E-mail and social media etiquette in the modern business world

OPINION: Social media and e-mail may be great communication tools for your business, but thought needs to be given before we send or post anything

You don’t have to be a million miles away from the news to realise how damaging e-mail leaks can be and how damaging such leaks could be for your brand.

“Brand Beckham” is the latest to fall foul of this, with a number of e-mails being leaked about Mr Beckham’s quest to become Sir David Beckham.

There are countless other stories in the news including Hilary Clinton and her infamous blackberry and Donald Trump with his twitter account, including his latest habit of tweeting with his Caps Lock on!

A recent business experience has made me think about the appropriate use of e-mail and social media in the modern business world. Every follower, reader and subscriber should be deemed as a potential client or a referrer.

I am a great fan of e-mail, social media and modern technology. It provides a powerful business platform for smaller companies (as well as large companies) and it is a treasure trove of information. It should be embraced, but not without a proper understanding of what you are using, its power, impact and possible consequences.

Whilst e-mail and social media make it possible for your business to reach out to the entire world, you have to remember that, on the flip side, it means that the entire world can also reach out to your business and hence your business information and your staff are more accessible than once they may have been.

Modern business people have to roll with the punches, take the disadvantages with the advantages and put in place measures to mitigate risk of damage, wherever they might foresee them.

It may sound obvious, but we all see, probably on a daily basis, e-mails and/or social media posts which simply should have been given more thought as to the potential consequences, before they were sent or posted. When preparing to send an e-mail or post a message on social media, it’s imperative that you think about what you would not want to get out into the public domain.

When you are in business, absolutely anybody could be a potential client or know of a potential client. Putting something in writing which might offend the recipient or be at risk of being leaked to a wider audience is a huge mistake. No company or business should ever risk this and all staff should be appropriately trained as to the potential risks.

A harsh word or inappropriate response written by a staff member representing a business can cause huge damage to reputation at the very least. Things can easily get lost in translation and be easily shared via e-mail and/or leaked on social media – it’s never been easier.

If you need to have a frank discussion with another person, do it face to face or over the phone as there is less risk of things being misinterpreted or reputation being damaged.

I am the first to admit that business can get heated and people can get hot-headed, but putting heated words into written format is unprofessional and risky to your business. Never forget that a rash insult may make you feel better in the short term but can come back to bite you… Remember that your brand and reputation are always at risk. Likewise, modern technology means your business is more accessible to approaches, make sure you respond to appropriate messages. People talk and failing to do so will tarnish your brand.

In my business of recruitment, we are undergoing a technological revolution. It’s so important to be careful what you say on social media; rants about religion, political views and controversial opinions can be closely monitored and could potentially put off potential clients or employers by giving you a bad personality profile (trust me I have seen them).

Stick to what you are expert in and share tips only. I always tell people to be careful what they are posting on any social media sites, your foot print is hard to erase once it has been cast. The same advice is applicable to companies. So here are some simple tips:

• Use your common sense. Invest and train your staff in cyber security; it doesn’t have to be a huge amount.

• Invest in technology, embrace it, understand it and make sure that those representing you who are sending e-mails/ posting on social media are fully aware of the potential risks to your brand. Only employ those who you can trust to protect your reputation when they send e-mails in the name of your business.

• Remember that even private e-mails can be made public in an instant, they can be shared on social media and very easily leaked. Don’t send anything that you wouldn’t want to go out into the public domain.

• Remember that few people are really interested in opinions – if you do chose to share them, be very careful what you say. Your clients or future clients might read them;

• Remember to be careful what you post on social media. Bragging with your latest gold-plated laptop cover or first class business travel might not go down well with your clients and followers.

• Learn to roll with the punches. Technology gives you access to a wider business network. Don’t complain if you are approached by someone selling something or your staff being approached as a result, you cannot control that. Grumbling about it will show a lack of understanding of the modern business world and will tarnish your image.

• Finally, if you don’t have anything positive to say in an e-mail or on social media, simply don’t say it! There is always a time and a place for a harsh comment, but remember that reputation is at risk...

• These are simple tips, but as shown in the media recently, they are being overlooked, even by people and companies who have huge budgets. You’ve been warned!

Liam Mooney MA (Cantab), LLB is managing director, Blue Pencil.
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