11 Rules of Social Media

Posted on December 11, 2009. Filed under: Professional | Tags: , , |

One of my brothers lives on the other side of the county, in Vermont. I recently coaxed my brother onto Facebook (FB) so it would be easier for us to keep with each other’s lives. When I signed him up, I also suggested people he might know — mostly family. Within a day, he sent an email with a question about FB etiquette. My response is below and makes a pretty good guide if I say so myself… and I do! By the way, this came to an even 10 rules by coincidence, not because I was looking for a round number.

Your Facebook Goals

After signing up at a social media site, you will soon receive friend requests from old school buddies, former work mates, etc. FB has some tools to enable building your network and people will start finding you. It is a good idea to have a general idea of why you are in FB. That is, what are your goals?

  1. Start small and slowly. Social media has a tendency to snow ball. Slow at first and then it picks up speed. The tendency is to build big at first because it seems nothing is happening… then all of a sudden an avalanche comes rolling down the hill as the exponential growth curve kicks in.
  2. Separate work and pleasure. If you get into using social networking as a tool for work, keep that account separate from the one you use for sharing family photos and stories about your children’s health. I have a LinkedIn account I use purely for work and job search activities. I use FB for personal and fun stuff. A Rule of Thumb… once you put it on the web, it will always be there and anyone can find it. We’ve all heard the stories of drunken and nude photos…
  3. Be suspicious of everyone you add. You’ll also get spammers trying to use your address book to spread their evil. Your only line of defense is to “not add” them to your friends list. Especially with Twitter and to a lesser degree with FB, I get solicitations of a questionable nature. (My “status” is single. Not only does that mean I automatically get ads targeted for dating, I also get spammers who want to sell sex.
  4. It’s okay to ask, “How do I know you.” I didn’t know the request from Tuna was really a highschool buddy named Bill until I asked him how I knew him. If he’s legitimate, he’ll understand and respond back with his identity. If not, generally they don’t respond and you can “ignore” the request.
  5. Personal and professional protocols are different. If I get a “request to add” on LinkedIn I am very likely to accept even if I don’t know the person extremely well — it’s the modern version of exchanging business cards. On FB, it’s different… if I don’t know them I “ignore” them. For example, I would treat a friend request from an ex-wife differently in FB than in LinkedIn.
  6. Learn about the privacy features early. This past week FB enhanced security on their network. So you can decide which parts of your profile are visible. I keep most things protected except to my network. I have some information available to “friends of friends” and nothing available to anyone other than the mandatory profile photo and name.
  7. Put a photo on your profile. I get annoyed when a friend has no photo on their profile. Digital photos are so easy to come by these days and they say a lot about someone. What goes through my mind when I see a profile without a photo is, “Are they lazy or embarrassed about how they look?”
  8. Don’t let things get stale. Nobody likes when your retain an old profile picture, or fail to update your status periodically or share news and photos. This is another reason to start slow. After a while if you are enjoying the activity and want to put more energy into it, expand. Otherwise, resist the urge to sign up for everything that comes your way.
  9. Avoid FB applications like the plague! Apps are things like Farmville, Mafia Wars, and various holiday specials. They want access to your address book and they are very difficult to remove once you add them to your profile.
  10. Start simple and explore. There are many, many features to FB and it can be overwhelming. Start by updating your status periodically and responding to friend’s status updates. Eventually, you’ll post pictures or links, you might start sending person-to-person or wall-to-wall messages, using IM, etc. If you add features slowly, you’ll be a power user in no time and will be amazed at how easy it all is.
  11. Budget your time. Social media can be a time sponge and you can spend hours each day. Set limits and watch the clock. The cool thing about FB is you can drift in when you have time and drift out when things are busy. There is little expectation that you will “always be on.”
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