It may seem tempting to make the entire world your “friend”, but social networks have their own rules of etiquette, says Samuel Greengard
I don’t profess to be the world’s foremost expert on social networking. Frankly, I’m not sure there really is an expert because it seems like we’re inventing the rules as we go along. Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t commit the following faux pas:
1. Treating all social networking sites the same. LinkedIn exists for business connections, Facebook for friends and colleague/friends, and Twitter for, well, everyone. In other words, please don’t send me a Facebook invite if you want to establish a professional connection. That’s what LinkedIn is for! I have enough noise and clutter in my digital life without viewing feeds highlighting total strangers.
2. Being a stalker. We have the word “hello” and handshakes in the physical world so that we can meet and greet. So why do total strangers constantly send invites on Facebook and LinkedIn without a note of introduction? If I already know you, fine. But at least half the friend requests I receive these days say nothing about the person attempting to friend me. Guess what? I’m probably going to decline if I don’t know anything about you. I mean, what’s the point?
3. Embracing your narcissistic inner child. Please don’t chatter about yourself incessantly and don’t award yourself too many virtual trophies. Yes, it’s okay to post occasional Facebook and LinkedIn status lines about what you’re doing. But make it useful at least some of the time! People generally don’t care that you have the sniffles or you’re staring at cumulus clouds. Also, send them a brief note on their birthday. They may remember you the next time there’s a job opportunity. Finally, if you’re on Twitter, retweet other’s posts and be their best promoter! You will be rewarded with major karma points!
4. Posting too freely and often. You’ve heard it a million times but it keeps on happening: people post the dumbest things and they believe that it won’t get back to their boss, co-workers, recruiters, a spouse, whatever. Bulletin: It will. Even if you’re not connected online to anyone at work, your friends might be friends with them and, depending on your privacy settings, your not-so-brilliant comments might show through.
5. Making your mantra “privacy is dead.” You’ve heard this piece of advice 10 million times yet many Facebook users continue to leave their entire profile and all their posts open to anyone and everyone. Hiring managers and HR directors know this. A lack of discretion can be especially painful if your personal life gets tangled with your work life – say you go out drinking with friends and the ensuing photos are less than flattering. You’re not going to post those photos, you say? Oh, well, what about co-workers who post theirs and tag you?
6. Thinking of your boss as your best friend. It’s fine to connect with your colleagues and perhaps even your boss. But tying the Facebook knot with someone a couple of ladder rungs up or a “big boss” could prove troublesome. You might feel as though you have a pair of eyes staring at you at all times. Actually, they might be staring at you.
7. Making the entire world your “friend.” Personally, I don’t get it when people have 5,000 friends on Facebook or more Twitter followers than small Asian countries. Frequently, more is less and it defeats the purpose of social networking to run up the numbers. You want a merit badge for Twitter Followers? Great. However, in order to get value from these services you have to connect to the right people and actually interact with them!
Samuel Greengard is author of the “AARP Crash Course in Finding the Work You Love: The Essential Guide to Reinventing Your Life” (Sterling, 2008). He writes for several publications in the US, and has appeared on numerous radio and television programmes, including shows on KABC radio in Los Angeles and Fox Television. For more information, visit his blog.