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A primer in web etiquette

By June 11, 2009No Comments4 min read

Or all you ever needed to know to avoid being referred to as a jackass

Some of you might be new to the Internet or new to social networks or just need some light suggestions, so this is for you. Every day millions and millions of people sign on to the internet for the first time, or join social networks such as facebook or twitter or myspace and aren’t necessarily privy to the social conventions that are already established in these spaces. Its my goal to teach you them in the next 5 minutes. So let’s get started with the basics.

You might wonder why I even need to include this, but you’d be surprised at how wrong some people are when it comes to email.

  • Write a clear and concise subject
  • Make use of keywords in your email (think SEO for email) to make it easier to track down later
  • Use a custom signature (i.e. don’t send EVERYONE the same salutation at the end of your email – aka “Love ya boo, John Rockefeller CEO”
  • Reply to emails you get within a timely manner (my theory is 36 hours max if you aren’t on vacation. 48 is pushing it. – if you are in a service business, try for under 24)


  • USE ALL CAPS WHEN YOU TYPE (its considered yelling, and you can turn off caps by hitting the caps lock button above your shift key)
  • Send an email asking about something that you could have googled yourself.
  • Don’t reply to an email with only a link to a google search for said question
  • Send an email and then call ten minutes later to make sure I got it (unless it’s an important document attachment).
  • Forward me useless nonsense (aka chain letters, wtf is this, 1996?)

I could write a whole post about the kind of jackassery going on right now on twitter, and maybe I will, but for now this will have to suffice. Following these simple guidelines will make you a more interesting Twitterer.

  • Follow people you find interesting, or actually will care to hear about their lives later.
  • Respond to people you follow when they say something interesting
  • Share interesting links when you find them.
  • Look at the person’s profile and recent tweets before you follow them or send them a direct message.
  • Be genuine and authentic, not canned and dull
  • Respond to direct messages in a timely manner (think halfway between email and txt messages – so under 24 hours)


  • Send automated direct messages to people who follow you. – at least not when they are sales or marketing messages
  • Post only links to your site in your twitter stream (its like spamming)
  • Demand people follow you, you aren’t that interesting, and its kind of obnoxious
  • Get mad when people don’t follow you back, maybe you aren’t as special as you thought (I know, the horror!)
  • Assume everyone who follows you is actually reading every damn thing you post (statistically, maybe 5% really are)
  • Use one of these silly pyramid follower schemes, they really only benefit the creator, and are lame, they make you seem less genuine.
  • Overtly ask for people to retweet everything you post. A retweet is a powerful thing, be subtle about it.

I did a video on this a year ago, will likely follow this up with a revised post for 2009. So here are a few basics.

  • Find your friends (real life and people you interact with) and request their friendship
  • Share stuff about yourself
  • Keep up with old friends
  • Add your kids or parents as friends (you can always filter what they can see)
  • Reply to messages in a timely manner (if you are under 21, less than 24 hours, over 21, treat it less seriously than email so 48 hours)


  • Add unknown random people just because you want lots of “friends” if you wouldn’t want to talk to them or haven’t interacted with them before, why would you now (send them an email first at least)?
  • Spam your friends every day (the fewer things you send out, the less “noise” they become)
  • Create a personal profile for a business or a product. There are special fan pages/public profiles for those things. Trust me.
  • Poke people you don’t know (its like flirting)
  • Request a friend, then not respond to their message back asking who you are (if you are asking them to SPEND attention on you, then it’s the least you can do)
  • Ask people to donate their status to you, its cheesy, and not that effective. Much more effective would be to ask them to share a link you had shared (re-share) or “like” it.
  • Publicly write pickup lines on girls or guys pictures you are trying to pick up. Send them a private email if anything.

Note, all these rules have exceptions. If you’re traveling, on vacation, or just not near the web, you don’t need to keep such a close tab on the situation.