Digital culture is a strange animal for some organizations. In fact, it seems the organizations that struggle most with social networking are hamstrung by digital engagement and relationship building. They fail to realize social etiquette hasn’t changed, just the places where its practiced.

That’s why it’s particularly surprising an organization which claims to understand digital culture and social media so well as to present on the fascinating things they’re doing to engage the public would make a grievous mistake for which they don’t apologize.

The presenters itemized some of the ways in which they used videos, video booths, social media news releases and social networks to promote various events and activate the public to produce content for those events. They also admitted to having bigger hopes than they were able to realize including attempts to create “viral videos”.

Then they related the story of wanting to claim a Twitter handle that was identical to a Canadian trademark they own. The account was held by another individual, perhaps in the United States. This organization worked with Twitter to take over the account. It took a week.

I asked if they had approached the account holder first. Wait for it. They didn’t.

Rather than contact the account holder to ask if the two parties could come to an amiable arrangement to transfer control of the account, this organization strong-armed the account holder by exerting their authority as Canadian trademark holders and went directly to Twitter. They gave no indication the previous account holder was doing anything nefarious in general or against their brand. Simply put, the name they wanted and had legal claim to in Canada was in use by someone else on Twitter.

The woman sitting next to me was equally stunned and told me a similar story with a different twist. The organization she works for wanted to open a LinkedIn group. It turns out the name they wanted was already in use. She sent the group owner a note asking if the owner would consider coming to an arrangement to transfer control of the group. Not only did the existing owner agree, she did so without compensation.

How you present yourself and conduct your business says a lot about your values and culture — this is true of individuals and organizations, both online and off. The organization I referred to earlier in this post likely made no friends among the Twitter account holder and his/her/its network and they knocked the air out of the conference room when they shared their approach. More significantly, their story seems to suggest that rather than building positive relationships, online success comes from blindly strong-arming the community.

Be a good “netizen.” Be collaborative, cooperative and operate with digital grace. Play with good karma. It could help you when you most need it.