Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Twittiquette and Acceptable Online Social Network Behaviour

I recently asked the question, what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in Online Social Networks. A quick search in Google found articles on how posting pictures of your real life unacceptable behaviour on a social network might cause your employer to doubt your suitability (http://snipr.com/29rd6 ) and I found a company that just does "e-moderation" of community sites for MNC's to make them kiddy safe (http://snipr.com/29rdp ) but found nothing advising those who are new to social media on how they should be behave when interacting with other real people through your computer monitor. So drawing from my status as a novice in social media I have listed 5 suggestions that will hopefully help you navigate the minefield of interpersonal interaction via your keyboard.

1. Be a real person.

If you are a man in real life, then be a man online. If you are a woman, then be a woman. If you are a 4 ft tall transvestite with third nipple then be exactly that online. Real online social networks are about finding communities to participate in where other people participating have to take you for your word. Don't create a false persona because you think people will like you more because chances are somewhere down the line, you'll probably want to just be yourself anyway, like in a real social community. Having said that you don't need to post your resume and full medical history along with images of the scar from the mole you removed last summer. Just enough of you so that others can relate.

2. Social Media does not mean hi-tech multi-level marketing.

Facebook is not a Tupperware party, or an Amway meeting or in anyway a tool for you to participate in multi-level marketing. Social media is a way for people to socialise, discuss issues, get advice, give advice or even gather support for a cause. It is not something you should exploit to sell plasticware, soap, insurance, Canadian pharmaceuticals or penis enhancing herbs. Not only is that going to brand you as a leper but somewhere down the line a moderator is going to block you or the community will black list you. Save the Amway pitch for the next time you share a seat on a long bus trip.

3. Don't Stalk
If you find someone who has a hot Facebook profile image or their party photos makes your monogamous relationship with your Macbook seem mundane, don't be shy about contacting that person....once. Twice if you are really interested in making contact but chances are if you don't get a reply by the second invitation, they are not stuck in a black out, nor did your message get garbled in cyberspace. THEY DON"T WANT TO MEET YOU. So get over it and move on. A lot of people use social media to keep in touch with people who they already know so when a perfect stranger writes on their Funwall to ask if they want to meet in this quaint little cafe in Second Life they click the "Ignore" button and hope you were not offended. So don't be offended and don't continue to send invitations. It will just freak them out and drive them back into the real world.

4. Don't be afraid to contribute.

One of the lessons that I learned participating in a limited number of social networks as well as in real life is that chances are there are people out there who are dumber than you. Sure there are people with PhD's from MIT who you follow on Twitter but that doesn't mean he knows the best way to separate the egg white from the egg yoke when making a high protein omelette. The best thing about communities is that nobody knows everything but together there is a wealth of knowledge from real people on line. So when someone asks a question and you think you know the answer, speak up. The worst thing that can happen is that you are wrong and if someone points that out, then you will have learned something.

5. Welcome people to your network.

The reason why I asked this question in the first place is because I felt really bad about not saying "Hi" to the people who began following me on Twitter. I posed the question " Has anyone blogged about twittiquette? i feel bad about not welcoming my new followers. i need someone to tell me it's ok" and the comment that I got from @TimNoonan was "@dedlam You welcomed me, I feel extra special now :-)". This got me thinking cos when I started following someone and they thanked me for following or acknowledged my existence I felt really warm a gooey. Like turning up to a party and finding that you didn't know anybody there but having the host introduce you to a few friendly people and bringing you a drink. @jlojlo does this with each of her followers and I think it is a great way to stimulate conversation and interaction. So to all the people who have followed me and I have just ignored them, I apologise and warmly welcome you to my twittersphere. And to the spambots who have followed me in the attempt to sell me dog food or Viagra I hope you choke yourself to death on your own mouse cord.

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