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”Sometimes being able to publish every whim that scans across your brain is the best thing in the world. Sometimes, it can become a real problem. The killer is this: when it is a problem, you’re usually the last to know and the damage is done.”  – Mitch Joel

Etiquette is defined by Merriam Webster as: “the conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life.”

“Social and official life” applies not only to face-to-face interaction, but to our online interactions as well. Having proper etiquette on the social web means being aware of your audience, understanding how they communicate and being a valuable, welcome and positive contributor to the community.
It is all about how you should conduct yourself while engaging across the social web. It’s about using good common sense, being yourself and acting like you would if you were having these interactions face-to-face.

The Three Ds
No one wants to get a call from a lawyer letting them know that something they shared online got them into a heap of trouble. Whether you are using social media for personal or professional purposes, take some time to familiarize yourself with The Three Ds:

• Disclosure • Defamation • Discrimination

Remembering what they stand for should help you steer clear of potentially disastrous situations.
Disclosure: Do not disclose trade secrets or intellectual property (yours or your clients’). It is not advisable to have an online discussion about what goes on behind closed doors at your company. Not only could it cost you your job but it could actually give your company’s competitors an unfair advantage. The competition is online and they are listening.
Defamation: Do not make statements about someone that are false and could potentially cause economic consequences. If you do, you may find yourself facing a judge. Social media enthusiasts are not exempt from the general laws of libel and privacy.

Discrimination: Do not make rude statements about any of the protected classes (age, sex, race, religion, etc.) or share/make inappropriate jokes. Don’t forget that social sites do not allow you to know your complete audience and you don’t want to say anything to offend anyone.
There have been cases in the news recently, where persons have been fined, even arrested and deported for remarks on social media, which were defamatory. There is little point in being on the wrong side of the law, for trivial remarks made online.

Watch: Once you have a grasp of how to interact in the space and what proper etiquette will look like it’s a good idea to dip your toe in before doing a cannonball into the space. Start interacting with community members and take it slowly at first. Building relationships and respect with those first few will ultimately take you further than focusing on high numbers.
Regardless of whether you’re using your social networks for business or pleasure, everything you are sharing has the potential to be shared by others – that’s the whole point of the social web. Though it may not be fair, you can and will be judged based on how you are representing yourself online (that means, what groups you’re affiliated with, who your friends are, what photos you share or are tagged in).
The important thing is to remain mindful of how you are being perceived in any social space in which you are participating. Perception is reality and you will be perceived based on your actions across the social web. It’s not only about how your actions are intended but also about how they are perceived. Sarcasm can often be hard to decipher in written form. Think about all the ways that a comment can be taken before posting it. Could it be perceived in a negative way?
It’s also important to keep in mind social, political, cultural and religious differences in etiquette. Social spaces are often global spaces – remember that there will be different social norms in one space. This goes back to knowing who you are interacting with and keeping this in mind.

What we have been talking about is Netiquette. Simply stated, it’s network etiquette — that is, the etiquette of cyberspace. “Etiquette” means “the forms required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be required in social or official life.” Similarly, Netiquette is a set of rules for behaving properly online. Just as we enter any new space, we must familiarize ourselves with the ground rules of that space, today, it is essential to know the do’s and don’ts of Netiquette, else we shall commit blunders. The fundamental of all rules being,

“Think before you post”.

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