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Netiquette: How to Master Online Business Communication

Photo by Adam Solomon on Unsplash

If prospective clients are most impressed with a business’s expertise during a meeting, they’re most at ease if a company’s representatives adhere to strong business etiquette practices. Discussing business communication etiquette in the context of international relations, language experts at London Translations say that these unwritten rules “create a mutually respectful atmosphere, improve communication, and enable people to behave in an appropriate manner.”

In unprecedented times like these, where both international and small businesses are mainly communicating remotely, there is a whole new set of rules by which you need to abide when it comes to business communication.

Whether it’s knowing the correct way to write an email to a client or updating a corporate social media page properly, learning appropriate online business communication etiquette will help generate a positive impression of your business.

Regardless, online or offline, following business etiquette can help you get a business deal over the line and forge long-lasting relationships with clients.

Using Emails for Business Communication

Do: Write a Concise Subject Line

The subject line will help to determine whether a recipient will bother to open your email or not. Therefore, make sure it concisely conveys the issue at hand. This also makes it easier for people to find and file messages later.

Don’t: Use an Inappropriate Email Address

Stick to your company email address or, if you’re self-employed, consider setting up a new account for your business communications. If you’d prefer to use your existing personal account, think about how the address looks. Your name should always be included for clarity. Additionally, there should be no mention of anything in any business communication that could be considered inappropriate for the workplace.

Do: Follow Grammar and Punctuation Rules

Poor grammar and punctuation in your business communications could make a bad impression and potentially damage your credibility. It may also cause miscommunication, which can be particularly damaging to business relationships. Therefore, be sure to thoroughly proofread your work, and consider downloading a grammar checker tool to make corrections.

Don’t: Be Too Informal in any Business Communication

Avoid using colloquial greetings like “hey,” “yo,” or “sup” in any business communication. Instead, choose a more conventional “hello” or “hi” in emails.

By the same token, don’t shorten anybody’s name unless they’ve directed you to, and avoid using emojis. You should also use exclamation marks sparingly. Enthusiasm is obviously no bad thing, but too many can make you look overly emotional or immature.

Last but not least, be cautious about injecting humor into business communications unless you know the recipient well. It’s easy for jokes to be lost in translation and cause offense, particularly in written form.

Do: Add a Signature Block

A signature block sits at the bottom of an email and includes basic information like your full name, your role at the company, and your phone number. These make your emails appear professional, create brand awareness, and enable the recipient to contact you through other methods.

Don’t: Choose Quirky Fonts in Your Business Communications

Keep to easy-to-read, classic fonts like Arial or Helvetica in black, and use the same one across every email you send. A 10- or 12-point type will look neat and ensure your recipients can easily read your messages.

Instant Messaging for Business Communication

Do: Make Your Exchanges Quick

Instant messaging (IM) is designed for short conversations with quick responses. Use other forms of business communication for longer exchanges. For instance, consider turning to email, phone, or in-person communications.

Don’t: Ignore Somebody’s Availability Status

Always look at a person’s availability before sending them an instant message. If it is set to “away,” “in a meeting,” or “busy,” be patient and wait until they are ready. Use another means of business communication to contact them in emergencies. And always set your own availability status, too.

Do: Create a Professional IM Handle

Your IM handle will be visible to colleagues and clients, so it needs to be professional, just as it would be for any other business communication. Simply use your full name and add a formal-looking profile photo.

Don’t: Go Overboard with Emojis

Though it depends on your company culture and who you’re talking to, it’s often acceptable to use emojis during IM conversations. Stick to basic, commonly used ones like the thumbs up, smiley face, or OK hand emojis. And don’t litter your messages with too many, as this is overly casual.

Do: Avoid Being Too Formal

Avoid using some of the formal phrases you may include in other forms of business communications, such as “to whom it may concern” or “kind regards.” With IM you can be a little more casual and phrase things as you would in everyday conversation.

Don’t: Use Too Many Acronyms

It’s common to use well-known online acronyms like “lol” or “btw” when instant messaging. However, avoid using lesser-known ones that may fail to get your message across properly and cause confusion.

Social Media and Business Communication

Do: Interact with Others

Posting engaging content is important, but you need to actually interact with your followers, too. This can mean answering a question and responding to feedback. Or, you might ask for recommendations and conduct polls and surveys. Even though you’re well aware that you’re conducting business with social media communications, make connections on social media just as you would in real life.

Don’t: Mix Business with Pleasure in Your Communications

You’re on social media to build your brand’s presence, so sharing personal content could jeopardize its image. This creates an inconsistent business profile, and your communications from this stance may perplex users and prompt them to unfollow.

Do: Give Credit Where Credit Is Due in Any Business Communication

One of the most important social media rules to follow is to always attribute a piece of content you share to its creator. If not, you look disrespectful and distrustful. On the other hand, giving credit can help you make connections with others, as they may be willing to share your content in return.


Don’t: Spam Your Followers

Constant posting, commenting, retweeting, and liking will quickly fill up your followers’ social media feeds. Plus, it has the potential to be irritating. According to social media expert Louise Myers, per day you should be posting:

  • Once on Facebook
  • Three to 15 times on Twitter
  • Three to 11 times on Pinterest
  • One to two times on Instagram
  • Once on LinkedIn

Do: Be Visual

People don’t tend to use social media to read long swathes of text. Moreover, research shows that images can encourage 3.8 times more engagement. Try and incorporate photos, videos, and GIFs wherever relevant.

Don’t: Abuse Hashtags

Hashtags are an invaluable social media tool. They help make your posts visible to people exploring that topic. That said, don’t add too many, as this could look spammy, and even desperate.

About the Author

Syna Smith is head of SEO at a top SEO agency, with 8 years of experience in the digital marketing field. She is a dynamic problem-solver and an expert in blog outreach.