A Preoccupation with Manners

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

I’ve got a new post up on the HubSpot Inbound Marketing Blog titled “What Did Jane Austen Know About Social Media?” and I’ve been thinking ever since it went up about the role of manners, and first impressions, both online and off, and how they affect our perceptions of people and brands.

One of the most common admonitions I make to newcomers to the social media space is to Listen First; don’t go barging in to a new account on Twitter or Facebook or even a blog without first spending some serious time listening to the people who are already there, observing their peculiar customs, and internalizing some of their mannerisms.

Did you ever study abroad?

The obvious metaphor is that of visiting a foreign country, especially one in which you are planning to stay for many months, building friendships and establishing ties that will last.

But I believe we do the very same thing — or should — when we start a new job, or enroll at a new school. Hang back a little bit, see who’s who, what’s what, learn something about groups and group behavior in our new setting, where the lines of power truly lie, and who lies inside or outside of those magic circles.

Of course, what you DO with this intelligence is also a mark of character. Do you immediately seek to ally yourself with the popular, the pretty, and the powerful? Or do you seek to build ties among the marginalized, seek out true allies in many, smaller groups of friends with little political sway, and begin to learn how your talents, your skills, can help them?

In short, do you behave as if you’re in it for you, or you’re in it for them?

If you’re a business, or (especially) an individual entering the online world and trying to establish your presence, your brand, your reputation, and you pursue the first option, seeking out only the powerful and popular, then you run the risk of establishing your name as one who is only in this for themselves.

A fortune hunter, as it were.

But if, instead, you pursue the second option, and seek out the marginalized, the confused, the softer voices among the din, with whom you might share a passion and a goal, and try to help them, to bring them along with you as you rise, well, then you might just establish a reputation as one who is in it for others.

If you’re a business, wouldn’t you prefer to be seen as being in it for your customers and for the larger community?

This is part of what I was getting at in my HubSpot post. Focus on other people, be courteous, be helpful, be kind.

Tuck those elbows in, for a change, and stick out your hands instead, and see what happens.

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