During the most recent NewComm Forum in San Francisco, I had a chance to speak with the Society for New Communications Research Executive Director, Jennifer McClure about something she’s given some presentations about: new media etiquette. Many of us may think that it’s pretty simple to jump in on the latest and greatest craze of the Internet sensation, but unbeknownst to us, from a professional standpoint, there’s a certain protocol that must be adhered to in order to have a great conversation. Here’s just some of those tips:


This is perhaps the most important of all things that businesses who interact with people online need to understand. You cannot be deceptive or purposely deceive someone because the consequences can be quite severe (if not terminal for your job). Always be honest with those you are interacting and show them that you care about their needs. According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s code of ethics, one of the basic tenants relating to new media etiquette is to show honesty of relationship. This means that you should always say who you’re speaking for. If there’s a conflict of interest or if you’re getting paid to blog or write about a particular product, then you should be upfront and say that. This holds true especially if you’re creating a brand on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or happen to be on a forum about your industry/product/topic. Do not hide that you work for XYZ company when you’re talking about a XYZ company product – for if found out, you’re not being transparent and depending on the severity of the infraction, people may spread the news quickly that XYZ company is not being upfront and transparent and that looks bad for your brand.


Are you honest about what you’re saying? Have you been interacting with customers and given them the truth and nothing but the truth? This trait goes along with being transparent. You need to be honest with yourself and also with others. Say what you believe is the right thing and don’t lie about it to your customers. Again, if they find out, the situation can change pretty quickly and public perception about your brand can go from positive to negative. You should also be honest if you’re being compensated or if you’re compensating someone who is promoting your product in the web space.  Bloggers who you are hiring should be disclosing any form of compensation that they’re receiving from you or your company to write about your product. Honesty goes a long way towards making the conversation that much smoother and worthwhile.


It’s not just an Arethra Franklin song. Learn to respect those that comment and have opinions. It’s a free world so both supporters and opposers are allowed to voice their own respective opinions about various subjects. If someone is writing or posting something online negative about your product or brand, you are able to react to that comment but do so respectfully. Learn what their product is and offer your response, but be accepting of the negativity. There’s no such thing as having a 100% positive rating or impression so don’t be mistaken for having the perfect product – because it doesn’t exist.

However, be accepting, of course, of positive comments people make online. Respond to their favorable thoughts with acknowledgment and continue the conversation. Don’t just leave it there as this is an open opportunity to gain some additional insight. But still be respectful.

Use Proper Attribution

When you’re using information from another source, remember that it’s not your work. It’s someone else’s work that they have given you permission to use for a singular or multiple purpose. For lack of giving credit, you have essentially plagarized or worse: stole their idea and that makes you dishonest. This applies to presentations, photos, video, music, and any other form of multimedia that exists online. Do NOT attempt to lift this material without sourcing it back to the original author. While there may not be any safeguards, it looks bad for businesses who are trying to establish a great reputation to have a photo on their website that they simply lifted off of Flickr without saying where they got it. Do your homework and ALWAYS attribute your material (where appropriate & applicable).

Admit your mistakes

When you have done something wrong or made a mistake, then you should be upfront, honest, and transparent about it. If you’re trying to avoid accepting responsibility when it actually IS your fault, then you have something to hide. That will result in people online criticizing you and forcing your reputation further down a dark hole you don’t want to be in. Just look at the KFC debacle and how KFC has not accepted responsibility but rather tried to downplay the issue. Yes, your PR people will tell you otherwise and you might want to listen to them, but the world of the web demands action quickly so don’t wait to craft a message, but rather just issue a response to let the people know what you’re doing to help remedy the situation. Make sure in the response that you admit your mistakes as well. Be explicit and show you care. The other rules of new media etiquette work in these situations as well. Don’t be afraid of owning up to your mistakes. People will respect you and your response and help heighten your brand perception online.

These are just some of the fundamental rules towards having an engaging new media conversation between yourself, your company, and your customers. These rules were presented to me by Jennifer McClure of the Society for New Communications Research and information about the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s code of ethics can also be found here.

Use these rules as building blocks towards setting up a great new media platform and you’ll be able to harness the power of the web and have great conversations.

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      About honesty regarding a product. That may be virtually impossible in many cases even in selling something like a microwave oven. The literature is always weighed in favor of presenting a positive picture.

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      The literature is marketing material. Their motivation is to get you to BUY. However, when dealing with new media or any form of it online, one thing to remember is that you need to be as honest as possible about the “microwave”. Don't forget that people will find out the truth eventually and if you boast on a text ad on Google that the “microwave” can cure cancer but it only CAUSES it, you're gonna be in a heap of trouble.

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