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A Social Media Cautionary Tale -- Reminder of Online Communication Etiquette

Categories: Workplace Etiquette, Business Communication

Social-Media-Networking1Social media doesn’t look like it’s going to disappear any time soon.

So, if you’re using it for networking and building your career -- and more and more of us are doing so -- there are a few things you need to remember.

Just like any method of communication, there are dos and don’ts, best practices and pitfalls, appropriate ways of communicating, and flat-out disastrous faux pas that can easily go viral when it comes to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and similar social media sites.

People love sharing and talking about other people’s bloopers, bleeps and blunders. Reality TV has proven that to the tune of billions of dollars. So, don't give them any ammunition!

I want to share a cautionary tale. This CNN video tells the sorry story of one professional (ironically named her city’s “Communicator of the Year”) who badly dissed someone for attempting to connect with her on LinkedIn.

Needless to say, the dissed person (the diss-ee?) posted the entire nasty, condescending conversation in various places online, and it went viral -- fast. Even the CNN article about the incident had more than 8,000 Facebook shares by the time I read it.

The “disser” wound up having to publicly apologize, and at last report, had also taken down her Twitter account and WordPress blog.

Wow! Now, I’d call that some serious consequences of rudeness. This example really shows the business environment we live in today -- where that hard-won reputation you took years to build can be ruined with just one, inappropriate, arrogant, misguided, or just plain thoughtless tweet or social media post.

In the CNN commentator’s remarks, the reporter referred to this incident pointing out the challenges of “the Wild West of Etiquette” on social media.

I have to disagree. There is no "Wild West of Etiquette" online.

There’s only a lack of good manners, a lack of common sense, and a lack of understanding that in this day and age, any communication can be found and shared online for all the world to see -- and judge.

Good etiquette is a combination of common sense, understanding what is and isn’t appropriate in any given situation, and considering the needs and feelings of the person with whom you are communicating.

It always has been like this, and it always will be. The nuances of etiquette might change as our society grows ever less formal ... but the basics never will.

When networking on social media, remember -- even if you send a private message, the person you send it to can very easily make it public with the push of a button.

So, you always need to conduct yourself online as the consummate professional. This includes being polite to everyone -- yes, I said everyone -- regardless of whether you are interested in connecting or not. If you are sent a request to connect, and for some reason you don’t choose to, then please just ignore the request, or delete it. There's no need to get snarky and diss (or dismiss) the person for reaching out.

Do not do as the now-humiliated, so-called “Communicator of the Year” did, and respond telling the other party that, "Your invite to connect is inappropriate, beneficial only to you, and tacky."


While I don’t agree that social media etiquette is the new "Wild West," it certainly does open up a “Brave New World” of opportunities for public humiliation and disaster -- aka potential career suicide.

Readers, I trust that you will not take advantage of those opportunities!

I'll continue the discussion about how to effectively network on social media sites in my next post.

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