I noticed in the newspaper that business students are being taught which fork to use. Makes great copy. It got me thinking about the norms and conventions -- you could call it etiquette -- that have arisen around things like blogging and other social networking.
We often don't notice these norms until someone violates them, and we feel annoyed. A great example is to violate the norms of conversation, and see what happens. Don't let the other person speak. Don't take turns. They'll think you are a complete boor, but you'll know what a social norm is.
Here are some of the conventions that I've been annoyed about when people violate them. If you are starting a business blog, or writing a corporate blog, you will do well to stay inside the lines. If you are a PR publicist for a company or an author, you could pick up some tricks here, too.
Some ideas about blogging etiquette
1. Share the link love
We're all trying to make a go of things out there on the long tail. It's not easy to find readers. So when we cite other content, we link to them. Permalinks make this easy. Publishing a blog roll is another way to share the link love, and let your readers know other interesting places you have found worthwhile at least once. This one rule actually drives many of the others.
2. The web is full of wonderful content. It's a conversation. You cannot build a walled garden, and it annoys others when you try
You want people to find your blog and your posts, but you don't want to help people find other interesting content. Not fair. Anything that smacks like this is kind of annoying. If you have 10,000 readers already, maybe you can get away with it. It's still annoying. Big corporate sites might struggle with this one, and we are probably prepared to forgive them.
3. Make it easy for others to find and reference your content
Your permalinks should be as easy to find as your Digg, Technorati and Delicious bugs. You don't want people to track back to their own article on the same content ... you don't want to risk them linking to their content in comments? Wow ... sounds like a newspaper column, not a blog. [Below you can see the Globe and Mail's share-this-article pop-up. No permalink. Grrr.]
3. Be brave. Use your name.
It's personal, and it's a conversation. Don't make me hunt all over your blog to figure out who you are, so I can use your name when I reference your post. Anonymous comments are equally tired.
4. Remember that most of us are not getting paid for this, we're doing it for profile or because we are passionate about the subject matter, and enjoy writing.
I review the odd book. Some I buy. Some are new publications that are sent to me, unsolicited. I invest quite a bit more time reading your book and writing a post than you did when you sent it to me. Most publishers and publicists totally get this, and are grateful for whatever coverage they receive. [And I'm grateful for the books and galleys.] The best ones provide access to author Q&A, as with the recent Chocolates On the Pillow Blog Book Tour.
Not long ago, I sent a publicist a link to the review I wrote, a very positive review, I might add. They wrote back asking me to insert specific wording into my post linking to the corporate web site of the authors, who sell training. Um ... that's a bit over the top, OK?
5. You want me -- or anyone else -- to comment on your technology, your company, or your upcoming webcast? Make it interesting.
My readers -- and my clients -- are very interested in staying current. What's happening, what's new in their industry or in other industries, what technologies do they need to know about. I spend a lot of time working on this. Don't we all?
So I'm interested in hearing about anything new. But you've got to provide me with a little real information. Even better, let's do a little e-mail Q&A. Don't just send a link to your corporate home page. Really, this is no different than any mainstream media journalist. You want someone to pay attention to your press release, it needs to say something worth paying attention to. Are your customers getting better results? Does your new widget solve a long-standing problem? Find something to say. Offer to make a senior person available for interview by phone or e-mail.
6. Copyright applies
There are blogs that are aggregators. They scour the web for interesting content and put it up on their own site. Many don't even link to the original content. Others link, but take entire articles and post it without permission. I don't have the time to police this, and I suspect most others don't also. But it's beyond annoying. Especially when they get more traffic than I do with content they didn't write. Grrr.
7. Making people open your web site so they can see your advertising in order to read your article, which arrived by RSS or e-mail is annoying
I don't have an answer to this one. I've considered doing it myself to boost ad revenue at least enough to cover the out of pocket costs. I decided it was disrespectful to my readers, so haven't done it. Now I find that FeedBlitz, the people who bring you e-mail subscription capability, are adding advertising to the e-mail. This is a little annoying. I can stop it by paying a monthly fee. Sigh.
The Long Tail -- an article in Wired, which became a book, by Chris Anderson. You can find it here on Amazon The Long Tail.
Permalink -- a permanent web link to an article that will not change its address as long as the article is on the web. Wikipedia entry here.
Trackback -- a link code that lets me put a link in your blog to my article on the same topic. It's considered polite to actually reference the blog and the content as part of an asynchronous conversation. Anything else is considered spam. Not having trackback capabilities on your blog -- it's not really rude, but it's not conversational either. It's like not letting other people get a word in edgewise. It's not equitable. Here's the Wikipedia entry. I know that all blog platforms do not have trackback links. And that's also annoying.
I found some interesting posts about blog etiquette. There are likely thousands, if not millions more. But here are a few links:
James McGovern at Thinking Out Loud says blog etiquette is all hogwash.
Rohit Bhargava at Influential Marketing Blog wants to combat snarkiness by creating the Golden Rules of Blog Etiquette. You need the password 'be good" without quotes to enter the site. [Apparently one of the golden rules is to write short posts. I see I have violated this one, and often, so please accept my apologies. I'll try to be more concise in future.]