In an increasingly digital world where we are the concept of leaving work at 5pm is getting rarer, the way we do business has changed tremendously. It seems like we have forgotten the etiquette in business, too. So much of business flows into personal these days, and social media has blurred those lines. Also, it can make us think that everyone is our friend and that every business connection is also a personal one and, that’s just not the case.
Here are 10 business etiquette “don’ts” to help you navigate business and social media effectively (that’ll keep you from getting cussed out).
1. Don’t give out someone else’s phone number.
DO NOT, under any circumstances, provide someone with another person’s personal cell phone number (even if you are friends on social media) WITHOUT ASKING that person first! This is crucial point numero uno because it is important for you to understand that you have to honor people’s privacy. Trust takes so much time to build and only a minute (or one stupid action) for you to lose it.
Just because people are hyper-connected, and constantly by their phones doesn’t mean they want others to have this type of access to them.
2. Don’t cold call someone who you have not been introduced to yet.
Find out their email address (don’t FB chat) and send them an email to break the ice. Placing a phone call to someone who may or may not know who you are is frowned upon. Better yet, if someone has passed you this information, ask them to send an introductory email. It goes over better when an email is received from a person that’s known.
3. If you want to talk about business, don’t call outside of business hours.
Business hours are safely 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM local time. Just because we’re working more doesn’t mean we want to be hearing from people all hours of the day. And definitely do not call on the weekend. You know how you’re happy when it’s Friday?! That applies to everyone. Calling someone at home (specifically me) at 7:00 PM is guaranteed to get you a few choice words in two different languages. Again, respect people’s space.
As long as we’re talking about phones, let’s discuss the text. I know you have great ideas. Your ideas are the best! They really are. But, do you need to text them to me? On the weekend or at 9:33 PM on a Thursday? Do you know Scandal is on? Why do I know people that are not indisposed at this time? Is it really imperative or “urgent” that you share that one thing? I don’t think so. Unless you’re bleeding & misdialed me instead of 911, we can’t speak. And if you’d like to ask business advice on text then please be prepared for the PayPal invoice.
4. Don’t have an unprofessional email and username.
I’ve had suspect screen names in my past life (AOL chatrooms anyone?). Mama Maya said when you know better, you do better. To that end, be sure that if you’re going to do business online, you have screen names that represents you as a person and possibly whatever business you’re involved in. Your name or some variation will suffice.
5. Don’t have a mystery Internet presence.
Provide an email address where you can be contacted and any other pertinent information about your business. Nothing drives me up the wall more than seeing a post about a service or event that I am interested in and then heading to that person’s profile and finding NOTHING about what they do. Every time you connect on social is an opportunity for your business.
6. Don’t randomly tag people on your social posts.
There are a couple of reasons for this. One, you have no idea if your message is palatable to a person’s brand (while I cuss like a sailor, I once had to refrain from any of that language during a specific period of time and was tagged on something that would’ve basically had me in breach of contract). Two, when you tag someone in certain spaces, a person doesn’t have the option to untag themselves.
If you do it on Facebook, all the messages left on that post get sent to all the people tagged on it. I love reading my people’s posts. But I do it on my own time. And if instead, I have to cull through the 82millionhundredthousand messages on that social post, chances are I will have zero time to read what you really wanted me to read.
6b. Speaking of tagging, don’t add people to a Facebook group prior to letting them know in advance. Adding me to a group I don’t know about is a surefire way to get me to 1. Leave the group and 2. Possibly restrict you permanently because I’m professionally petty. Being added to groups makes your notifications go wild too. That is a nuisance.
7. Don’t send out mass FB messages.
If you were in front of me right now, I’d grab you by the shoulders and look lovingly into your eyes while delivering this message. Why are you sending me a mass message on FB?! Was copy/paste on a coffee break? Listen: I know you need the support. And I’m here for you if I have the time. What I am not here for are the mass responses from every person that you know including your cousins and baby mamas replying to your messages. Nine times out of 10 their replies don’t have anything to do with your original message! Mass FB messages will lead to the consequence stated in #3.
8. Don’t ask to “pick someone’s brain”.
“Picking my brain” is code word for “you want my ideas and don’t value my worth.” We’re not going to do that. Yes, friendly conversations happen and business ideas might be shared but outside of that, we need to set up a consulting session and yes, you will be charged for it. If my inner circle books my time and pays for it, you can too. My ideas are worth just as much as yours.
9. Don’t add someone to your mailing list without their permission.
Being provided a business card is not an invitation to add a person to your mailing list. Again, respect people’s spaces. This includes their email space! Feel free to follow up with this person and invite them to add themselves to your mailing list. You never know. They might fall in love with you all by themselves. Give them that chance. Otherwise, you’ve lost someone permanently.
10. Don’t assume my contacts are your contacts.
Being a friend on social media does not entitle you to my entire contact list. I’ve worked very hard at building relationships. Do your own due diligence! I mean, you have a LinkedIn account, right? If you don’t, hurry up and get one. Also, attend conferences, cull through people’s websites, reach out to them on social media. These are all things I’ve done. And don’t get mad and talk shit about me because I’m not helping you build your professional rolodex. Trust levels have to be reached, bread has to be broken, a few well-placed memes must be shared.
I’m very protective of my list because I have earned the trust of a great deal of people and part of my relationship with them includes the unspoken fact that I am not going to share their information with the next person that asks. Relationship management is ultra-important to me. It’s my bread and butter and a good reason why I’ve accomplished what I’ve accomplished. I’m not saying I’m not willing to help out but demanding that I hand over people’s information that trust me is a surefire way to get cut out of my life.
Being friends on Facebook doesn’t mean you are real friends with people. In the same way that it doesn’t mean that you have to let go of decorum and etiquette when you’re conducting business. Can we do better? I promise to leave you the big piece of chicken if you do.