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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Online Networking and High-Tech Etiquette

What do you need to know to more effectively communicate, lead, and inspire others online? As part of our bestselling book, The Business Etiquette Bible, we had the chance to sit down with leading professionals who can help you best explain how to leverage social networks and online interactions to create more successful and lasting relationships.

When it comes to managing online interactions, New York City-based tech and lifestyle writer Erica Swallow (http://www.ericaswallow.com) knows her stuff. The owner of Southern Swallow Productions and director of community at Contently, Swallow took time out to explain the perils of social networking with coworkers, the art of commenting constructively on blogs, and how not to aggravate others with your high-tech interactions.

What is the most common social gaffe people make when using their cell phone?

Because we rely on our cell phones so much these days, there are tons of ways to find yourself in sticky social situations, but people are increasingly more forgiving when you do.

The worst social gaffe people make with their cell phones is to let them ring [in public]. I’m a firm believer that cell phones should stay on vibrate. There is no reason unless your spouse is in labor or you have a family member in the hospital to have the ringer or ringtone on.

Other social faux pas regarding the cell phone include texting or talking during performances or movies, making calls while on public transit or in crowded places, and playing games or music aloud (without earphones) while others are around.

Any suggestions you can offer for more appropriate commenting when conversing on blogs?

Blog comments are most interesting when they are insightful, but brief compliments are also welcome. No matter how long, blog comments should be interesting and add to the conversation, however.

Length doesn’t really matter, as long as your comment is interesting. I’ve seen commenters practically write entire blog posts of their own in the comments section, and I’ve been completely enthralled. In this case, the reader usually comments on the writer’s work and add his or her own thoughts and opinions on the matter. Meanwhile, I also see a lot of short, congratulatory messages posted such as “nicely written” and “cool examples,” and those are just as welcome, though not as original and definitely not thought-provoking.

From a business standpoint, how do you handle your supervisor wanting to be friends on Facebook?

There are three options here: Accept, decline or leave your supervisor in purgatory. I prefer to either accept or leave people in purgatory, no matter who they are. After all, I feel it’s really not my place to “decline” or “reject” a friendship. I am flattered when someone is interested enough to “friend” me on Facebook, but I follow the “must have met a few times [in real-life]” rule before adding people.

When it comes to supervisors, I am happy to add them. “Work” and “life” are not separate entities for me – I live, and while living, I have work, and I have free time. I am an equal-opportunity friend, accepting workmates as well as playmates. I recommend that others think about life in a similar way – it’s much more organic. And furthermore, if a supervisor can’t accept you for you, including every bit of Facebook information you’ve amassed over the years, maybe they aren’t deserving of your service.

If, however, you do not want to be friends with your supervisor, simply declining their invite will do. You don’t have to explain, but if he or she asks, you can just say that you only add close friends to your Facebook account. Or, if purgatory sounds more appealing, just leave your boss waiting for an answer… forever.

For more, also be sure to grab your copy of The Business Etiquette Bible today!

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