February 1st - 2011

WIRED OFFICE: Etiquette on the web: Always be polite

Canadians are enthusiastic users of the internet. Perhaps the long, cold winters push us towards our internet interfaces.

Canadians are enthusiastic users of the internet. Perhaps the long, cold winters push us towards our internet interfaces. We like watching videos on YouTube, catching up with friends on Facebook, checking and editing information on Wikipedia, and Tweeting on Twitter. We’re also known for being polite. With this in mind, let’s explore some basic social media etiquette.

No matter which platforms you use for online communications (including email), don’t write in ALL CAPITALS. It is the equivalent of yelling. People don’t like being yelled at, even if it is in print and there’s no actual sound.

Respond to queries within a reasonable amount of time. “Reasonable” is dependent on the urgency of the query. It does not necessarily mean instantaneous, even if, with technological advances, we are almost always plugged in. It doesn’t mean a week later either.

Make sure people know who the message is coming from – use a signature or company name, website address, etc. You need to differentiate your correspondence from spam.

Always proofread your content before pressing Send or Post. Check your spelling and grammar. Make sure your messages are clear and concise. This is especially important when the correspondence is business-related. You can skip the “emoticons” such as little happy faces; you want to give a professional impression.

"Please" and "Thank you" are always appreciated online and offline. Even if a matter is frustrating or challenging, deal with it in a polite, professional manner.

Specific to social media
When you set up your profile on the various social media platforms you use, be sure to fill out all relevant information about you and your business, including your real name and photo. You want to present yourself and your company in an honest and professional manner.

The whole idea of social media is to interact with others. Get involved in interesting conversations. Share useful information with others; this helps build your value. Keep the conversation two-way – listen and respond when appropriate. Never say negative things about your competitors or anyone else. Before posting, think about how your comments may be perceived. Logic should override emotion. And if you ever receive negative comments, provide an explanation or resolution. For sensitive comments, deal with this discreetly by direct messaging or email.

Do it well and do it quickly, and you could completely turn the situation around. For example, if you were to encounter a comment on one of the social media platforms indicating that people can save money selling their home themselves, you can respond with several of the advantages (and ultimately cost-savings) to using a REALTOR®. Even if you can’t persuade that individual to change their mind, you have provided some useful and interesting information to others who are following the conversation.

Don’t provide too much private information. You’ve read it here before, and will likely read it here again – once online, content has an infinite life and you never know who will read it.

Facebook encourages people to connect with family and friends. Tag any images you upload with discretion. If your friends ask not to be tagged, abide by their request. Make sure your friends aren’t bombarded with notifications when you use an entertainment application such as Farmville, Bejewelled or Mafia Wars. Businesses are permitted to have pages, which are similar to profiles, for broadcasting information to people who choose to connect with them. Visit www.facebook.com.

LinkedIn provides a platform for building a network of trusted contacts. It helps you to make better use of your professional network and help the people you trust in return. When requesting to be added as a friend/contact, send a message explaining who you are, how you found the person’s profile and the connection you have to them. If someone does not want to befriend you, accept his or her decision gracefully. Don't ask for recommendations unless you have worked with the person and have honestly delivered great service. Visit www.linkedin.com.

YouTube is the largest video-sharing site in the world. It allows people to discover, watch and share originally-created videos. Do not ask people to watch your low-quality video or subscribe to your channel and give you a five-star rating. Post only your best videos and let viewers form their own opinions. Acknowledge comments, and thank those who are being positive about your content. Visit www.youtube.com.

Twitter is a real-time information network connecting you to the latest updates about things you find interesting in the form of small bursts of information called Tweets. Each Tweet is a maximum of 140 characters in length. You can tell your story within your Tweet, or you can think of a Tweet as the headline, and use the details pane to tell the rest. Don’t ask your friends to “retweet” your Tweets. Your content should be good enough to stand on its own. Answer all questions directed at you using @username within your response or via DM (direct message), depending on how public you want the information to be. Be quick and be relevant. Twitter is fast moving. Visit www.twitter.com.

Some final tips
Social media is all about having fun, being interactive and bi-directional. Make sure you listen as well as share ideas, information and opinions. When sharing other people’s work, be sure to credit them. Have something to say. And for safety and privacy, don’t divulge too much information.

Twitter symbols decoded
Here’s a primer on the basic symbols used on Twitter:

@ - used to address usernames in Tweets, for example, Hello @Smith! When a username is preceded by the @ sign, it becomes a link to a Twitter profile.

DM - direct message (personal). Tweets become DMs when they begin with "d username" to specify whom the message is for.

RT - retweet. Always put this in front of what you’re reposting from another user, making sure to retain their @username. For example, RT @username: post goes here.

# - hashtag. Marks keywords or topics used in Tweets in order to track threads and filter by subject or category.

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For more information contact

Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

Manager, Media Relations


416-445-9910 ext. 246