I have never had any really big problems (yet) with anyone online in social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, my blog). Online, the people in my communities are exceptionally well behaved.
Offline is another story – the same old story of unprofessional behavior. I’ve met a number of people online that won’t do me the common professional courtesy of returning my calls or answering my e-mails. Warm and funny online, they can be cold and rude when you run into them in person. I think they are making a big mistake, because what goes around always comes around, and with online communities the cycle times are shrinking. If you are an arrogant asshole in the real world, more people are going to find that out faster than ever.
In business, social media is a tool we use to meet and build relationships with new people. Strangers become friends and friends become customers. Never forget that most deals will still be done in person or over the phone, so brush up on your basic rules of professional courtesy.
In his book “The Digital Handshake: Seven Proven Strategies to Grow Your Business Using Social Media,” Paul Chaney lists ten guidelines for social media etiquette provided by marketing consultant Beth Harte (pp. 81-82):
1. Be real, honest, authentic, transparent (it’s what customers/prospects/the community wants).
2. Provide valuable content, conversation, help, and information, and your community will raise you up.
3. Be accessible. Members of your community (customers, prospects) want to know that they can have a conversation with you and that you will talk back and answer questions.
4. Generate conversations that others can join, and invite others to participate.
5. Listen to other people and their opinions (you just might learn something).
6. Ask questions. Usually you are asking what others have been thinking
7. Help other people, including your competition (perceived or not), and have conversations with them. Most customer problems/challenges are industry problems/challenges.
8. Put other people first.
9. Listen to your community and learn.
10. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
Relationships are fundamental to good business. Online or in the real world, treat others the way you want to be treated yourself.