Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Tweeting Netiquette


   I’ve been reading my ‘mate’ (can I call you that, Euan?), Euan Semple’s new book, Organisations don’t tweet, people do.

There’s a lot of good stuff in here.

For example, there’s some wonderful advice on ROI:

“Consider turning the ROI question on its head.  Given that it appears inevitable that the web and social tools are going to become an even more significant part of how we do things, instead of asking me to justify the ROI of encouraging this process – justify to me the ROI of stopping it.  What is the financial benefit of continuing to do things in inefficient ways when there are more effective alternatives available?  Where is the competitive advantage in preventing staff from using these tools to build and maintain the networks that develop their knowledge and their ability to get things done?  Where is the competitive advantage in allowing your competitors to embrace these changes before you do and potentially re-inventing the industry you are so rigidly clinging to?”


I particularly like Euan’s discussion on social media friending:

“Even if we can learn to cope with the ‘friends’ bit, the other half of ‘real friends’ is problematic too.  What does ‘real’ mean?  Does it mean you have to meet face to face?  Is knowing someone face to face all it’s cracked up to be?  There are people I have worked with for years, working in the same office every day, who I barely know.  Some would argue it is possible to be married to someone and not really know them!  And yet there are many people I consider to be real friends on the internet who I have never met in real life.  Recently I got to meet a blogger I had have been friends with for ten years.  And I mean friends.  Over the ten years we have got to read each other’s thoughts on a whole range of topics and have experienced each other in more thoughtful way than many people in more normal circumstances.”



It’s certainly more apt advice than that published in the FT this morning, which includes:

“Social networking is another area where technology etiquette is still evolving. Tricky questions include whether employees should accept requests from the boss to be friends on Facebook, and if it is ever acceptable to ‘unfriend’ someone on a social networking site.

The answers are ‘no’ and ‘no’. The experts suggest politely declining requests from the boss with an explanation about keeping personal and professional lives separate. Letting a boss see social networking updates will only mean trouble later, if there are embarrassing photos posted by friends, or unwise remarks made about a bad day in the office.

The question of unfriending is harder. It can never be done with delicacy, the experts say, so the best solution may be to close down the account and start again if someone really must be removed a friends list. It is better to be more selective about accepting friends in the first place, than to deal with pruning them later.”


I can’t say I agree with either of these suggestions.  On the first point, it’d be much better to develop a personal rather than simply professional relationship with your boss (not always possible).  And on the second, right, yes, I’ll just delete my 2000 person Linkedin network so I don’t have the delete the person who’s just spammed me – I don’t think so.

However, whilst I vastly prefer Euan’s advice, I think Euan’s book, and the FT article approach the topic from the same angle.  They are about twitter netiquette (‘twetiquette’), about how to behave given the disruptive force of this new technology (and the societal changes which have supported and been reinforced by these technological ones).

Euan explains the primacy of behaviour:

“You can have an overall strategy of behaving in certain ways depending upon how your ecology develops.  It is possible to sell this as a strategy to those who need strategies.”


This would be my only criticism of the book.  And Euan might dismiss my criticism as overly structured and mechanical thinking (I’m sure he would do it nicely) – for him, it’s about ‘managing the mess’ and ‘needing more rubbish’, but I just think the opportunity of social media is just to great just for this.  We need to have a plan that extends beyond the ‘how’ (behaviour) into the ‘what’ (strategy) – and you’re not going to find it in this book.

That’s not to say that you won’t find lots of great advice – you absolutely will.  And you’ll be entertained from Euan’s stories from the BBC and elsewhere at the same time.  You’ll probably even find a few things you didn’t expect.  For example, I definitely recommend reading Euan’s final few words on love.  (And you can then go and vote for my proposal to talk about love at this Summer’s Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston!).


Picture credit: FT (hope they don’t mind a bit of cutting and pasting – it does give them publicity for their article!


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