75% of adults polled said that Americans are getting ruder and more uncivilized, according to
Jennifer V. Miller, Founder and Managing Partner of SkillSource, who cited the recent results of the Rassmussen Poll in her article, “Manners in the Digital Age : Use Old-School Etiquette to Rise Above the Social Media Mainstream.”
“The Digital Age, it seems, may also be the Age without Civility. Nowhere is this more evident than in our online worlds. Instant access to information and the ability to comment behind the safety of our avatars has, in some cases, created an ugly, snarky monster. Even those of us who resist the vitriol still have questions about how to “mind our manners” online,” said Jennifer.
If you are like many, your mom spent the time to teach you proper table manners, and how to show respect by saying, “yes ma’am” or no “ma’am.” When you started your first day at school, you could hear a little voice say, “Sit up straight,” and “Mind your manners.”
Don’t you wish mom could give you some advice on how to best handle yourself on Twitter, Facebook, forums, and other social media? Here are a few pointers that will help you find your niche and establish connections in the communities you choose:
1. Choose the community or group you join wisely. Birds of a feather flock together. Follow the same advice your mom gave you for choosing friends. Make sure your purposes are in line with the goals of the community. Scout around a bit.
2. Check out the profiles of some of the members you would not mind following. Find out what they have to share and say. One bad apple does not spoil the whole bunch, but if you do find a knucklehead, just stop following or block the person. Watch out for those who need their mouths cleaned out with soap. If you did not tell your mom about those school yard bullies, she never knew. Now the world is watching.
3. Be genuine. You do not have to reveal everything about yourself, but you should make an effort to help others to be comfortable with you. You will make more friends that way. You do not want to be mistaken for a spammer or hacker or someone with a hidden agenda, but your profile will help others want to get to know you. Register in the community so you do not appear to be a fly-by-niter. Choose a good head shot with a friendly smile. Tell a little about your main interests and provide a general location.
4. Connect to people with common interests, and find ways to be helpful. Give much more than you receive. Do not use the community to sell your products. Get to know your contacts, and direct them to websites where they can learn more if they are interested.
5. Remember your mother taught you the magic words? Take the time to say “please” and “thank you” when someone connects to you or follows you or helps you in any way. Taking time to express your gratitude for someone who has taken a moment out of their day to answer your question or acknowledge you is a bigger reflection on you online than it will ever be in person.
6. Do not throw out the things you learned in English class. You will make connections with people from all walks of life. Professionals will notice if you pay attention to grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It is certainly easier to be understood that way. Do not relax those standards. Remember that the community is made up of people of different cultures. Hopefully, if someone used Google Translate, they would be able to get what you were trying to say.
7. Stay on topic. Make sure you post your query or reply in the appropriate thread or group. Be sensitive to others. Do not gossip or make inflammatory remarks. Be a peacemaker.
8. Be a good listener. Social media engagement is all about having conversations. Respond sincerely to show that you are listening and that you are interested in those you follow. Auto-messaging is a one-sided conversation. Responding to an auto-message is much like talking to an answering machine. No one expects you to be there 24 hours a day. There is still such a thing as overstaying your welcome.
9. Avoid alienating community members. Your opinion about religion and politics and other hot topics can be divisive. If you vent your strong opinions, you could lose contacts who otherwise would have been a joy to collaborate with in the group.
Social media etiquette is based on the common sense you learned from your good mother. It is not a far cry from what it was like making friends on the first day of school.
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