Social Media Etiquette: What’s Crossing the Digital Line?

Tips for Online EtiquetteThe New York Times columnist and author of Social Q’s: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries, and Quagmires of Today, Philip Galanes is an Emily Post of the modern day. In his column and book, Galanes offers advice fit for the technology-laden communication world in which we live: cell phone and email etiquette, social media manners, internet decorum, and more.

Galanes says that while internet and email have made communication easier, these technologies have also made it easier to ignore people’s feelings or general decorum since we aren’t being rude or hurting someone’s feelings in person. McCauley Marketing Services discussed this phenomenon in our blog The Lost Art of Conversation.

While social networks and email are convenient, a huge part of communication is nonverbal. Even when you’re on the phone with someone, clues like pauses, voice inflection, and tone of voice help to clue us in to another person’s mood, feelings, and more. While we all like to think that business is strictly business, the truth is that emotions play a huge part in maintaining a positive business image. Think about the last public relations disaster you read about, chances are someone was offended in the process.

In an interview with Terry Gross, Galanes says that before the age of internet communication “we could hear a little hitch in someone’s voice and think, ‘Oh, oh, there’s a problem. I better circle back around to that.’ So we don’t do that anymore. Everything now is type and send, type and send.”

This is especially important for businesses which often get caught in the same traps that individuals do when it comes to communication and the internet. Here are a few of McCauley Marketing Services’ tips on how to make sure your business avoids internet indecency:

If anyone is unhappy, pick up the phone. Whether a client sends you an angry email or you’re unsatisfied with a business partner’s conduct, part of a good customer relationship management strategy is to address the issue in-person or over the phone. Email exchanges, as Galanes mentions, can easily become heated since we don’t have a face or voice to associate with the recipient. Just like it’s easy to rant to yourself driving home in the car, things can be said in email that we wouldn’t normally say out loud to someone else.

It’s also easier for things to be misconstrued over email. Was that a joke? Sarcasm? Or is your contact actually mad? Until they come up with different fonts for all the subtle minutiae involved in speaking face to face (tone of voice, eye contact, hand gestures, etc.), an important element of public relations is to make sure the person with whom you are communicating is on the same page as you and vice versa. Misunderstandings can often turn into long strings of emails with people trying to clarify and understand each other when a quick phone call easily and swiftly help both parties interpret what’s going on.

Another important element of internet manners, especially for medical businesses, law firms, and the like, is not to disclose any patient or client information. While this seems like a major “duh!” for all businesses, sometimes we get carried away or accidentally give too much information while attempting to answer people’s questions. Make sure you follow all the HIPAA and other applicable regulations when you post things online or compose an email.

It’s also crucial not to give detailed advice via the internet. We’ve seen people ask questions on social networks about legal situations, medical conditions, and more. While it may be tempting to quickly contribute your two cents, patients can misinterpret your advice as a diagnosis or law. When someone asks a question online, always qualify your answer, remain nondescript, and recommend they come in for further examination of their situation because there are often more details than can fit on a Facebook page.

Overall, the key to successful digital communication for business is to try to get into contact with people in-person or over the phone as often as possible to avoid any e-misunderstandings.

For more information on what we do at McCauley Advertising or more marketing tips, check out our blog.