I just received an invitation to a press briefing. Via a Facebook message. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if I used my Facebook account for professional purposes. But I don’t. I don’t connect to any clients on Facebook. I was a member of the UK tech journos and PRs group (although I have today left it). Someone (not me) did create a group to promote Net Records, one of the start-ups I’m involved in, but it wasn’t me. Of all the many ways on offer through which people can contact me, I have never told someone to reach me on Facebook in a professional capacity.
So why would they choose to contact me that way?
Say someone lists a range of phone numbers in their email footer — usually an office number, maybe a direct dial, and increasingly a mobile number. You wouldn’t ignore all of those and call them at home. The same rules apply to social media. I have a dedicated email address for my blog that I list publicly. I use LinkedIn for business networking. People can even just leave comments on the blog. So why bypass all that and contact me on Facebook, which I reserve for personal relationships?
The fact is that the woman who contacted me clearly uses social media differently. Her rules are different. She is almost a decade younger than me and from a different country. The web may be global but the etiquette for us both is very different and there is no fixed standard yet.
Etiquette is important. It defines the little details about how we behave towards each other and how we act in the presence of others. The little rules that if breached can feel like an insult, or an invasion of privacy, however small. It will take time for a broad standard to be adopted across the web, and they may never translate well across international and cultural boundaries. For now, I think we all should be a little cautious about how we use social and communications media, and ensure we don’t assume that our rules apply to everyone else.