by The Sunday Times, the San Francisco Business Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. She has appeared on various radio and television stations, such as ABC, CBS, and Fox News. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on www.Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and www.Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.