Social Networking Etiquette: February/March Chicago REALTOR ®

Tech Talk: Social Networking Etiquette, 5 Mistakes NOT to Make

The handwritten letter, the inter-office memo, the thank-you note… once upon a time, formal business communication adhered to certain rules of etiquette that were universally implemented and seldom questioned. However, the advent of e-mail, instant messaging, and the even briefer text message or “Tweet” has challenged the old rules. Yet it is imperative to remember that even in messages of 140 characters or less, REALTORS® and all working professionals must remain professional and polite in business correspondence.

The Chicago Association of REALTORS® has compiled a list of five social networking etiquette mistakes to avoid at all costs. Just as sales and clients can be (and have been) lost when a REALTOR® arrives for a showing dressed in yoga pants and Nikes, the way you communicate electronically has a far greater impact on your business than you may realize.

  1. Don’t Mix Business and Pleasure on Profiles
    Facebook is an excellent tool for keeping in touch with friends, reuniting with old classmates, and posting fun notes and photos for the world to see. It’s also become a business tool, and your prospective employers and clients alike will likely look you up on Facebook to learn more about your personality—which means those photos from your bachelorette party or the inside joke your best friend posted on your “Wall” are about as private as your resume or business card.

    Fortunately with Facebook, you can maintain separate business and personal accounts, and “privacy” block your personal account. This means you can opt to make your personal profile unsearchable (even if people search your name, it won’t show up) or block anyone you don’t know or list as a “friend” from viewing your profile. On the upper right hand side of your Facebook “home” page, you will see a drop-down bar that says “Settings.” Scroll down to “Privacy Settings.” Here, you can control who sees what content on your profile, who can search for you, and what information about you is made public on Facebook. It’s perfectly fine to use Facebook for personal purposes, but creating a separate profile for business networking and privatizing your personal profile will enable you to keep business and pleasure safely separate.
  2. Even in the “Information Age,” There’s Such a Thing as “TMI!”
    We’ve all had conversations where a friend has a “TMI” moment—as in “Too Much Information.” There are certain details of our daily lives that the rest of the world doesn’t need to know about. C.A.R. recently created a Twitter account, where we regularly update our followers on association and industry news. However, some individuals use Twitter to update their friends—and anyone else who happens to follow them on Twitter—about the gory details of their personal lives. A client does not need to hear about your sordid breakup, how hungover you might be, or what you ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Use Twitter and Facebook status updates to provide real estate tips and tools, not “TMI” about yourself.
  3. The Dreaded, Dreadful Chain E-mail
    Don’t be that guy or gal. You know who I mean: the person who sends “lucky” chain messages (e.g., “Forward this to twenty people in the next ten minutes and you’ll become a millionaire!”), pictures of cute kittens, or solicits donations for favorite charities by e-mailing every person they know in massive bulk e-mails on a regular basis. This is inappropriate for a multitude of reasons. While friends and family may want to give to charitable causes that are important to you, asking for money via e-mail is slightly tasteless. If you’re running a marathon and expect your friends and family to support you, a personal phone call or in-person conversation will produce better results. And certainly, soliciting financial support from clients and colleagues with an impersonal mass e-mail is less tasteful.

    Second, when you send a mass e-mail, whether it’s an e-holiday card or “lucky” chain message, unless you utilize the “BCC” (or “Blind Carbon Copy”) function, every single person you e-mail can see the e-mail addresses of every other person in the address list. In a tight-knit group of friends, this is one thing. But certainly your clients, associates, and even some of your friends and family may not be comfortable with having their contact information made public in an e-mail to hundreds of your acquaintances. If you absolutely must send a mass e-mail, use the BCC function to protect the privacy of the recipients.
  4. Write, Review, Sleep On It, Review Again, and THEN Post
    Perhaps you operate your own blog, or are an avid reader of and commenter on blogs like the C.A.R. Blog (ChicagoREALTORSBlog.org). Or perhaps you frequently post messages and responses on community forums like MeetUp.com or DailyKos.com. Especially in a heated political climate, bloggers and commenters tend to get fired-up and fire off incendiary, aggressive or defensive posts that, upon reviewing, inspire regret and embarrassment. It’s critically important that you realize that anything you post on a blog, message board, or online forum is there more or less forever, even if you believe you can delete it at a later time. Many Web sites are “cached,” where old versions of web content are still searchable via Google and other search engines regardless of whether or not you’ve deleted a message you regretted posting.

    The anonymity of blogging may seem like a shield from consequence, but you should never post anything anonymously that you wouldn’t post under your own name. Whether through an e-mail address, your own link, or word of mouth, it’s a safe bet that your words can be traced back to you one way or another.
  5. Keep it Professional
    No one says you need to write like Charles Dickens in order to send a simple e-mail or text message, but you can still maintain some level of decorum in your communication. If you can help it, avoid sacrificing salutations (a simple “Hello” or “Good Morning” goes a long way in making any message seem more pleasant than just rushing into the body of your message) and sign-offs (“Thank you,” “Sincerely,” or “Talk to you soon!”). The fact that you took the time to compose a more personal message, even from your BlackBerry or cell, can make all the difference.

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