There is a sad lack of etiquette guides for new media. Granted, Miss Manners and her brethren have started weighing in on the correct way of handling everything from Facebook snubs to Twitter meltdowns, but there is still no set of guidelines for the proper way to handle oneself while blogging.
That’s because most interactions on social media have a real-world counterpart—while blogging is an entirely different beast from any other type of social discourse. So, an unwritten etiquette has been created for blogging, but without the benefit of a rulebook that new bloggers can consult.
At one time or another, we have all broken some of the unwritten rules of blogging. Thankfully, the financial blogosphere is a friendly place, meaning those who have unwittingly broken the rules are none the worse for wear. Still, it is helpful to know what is expected of bloggers, even if it is not specifically stated. Here are some of the most important unwritten rules of blogging etiquette:
1. When someone comments on your blog, the very least you should do is visit their site. Leaving a comment once you get there is good manners, although not strictly necessary, particularly if you are blessed with a thriving comment section. In that case, responding to comments on your blog is another way to acknowledge the readers who comment on your posts. Just remember that following up on your commenters is how you build a community.
2. Avoid leaving negative comments. If you have a genuine beef or concern with the blogger or post, contact them directly via email. Remember, a blog is someone’s home. You would not insult a person in their living room in the middle of a party. So respect the blogger by making your comment appropriate for public consumption—that is, by making your comment a part of the larger conversation without attacking—or by privately emailing the blogger.
3. Don’t feed the trolls. When you receive truly negative comments—not simply differences of opinion—don’t engage. If someone is calling you a Nazi, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to reason with them. It’s better to moderate your comment section and delete the trolls. Not only will it make you feel better, it makes for a friendlier and more welcoming comment section for your readers.
4. Don’t overpromote yourself when leaving comments. Commenting on your favorite blogs is a great way to direct some traffic to your site. But commenting on other blogs solely for the purpose of getting traffic is like calling everyone you know and asking if you can interest them in some knives that will never go dull. Basically, you need to be a good steward for the blogging community, and not just a commenting advertisement for yourself.
Related to this is the question of leaving a link to your blog if the comment program does not already do so. It is possible to do this politely, but only if the specific link you are leaving directly relates to the topic of the blog and the discussion in the comments.
This one is easy. ALWAYS give credit when you have gotten an idea, an image, an excerpt, or anything else from another blogger or source.
Also, if you are excerpting something from another blog post in order to discuss it, always include a link to the original post.
Do not post anything that can get you fired or damage a relationship in the real world. It’s easy to forget that people you know are actually reading your blog, since blogging can feel very divorced from the rest of your life. Just be sure to know where the line is.
1. Own up to your mistakes. If you realize after a post is published that your information was incorrect, make sure you let your readers know. If it is a simple fact that is wrong, the custom is to strike through the original content and write the correct information next to it. If it is a larger issue, either update the post or create a new post discussing the issue and your original mistake. Not only is this good manners, it will maintain your good reputation.
2. Use correct grammar. While no one expects blog posts to be bastions of the Queen’s English, it is good manners to make sure your posts are readable. That means no writing in all-caps or all-lowercase, no writing monster paragraphs with no breaks, no writing run-on sentences, and no distractingly poor spelling.
On the other side of the grammar coin, however, is forgiving bloggers for having an occasional grammatical or spelling mistake. It happens, and pointing it out rarely endears you to the blogger. (Just ask Lynne Truss if anyone thanks her for her vigilante apostrophe fixes.)
What other unwritten rules of blogging have you encountered? Do you think there are any rules that are specific to the financial blogging community?