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Image courtesy of Wellesley

I don’t really care if you wear white shoes after Labor Day or if you wear the wrong hat for a summer wedding. I do care about politeness and consideration and see them as essential elements of smooth human interaction.

Content strategy, internet marketing or social media optimization – all these involve creating a web presence. Creating a noticeable profile, engaging with an audience and making those all-important links drives a lot of those comments in blogs and public forums. And sometimes people seem to forget basic manners in their urge to create a presence:

  • Comment in a way that adds to the conversation – you can agree or disagree but do not say something just because you want a link. Most people can see it for a ploy and will not follow the link!
  • Engage with the person and their idea and do not merely lecture.
  • While in some cases I have seen two visitors have a meaningful exchange, in most cases I find it odd if the host is ignored and two or three people decide to carry on an inner-circle conversation.

If those suggestions are for those who participate vigorously, this is for those who hesitate:

  • Public forums are called public for a reason. You can jump in if the idea interests you or if you have an opinion to offer.
  • Nobody has the right to assert top-dog status just because they have been there longer. Don’t be cowed if people pull rank because they have seen it all before.
  • Do not be intimidated to ask your questions or to offer your opinions. It may have been addressed before but someone may guide you to the right thread or discussion.
  • Pay it forward when it comes to answering some newbie’s tentative comment. You may be feeling impatient with the same old questions but remember that you weren’t always an old hat!

Courtesy and thoughtfulness are not old world values. They are real world values and have a place in the world of social media as much as anywhere else. The fact that people may not know us in real-life or because we can deal with the virtual world with an avatar is not an excuse for letting go of our kindergarten lessons in manners.