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9 Etiquette Rules for a Virtual Business

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Written by Ben Robinson Position
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Managing a virtual business is totally different than managing a brick-and-mortar operation. There are several “rules” to online etiquette business owners need to follow in order to thrive. I’ve gone over some of the most important rules below.

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What is “Online Etiquette?”

Online etiquette is the manner in which someone conducts themself in virtual communities, from Facebook to personal emails.

Since so many people find people to work with via the web nowadays, a business owner with poor online etiquette has significantly less reach, and therefore less chance of success, than one with proper online etiquette.

They will also find it a lot more challenging to make a positive first impression, which will turn away a lot of people who find themselves interested in the service offered.

A business owner with good online etiquette will stand out from the crowd, impress clients, and stimulate positive word of mouth.

Face-to-face etiquette is all about cleaning up your words and actions because they make up how you’re perceived in that kind of situation. But online, everything about you is available for people to look at and scrutinize over. For that reason, online etiquette is not all about what you do; it’s also about managing the information available about you everywhere on the internet.

Online Etiquette Rules

Offer a “virtual handshake”

The handshake is a tried and true way to make an excellent first impression. The eye contact, the firm grip, the confident “nice to meet you.” They establish a person-on-person relationship and communicate personality.

Unfortunately, you can’t shake hands online. But you can try to substitute for it by offering another gesture to your online audience that replicates that personal touch and that confident greeting.

A good example of this tactic is the automated chat message that a lot of companies have sent to anyone who visits their website. To replicate a handshake, your message should ideally be personalized to the user and should convey a warm, confident demeanor.

You can add a custom chatbot to your site with an engine like Chatfuel.

Use images

a man in suit taking selfie ca

Put a face to your name as quickly as possible.

By nature, people tend to favor others if they know them by face, and this is extremely important in business. Your potential customers should know your face within seconds of first encountering your name online.

Establish time zones

Pretty much everything business-related is a time-sensitive matter, so it’s vital that you’re on the same page, time-wise, as your business contacts.

That is why, before making any kind of appointment or schedule with a client, you should always register what time zone they are in. If possible, get this information the very first time you (or your automated messenger) interact with a contact.

It’s a consideration business owners who are used to physical meetings may not consider, since in-person meetings are obviously in the same time zone.

Move to voice chat ASAP

a woman is using voice chat on the phone by the window ca

Although most business interactions are now digital, people still respond more positively to phone conversations or video chats.

When you establish contact with a potential customer online, try to get the conversation to a more personal channel, like a phone call or Zoom, as quickly as possible. Because as soon as you do, you’ll have a significant advantage your competitors probably don’t — a personal connection.

Proofread everything

Online communication will be scrutinized and picked over for errors much more meticulously than in-person communication will because it is permanent. Assume clients will look at your writing critically, whether you’re composing an email or copy for your website.

Most people are also much worse at spelling and grammar than they think, especially if they don’t take the time to proofread their own work. Contacts respect a message with proper spelling and grammar infinitely more than one without those things.

We’d recommend running everything you write through a comprehensive spelling and grammar tool like Grammarly before you post it or send it off. For larger-scale projects like the copy of an entire website, you should even consider hiring a professional proofreader.

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Write concisely

Omit unneeded language. People do not appreciate you wasting their time with rants or roundabout explanations. They are also more likely to use a service if they can get a feel for it within a minute or two.

Stick to business hours

Once you have established contact, only contact them within business hours (note the point about time zones mentioned above) unless they specify otherwise or there is an urgent emergency.

If you contact them within business hours, you will be perceived as communicative and friendly. If you contact them outside of business hours, you may be viewed as a nuisance interrupting free time.

Clean up your image

Facebook page of an entrepreneur s social media on desktop and mobile up

Google your name, your business name, and some variations of those two things. Look at the first page of results for all your searches and see if there are any pages you would not want clients looking at. If there are, then you need to find a way to improve them.

You need to assume that clients will be Googling your information and judging you (and your business) based on what they find.

Don’t overshare

Don’t get too deep into your personal life in your online business communications.

Offering advice based on your past experience is a good idea because it adds a human touch to your interaction. But there’s a difference between that and talking about what’s going on in your personal life for no real reason. The latter is unprofessional and can make clients feel really uncomfortable.

Online etiquette comes naturally to some, but others need to learn it. Hopefully, this list acts as a primer for doing so.