With the advent of the internet and World Wide Web, times are quickly changing for all. You literally have easy access to the entire world at your fingertips. Long gone are the days of AOL and slow dial-up connections.
In fact you don’t even need a computer or a laptop to access your email or the World Wide Web, and it is no longer necessary to hear the screeches and squeals from your modem just to find out “you’ve got mail.” It is all right at your fingertips on your nearest smart device. As the landscape of the World Wide Web started taking shape, turning to the internet for all your questions and needs quickly became the new norm. “Just Google it” is now the answer to any question that is posed and the internet is full of plenty of answers, both good and bad.
Along with the rise of the internet, new and different platforms have risen as a means for businesses to promote themselves. Shelling out hundreds of dollars for an ad in the YellowPages is no longer necessary when you can get free promotion through the internet. When an individual is seeking an establishment that offers a specific type of service, websites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook seem to be their first stop. Do a great job and offer the highest quality of service and people are quick to sing your praises, loud and proud, through digital reviews. However, along with the good comes the bad. If they are quick to be loud and proud with a review of an exceptional service, they’ll be even quicker and louder when the service that is offered does not meet their expectations. Having a strong social media presence has the power to either make or break businesses these days. In the case of a negative review, it is essential to be prepared to respond politely and professionally. You may be faced with a firestorm on social media, lashing out based on an inappropriate comment. Understanding the tool you are using is imperative to the integrity of your business.
First and foremost, it is absolutely imperative to understand, that once it goes out into the World Wide Web, it has been put out for all eyes to see and will become a permanent part of the recorded history, even if you delete it. The most common fallacy that I see and hear repeatedly is “but it’s my personal page. I’m free to do as I please with it.” While this is technically true, personal page or not, there is no disclaimer to let viewers know this. It is not shrouded by a safety web or warnings. By using your “personal” page as a means to promote yourself and your business, you are providing your viewers with a direct reflection of who you are and the nature of your business. In essence, the internet has made us our own bosses and masters of our own domain.
A perfect example of your personal page not being so personal and the rather serious ramifications that can result is the infamous screencap. How many times have you witnessed, in a public or private forum, a screencap of an image taken from a “personal” page or a “private” forum, used against someone maliciously? Not so personal or private anymore, huh?
Many of us, at one point or another in our life, have been told there are three things that you don’t talk about: religion, politics, and money. While this may not hold as much weight these days as in days of yore, there is still something to be taken from this. Personally, I think that freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, and having the privilege and ability to speak on topics that we are passionate about is what defines us. That being said, there is absolutely a time and place for this to happen, and a social media outlet used to promote a business is not the place to do so.
These days, we live in a society where people are very easily offended and feelings can get hurt. I’m a firm believer that the greatest thing the internet has given us is “butt-hurt”. That “friend” you thought was really cool and understood “where you’re coming from” may take offense to your thoughts and feelings on a particular topic that you may have felt was a non-issue. Not only have you lost a friend, but that person could’ve been your biggest supporter. The person that was initially quick to sing your praises is now telling the world how horrible of a person you are and telling others to no longer frequent your establishment, possibly over something as benign as not seeing eye to eye on whether New York style pizza is better than Chicago style pizza. Simple rule of thumb: if the topic has potential to offend and you can’t handle yourself in a manner that goes hand in hand with how you want your business to be perceived, don’t post it.
In Don Miguel Ruiz’s bestseller, The Four Agreements, one of the agreements was “be impeccable with your word.” While the meaning of this can be open to interpretation, I will apply it in a manner that is in line with what has been brought up thus far. When we are communicating with individuals directly in person (verbal communication), there are many things we can pick up on indirectly through the individual’s nonverbal communication: body language, eye contact, voice inflection, pause and timing, etc. The phrase “you’re not saying anything, but you’re telling me everything” will always come to mind when I think of the importance of nonverbal communication. At this point, if you haven’t caught on yet, you’re probably asking yourself what this has to do with internet etiquette and being impeccable with your word. It has absolutely everything to do with it! These nonverbal identifiers can not be translated through text on a screen. An individual reading your words and seeing your emojis has to infer the tone of the message you are trying to convey. It can be difficult to distinguish whether you are being serious, malicious, sarcastic, or genuinely concerned. The overall message is often left open and subject to interpretation by whomever’s eyes are reading it. This is where it is of utter importance to be clear and concise with the point you are trying to make; in other words, be impeccable with your word.
While I make no claims to be an expert in the field of internet communication, this is all based off of my personal observations and thoughts on the subject matter. My background is in speech communications with an emphasis on interpersonal communication. So naturally, communication, and the lack thereof, is something that I feel very strongly about. If you are touting and claiming yourself to be a professional, do so in a manner that is according to and in line with your claims in all aspects of your life, even the internet. Some people may say that the internet is not real life and should therefore not be taken too seriously. However, when it has the potential to impact your way of life, the internet should absolutely be taken seriously.
APP Public Relations Director