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E-etiquette – the proper way to behave online

Most people who have used social media, posted something on a blog, or even commented on a blog article, will have witnessed or at least heard of the potential negative consequences that can come from publicly sharing information on the internet. Earlier this year Jon Ronson, author of The Men Who Stare at Goats and The Psychopath Test, delved into the potential pitfalls of posting things online with his latest book ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’.

The most horrifying tales in the book are accounts of people’s personal lives that have been disrupted by a poorly worded tweet, or an ill-considered image uploaded to Facebook, or a public shaming at the hands of a third party’s social media account. There are lessons to be learnt from Ronson’s examples, and not just for the victims. They can be applied to anyone who is in the business of sharing information online, especially a brand, to protect their reputation and defend themselves against the trolls lurking under the bridges of the internet.

A picture can be worth a thousand negative comments

What might seem like a harmless joke to you can be deeply offensive to other people, so it’s always worth checking with someone else – one to check if its funny, two to check if it’s going to upset anybody.

Lindsey Stone was one person who posted a photo that was widely considered offensive, with her arguably innocent goofing around ultimately causing her to get the sack from a job she loved and made it difficult for her to find another. The picture in question was her posing like she was shouting and swearing at a “silence and respect” sign at the Arlington National Cemetery. Lesson number one – don’t post any picture that might even be mildly offensive.

The other danger of social media and ubiquitous smartphone cameras is public shaming, and not just for pet cats and dogs. A harmless sexist joke cost two members of a tech conference their jobs when an offended fellow audience member publicly shamed them on twitter.

The go-to solution for companies whose staff gain a negative reputation on social media seems to be giving them the sack. In some cases it seems a bit harsh but ultimately it’s up to the brand to decide how to best protect their reputation. It’s also a lesson for employees to think about their jobs before their Facebook likes, and be careful what they say in public – especially in a professional setting.

Be tactful with your Tweeting

Joking about a tragic event is clearly a bad idea, but trying to use one to drum up business is without a doubt an even worse one. Following the recent Alton Towers Smiler crash one Yorkshire law firm was quick to post the following tweet:

‘Been injured in a roller coaster crash?! We’re experts in Personal Injury!! #Smiler #AltonTowers.’

Naturally it wasn’t long before it was trolled into submission and the tweet was deleted, with the an apology for the incident issued that blamed a junior member of staff. Another key example of a brand blooper on Twitter is when London Overground told one disgruntled customer on Twitter to “Leave early, you will not be late next time.”

The lesson here is to set clear guidelines for your social media people, making it clear what’s appropriate and what’s not. What’s common sense to you might not be to other members of your team.

Keep your accounts secure

As with anything online where you have to log in it’s always a good idea to have a secure password, and to change it regularly. This won’t always make your accounts hack-proof though and even Twitter’s CFO Anthony Noto had his account briefly hacked earlier this year, during the 20 minutes his account was hijacked almost 300 spam tweets were sent to his 13,000 followers. If you notice any suspicious activity on your account, it’s best to refer to Twitter’s support page, and offer an apology to your followers should any unwanted tweets get out.

There are also plenty of examples of spambots and fake accounts that pose as bigger brands and public figures. Though these accounts can be more difficult to tackle, Jon Ronson has proved that the positive power of trolling can be used to beat them down.

If all else fails…

If your best efforts to hide your online discretions have failed then all is not lost. Businesses have grown out of the need for people to hide their sordid search results in Google, including sites like reputation.com.

Clients range from members of the public who have fallen victims to internet trolls, to brands and celebrities seeking to bury any content that might be harmful to them. For individuals services can range from removing personal information to strategically posting positive blogs, articles and social media posts. For businesses, it can be something as basic as making sure a brand can be found online, or the management of negative reviews and planting of good ones.

If you want to make sure your posts only get positive attention, feel free to contact our social media experts here at Vu Online. 

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