Online Networking: How to Do it Well

BlogHer Original Post
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In the years since the major online networking sites were launched Twitter (2006), Facebook (2004), and LinkedIn (2003), online networking has made the shift from fad to integral part of the day for many people. It is now at the heart of so many things we do -- job hunting, promoting our businesses, creating personal connections, and keeping us informed on breaking news to product research. So, how do you "do" the online networking thing well?

First off, the proliferation of social networks has multiplied like bunny rabbits in a cage. Wikipedia has a list of the major active social networking sites (excluding dating sites) along with their launch date and some additional information. Personally I haven't heard of most of them, but like most things, if there is an active core community with a common focus, that's all you need to get started.

Whether you are brand new or a veteran of social networking, there is an art to doing it well, and it always pays to review the basics.

1) Get Clear on Your Goals
Why are you using a site? Is it to promote your business? Network professionally to move to a new career? Connect personally with family and friends? Your goals will dictate where you hang-out and what you post.

2) Follow the Proper Etiquette and Virtual Dress Code
Get a sense of what type of online gathering you are joining before you jump in with both feet. For instance, LinkedIn is more business-like, so you wouldn't want to show up any less than business casual in your presence as you might at the office. Facebook can run the gamut, but again, know what your goals are so you know how you want to present yourself. MySpace is a beast all its own, more popular with creative types, musicians, and personal pages. Remember, the Internet has a long-tail with search results, so don't do or say anything you don't want someone else to know about on your public profile and discussions.

3) Know Your Privacy Settings
Privacy settings on each of the social networks differs by default. Know what privacy settings are available to you and how to adjust them. For instance, by default Facebook likes to force you to opt-out of new features/open access rather than opt-in. You can get a sense of this in "A Guide to Facebook's New Privacy Settings", "How to Get a Handle on Your Privacy in Facebook's New World Order" and "Time to Audit Your Facebook Privacy Settings, Here's How". While LinkedIn is more straightforward because of its business focus, it still pays to understand "LinkedIn Privacy Settings: What You Need to Know". Twitter is essentially public unless you specifically make your updates private.

4) Dive in Slowly
Social networking is a distance run, not a sprint. Toe-dip for a while and see what other people do. You'll quickly discern who is doing it well and who is annoying. Fundamentally, it is about building relationships and sharing relevant information. So, think open-ended useful conversations, not someone running amuck with their business cards in the air yelling "buy this buy this." Be wary of the impulse to share too much information. From information that can hurt your personal reputation to the perils of announcing your whereabouts ("PleaseRobMe Hits Foursquare Users with a Dose of Reality"), be conscious about what you are doing. Remember -- it travels far and wide and lives a long shelf-life online.

5) Pace Yourself
Whether you are networking online for professional or personal reasons, it can be addictive. If you're not careful, you will find hours, days, and weeks slipping through your fingers with nothing to show for your time but a few funny YouTube videos and chit-chat. Like all things in today's connected world, you need to get a grip and find a balance or you'll find yourself tweeting from your iPhone and reading Facebook when you really need to be connecting with real people in real life.

Get started or refine your approach with these great tips:

General/Multiple Network Applicable

LinkedIn

Facebook

Twitter


Paula Gregorowicz, owner of The Paula G. Company, offers life and career coaching for women to help you figure out what you want to do with your life and career and cultivate the confidence to be the person you most want to be so you succeed on your own terms. Learn more about The Life Alchemy Success Formula™ and Get the free eCourse "5 Steps to Move from Fear to Freedom & Experience Greater Confidence" at her website.

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