Mind your digital manners

  • Article by: KATIE HUMPHREY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 13, 2014 - 4:56 PM

Etiquette in the Internet age is a fast-evolving beast. Ann E. Answers is here to save you from online embarrassment.

Don’t worry. You’re not the only one who has wondered whether to “friend” a boss on Facebook.

Also murky in the manners department: Should you send a text or pick up the phone? Is it ever OK to LOL in a company e-mail? What about online event invitations?

They’re common quandaries in this era of rapidly changing digital communication.

A local company thinks it has the answers, and it has created — what else? — an avatar with a Twitter account to share them.

Ann E. Answers aspires to be the digital etiquette diva of the Twin Cities (and the Internet), voiced by the staff at Goff Public, a public relations and public affairs firm in St. Paul.

Being in the communications field, they’ve received a lot of queries from clients and friends about technology, manners and the modern workplace.

Should you link all your social media accounts so they always post the same thing simultaneously? No. Do you still have to send handwritten thank-you notes in the e-mail era? Yes.

“We knew there was a need for a set of answers,” said Jennifer Hellman, chief operating officer at Goff Public.

Their advice became a blog, and now a book, “The Ann E. Answers Guide to Communications Etiquette in the Digital Age.” It’s available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, with all proceeds going to Dress for Success, a nonprofit organization that helps provide women with business attire and teaches job skills.

The staff at Goff Public plans to keep Ann E. Answers alive online, through her Twitter account and by responding to questions by e-mail at anneanswers@goffpublic.com.

So ask away. Just don’t forget to say “please” and “thank you.”

Not sure where to begin? Consider this advice, a Top 5 of sorts, from Ann E. Answer’s book.

1. Put the smartphone down.

Perhaps the biggest digital etiquette pet peeve. When there are people around, be social, not glued to social media. Where are your manners?

Ann says: “Texting, e-mail checking and surfing the Web while in a group setting — whether it’s at a happy hour with friends or at an important meeting — is one of the most common and rudest social behaviors today. Smartphone addicts seem to break this simple rule on an hourly basis. You will stand out by not doing so.”

2. Boundaries, people.

There are a lot of social networks, but that doesn’t mean you have to be friends with everyone everywhere. Facebook for friends, LinkedIn for professional acquaintances, Twitter for public discussion.

Ann says: “If you were a financial planner, would you want your clients to know how you spend your money on the weekends? I certainly wouldn’t. The best approach is to not become Facebook friends with a professional acquaintance unless the relationship morphs into a genuine friendship.”

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