The necessary evil of the internet is that its inhabitants come from everywhere with the choice of not being indentified. It’s practically a vast network of strangers interacting with each other – even those with names could end up being a different person. And in a laissez-faire setup like that, it’s hard to imagine how order and ethics can be maintained.
Fortunately there are existing advocates of internet etiquette, or netiquette, as they would call it. This “cyber code” is an ambitiously idealistic, yet significant step towards regulating how people should conduct themselves online. Some regular netizens have actually embraced this advocacy even though they’re not professionals – and it gives marketers more reasons to follow suit.
Here are some of the guidelines to proper online decorum for marketers (and everyone else for that matter):
- Email: Salutation and signature. Sending a prank to your co-worker may not merit such a requirement, but standard email protocols require you to salute your recipient and at the same time identify yourself in the end.
- Email: Subject line. Aside from the obvious reason of logical completeness, this is also to save one’s time by knowing ahead what the mail is for.
- Easy on sarcasm. When posting blogs, sarcasm can be used to emphasize a point, as long as it’s not condescending to a person or entity. But when making comments, sarcasm is almost never excusable, as it already directs an opinion towards a post or an actual subject matter.
- Say no to all caps. On the internet, using all caps is considered shouting. Shouting is not polite. Main headings? Go ahead. A particular WORD in a passage? Acceptable. But an entire sentence in all caps? Rude. So unless you’re using a defective keyboard, go with small caps.
- Emoticons and abbreviations. Now these two are not as cut-and-dried as the other rules, because it really depends on the context. Emoticons such as appear on comments sections even on professional blogs, used to emphasize a commenter’s sentiments towards something. It only evokes two possible general emotions: happy or sad, so it’s not as potentially damaging because there’s no way it can suggest an inappropriate remark. Whereas, abbreviations are a wide range of terms (LOL, ROFL, IMO) that if used too frequently or out of place (marketers ought not to dare), can suggest unprofessionalism.
- Copyright items. Although websites usually protect themselves from people who are fond of stealing copyrighted content, there are still those who manage to get away with it. Make sure your words, images, and other media are harmless to use or share. To be safe, cite your sources.
- Act like you would in real life. All it takes to buy into this concept is to think of it as if existing in a real, physical society. How you behave tells something about yourself – even if you’re anonymous to everyone else – and especially about the company you’re attached to.