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 email@example.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.”
3. If you can’t say anything nice …
So many places to comment online, so many things to say. Slow down, opinionated ones — “Emotional posts usually end in regret,” says Ann. Weigh in only if you’re willing to use a real name and (politely) defend your position.
Ann says: “Remember where you come from and who you represent. What if your employer reads your comment? Even more, what would your mother think?”
4. Live-tweet like a person.
Live-tweeting is all the rage, during television shows, town meetings or during conferences. Ann E. Answers says the best narrators share more than just the quotes — and respond to those who are following the conversation.
Ann says: A good live-tweeter should “challenge yourself to tweet about things like body language, tone of voice and crowd reaction. Post pictures to complement your tweets.”
5. Watch the exclamation points and emoticons!!! :)
Everybody gets those e-mails with punctuation run rampant. The writer may be aiming for enthusiasm or emotion, but it’s more like yelling and smiley faces.
Ann says: “If you stick to using one exclamation point per paragraph, perhaps the over-exclaimers will get wise to their bad habit and cut down on their hyperactive use of that key on their keyboards.”