- Complete your profile...completely. This doesn't mean you have to sign up for Mafia Wars or Farmville on Facebook, but you should include the basics: name, e-mail, url(s), accomplishments, publications, professional experience, etc.
- Have a reason for actively friending or following people. Look for people you know in the real world first. If you want to expand your network, choose people to friend and/or follow with a purpose. Remember to build relationships, not numbers.
- Check out friend requests. On sites that require you to "accept" a "request" to be "connected" to someone else, do a quick check on why they might've made the request. Quick hint: If it's a hot guy or gal who wants you to send them an e-mail, you should decline the request. As with number two, you want to make meaningful connections, not just build numbers.
- Don't be a pest. This means you should not continuously blast your friends every five to ten minutes 24/7 with ways they can benefit you. In fact...
- Find ways to give more than you take. If you want your network to grow over time, then you need to find a way to offer value to your potential audience. By the way, plugging your book and/or writing like a used car salesperson does not bring value to your potential audience.
- Listen to others. As mentioned above, social media is most effective when you're building relationships. Relationships are formed through the sharing of information. This means you should absorb as much or more than you put out into the world.
- Don't post when you're overly emotional, especially if you're angry or depressed. That doesn't mean you should hide your emotions, but it does mean you should give yourself a little time to simmer down before posting--to protect yourself. Also, it's never a good idea to post when drunk.
- Don't try to game the system. There are good principles for building your social network, but it involves building relationships. Getting on Twitter and immediately following 2,000 Tweeps and hoping all 2,000 will follow you back is a strategy for failure.
- Be accountable. Some people get a little crazy online because of the perceived anonymity. But if you're a writer trying to build your social network, you don't have the option of being anonymous. In fact, that's exactly the opposite of what you're trying to do. So be an upstanding and accountable member of your social networks and respect the toes of others online. Really, it all comes down to this...
- Follow the golden rule. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated. In short, be nice.
Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer. Or connect with me on LinkedIn. Heck, find me on Facebook. And don't forget to sign up for my newsletter on the right-hand side of the page.
So now that you know how to behave online, use the following resources for the real world:
- Emily Post's Etiquette, 17th Edition, by Peggy Post
- The Little Book of Etiquette, by Dorothea Johnson
- Etiquette for Dummies, by Sue Fox
- 365 Manners Kids Should Know: Games, Activities, and Other Fun Ways to Help Children Learn Etiquette, by Sheryl Eberly