Etiquette Exists in the Digital Environment Too

Social media allows us to share experiences.
Social media allows us to share experiences.

Social media works so well because, humans are social creatures, but this is a little too simplified to understand why social media really works. As I said recently in my post “Social Media is Changing, but Your Customer Isn’t” we humans aren’t simply social (time to admit some truths to yourself here) we are nosey, interfering, opinionated , jealous, show offs – we all know someone who’s life is staged to be ‘amazing’. On the other side of this we are also emotional – sharing pictures of animal, human and plant cruelty, I’m not just talking about vegans here; we are also caring, kind, friendly and lonely. Yes, humans are lonely creatures.

So what has Social Media done

Social media has had the most amazing affect on people. It allows us to stay connected to our friends and family on a passive basis, sharing images of birthdays, adventures, tributes to those who have passed away and give general life updates. Actively we can interact with each other, we can comment on the shared sentiments, images and links to things that interest us. We can choose to join the conversation with emojis, witty comments and reactions “Aww, that’s so sad”, “Epic night, can’t wait to do it again”, “Wow, you look stunning”. Finally we can take it off the public forum and private message each other for more sensitive topics or just to take the time to be closer. It connects us, allows us to be social but also allows us to take our time and suit ourselves as to how and when we will interact.

It’s a a drug and it’s powerful

They are probably all messaging each other.

Just like Pavlov’s famous dog we are salivating at the chance of reward. That cheery little thumbs up, ding on our smart phones or the stunned little ‘wow’ emoji is what we crave. We post an update and wait, in some cases, anxiously for a little social recognition, a “well done you, aren’t you an interesting person”. When we gain recognition on our social platforms and when we share information about ourselves it fires up our brains pleasure centres. Just like a €2 win on a scratch card, we get a small reward and come begging for more.

We also use social media to take a break, just as we may turn to a friend of colleague to chat, social media provides this temporary exit. It’s also better than cleaning the house, doing the ironing or working on your accounts (this is why my accountant hates me).

It has it’s own culture

Each society has it’s own micro cultures, jocks, nerds, bookworms, hipsters, foodies, louts, millennials, couch potatoes, we have a name for almost every sub culture. I’m sure you have some labels that you love and hate. However, and this is very important, just as people fit into sub cultures they also fit into different social media platforms. Each social media platform functions in a different way, and it is the function of the platform that suits each individuals’ preferences of how they like their information and interaction. What is fascinating though, out of this functionality, combined with individual preferences, has come a culture and amazingly, a set of unwritten rules. We know that we have to behave one way in a church and another way in a night club. These rules and etiquette are told to us and reinforced by how others react to what we do.

The same goes for social media, behaviours that are acceptable on Facebook are not necessarily acceptable on Twitter. If you don’t follow the rules and etiquette you will find that you don’t get the engagement that you require to build your brands’ visibility. Despite our personal social media knowledge, we seem to throw the rulebook out the window when it’s our businesses. Too often we see companies that are spitting out what they feel is good content from automated systems, forgetting to respond and missing the point of social media entirely.

Over the next few weeks I will share some hints and tips of what the unwritten rules and etiquette are on each popular social media platform and some hints and tips to help you succeed. Looking at ways that you can succeed on social media as a business and make your customers feel that they are part of the conversation.


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