Technology: Digital Etiquette for Small Businesses

Man in home office using computer and smiling

The Internet, email and instant messaging give us speed and efficiency, but sometimes the efficiencies come at a price.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a message that seems curt, inappropriate or just plain rude, you know that small nuances and forethought are all important in the Digital Age.

Here are a few tips on digital media business etiquette to share with your employees. Some of it might seem obvious, but if you observe your competitors, you’ll know the basics are often ignored, especially by younger employees.


Indispensable as they may be, smartphones tempt the best of us to forget our manners.

  • Turn your phone to the silent mode in meetings, factory tours, presentations, speeches and any other setting where a ringing phone would be disruptive.
  • During face-to-face meetings (including business lunches or dinners), avoid the temptation to constantly check your phone or tablet. When you are with customers, business associates or colleagues, give them the courtesy of your full attention and do not take calls or send texts.
  •  If you are expecting a phone call or a text that is truly urgent – and this should be the exception and not the rule – apologize and let the other(s) know the call is critical. Take the call/answer the text somewhere private and return as quickly as possible.

Email Etiquette

  • Keep the tone professional, but don’t forget to say “good morning,” “please” and “thank you.” Short messages can come across as curt. Read yours through, checking for tone as well as spelling and grammar before you hit send.
  • Don’t put anything in an email that you would regret if it was forwarded to or read by someone else. Emails are retrievable and have been used in legal proceedings, so don’t use email for sensitive or confidential information.
  • Use “reply all” and “cc” with restraint – always. Apart from adding more to recipients’ in- boxes, wide-scale sharing of your message might not be a good idea. Take special care to review all content if you are forwarding a message with a long thread to new recipients.

Social Media

This is a broad subject, but here are some key pointers:

  • Keep your social media profiles properly updated, professional and complete. Include a photo that is appropriate for business, and take the time to understand the security settings of each network you use. You need to know whether you are able to post private updates as well as public ones.
  • Don’t “share” too frequently. You run the risk of being considered spam. A daily posting on a Facebook business page or a LinkedIn profile will suffice. For most small businesses, four or five tweets daily are enough.
  • Be consistent in the type of business information you choose to share online. Make sure your information is genuinely interesting to your business contacts. Share each update only once. If you repost someone else’s report, give credit to the originator.
  • Respect others’ privacy. Don’t tag people in photos you post without their express permission.
  • Avoid expressing opinions on politics or controversial issues, unless you are prepared for the possibility of alienating customers and business contacts. The same goes for jokes and anecdotes.

New developments in social media networks are inevitable and things may change, but the basic tenets of good communication – clarity, courtesy and thoughtful composition – will never go out of style.