Social networking tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have made it possible for us to communicate and collaborate on a grand scale. But with the convenience, accessibility and transparency that they have brought about, there are also some new rules regarding networking etiquette or netiquetteto consider. I have documented our top ten dos and don’ts to help you navigate the world of social networking:
Don’t duplicate your efforts by making the same post in all the social networking tools you participate in. Take advantage of built in features that allow you to automatically post status updates or tweets in multiple platforms. Ping.fm is a free online service that you can use to maintain your social networks more effectively. Also consider taking advantage of RSS, blog-publishing applications, and open APIs that allow you to easily republish content from social networking sites, blogs and Web sites. For a list of possible resources, click here.
Don’t show up only to promote your products and/or services. Just as it is in poor taste to attend a networking event and go on and on about yourself without showing any interest in others – it is in poor taste to “hard sell” your products and/or services via social media. Find ways to offer valuable information or content that gives the people in your network a better idea of what it would be like to work with you. Focus first on building your credibility and creating relatedness.
Don’t overload your contacts with an exorbitant amount of posts or you risk the possibility of being removed as a contact or friend or being “ignored.” (In Facebook, you can choose to keep someone as a friend but “hide” their posts if you feel bombarded or if their posts are irrelevant or not beneficial. This is nice to know in case you find yourself with a “friend” that engages in “information overload.”)
Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss or your grandmother to read. More and more employers are researching candidates and employees on LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter and some of their findings are shocking. Don’t put yourself in a potentially compromising position by posting offensive or derogatory content that you may later regret. Similarly, potential business partners, referral sources and clients are using social networking sites to research individuals and conduct “informal reference checking.”
Don’t post without counting to ten. When you’re feeling particularly upset or angry about something, it may be tempting to share your frustration with your online friends. But you may end up regretting it! Remember that once you put something out there in cyberspace – it’s out there and it may be irretrievable.
Do consider reviewing selected contacts when you use the import contacts feature in LinkedIn or Facebook that allows you to export contacts from Outlook or other databases rather than simply inviting everyone you have ever e-mailed. You likely have people you don’t want to send invites to or have people in your database that wouldn’t appreciate the invitation, so be selective.
Do participate consistently. If you really want to reap the benefits of social networking, it is not enough to simply create a profile. Actively participate byseeking out new connections, updating your profile and status, and commenting on other’s posts at least weekly.
Do customize your security settings. Social media sites offer a wide range of security options depending on how much (or how little) you want to share with people. For example, on Facebook you can choose not to display your date of birth or to display only the day and month, which we recommend. You can click here to read more about Facebook privacy settings.
Do personalize your profile by posting a photo of yourself. You wouldn’t show up to a networking event with a paper bag over your head, would you? Social networking is about relationships and relatedness. It is also about keeping your image “top of mind” for the people in your network and it is harder to feel “related” to someone when all you see beside their posts is the generic default image, a picture of a flower or a photo of a scenic image.
Do send personalized connection invitations in favor of the default, generic invites. It is tempting to simply send a connection request without adding a personalized note because it is easier and faster. But, if you have any doubt that the person will recognize you, or if you are attempting to introduce yourself to someone you have never met – take the time to write a personalized invitation to connect. People are more likely to accept a connection or friend request if you have taken the time to introduce yourself and consider mentioning why you would like to be connected to them.
I hope that these tips give you a better idea of how to create a strong, credible and respectable online presence.
If you have a burning question about something that we didn’t cover here or you have a favorite social networking do or don’t, please post it and we’ll continue to explore how to leverage the power of social media while staying within propernetiquette!