While online social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are useful in terms of helping you make connections, developing a great "brand" identity and maintaining a good online reputation is of critical importance. This article will provide five strategies for online social networking that will help you build your reputation and leverage your contacts.
Five Strategies for Using Online Networking
1. Be selective
It's not who you know, it is "who knows you back." Connect only with friends and colleagues who will speak favorably of you, and who you will recommend to others.
2. Be a good friend
One of the best ways to create loyalty, brand identity and a good online reputation is to share non-proprietary information that is of potential interest to your contacts. You can greatly increase the value of your network by sharing what you know. A great way to learn of potential topics of interest to your friends is to create Google News Alerts or feeds that will send you automatic alerts with current information that you can then share.
3. Be polite and cautious
If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it all. Remember that adding comments to blogs and uploading pictures can leave a permanent trail and written record. Posting information online is like sending a postcard -- anyone can see it, and it could get in the hand of the wrong person.
4. Be vigilant
Many employers search the web prior to making interview invitations or employment offers. Be careful how you share personal information. For example, never tweet (see sidebar, To Twitter or Not to Twitter) about a job offer until you've accepted or about a resignation. Negative comments can spread like a nasty pandemic. A general rule of thumb: if your mom would be embarrassed, publish under a pseudonym if you must. Set up a Google News Alert to monitor information about you that is available on the web -- and request removal of negative comments or inaccurate information.
5. Be transparent
Share information about your career, your interests, and what's important to you. Update your info regularly with care. The more your contacts know of your interests, the more they can be of help to you.
A Few Words About Twitter
The impact of Twitter has been the subject of considerable discussion. Twitter, of course, is the social networking tool in which users answer the perennial question -- "What are you doing right now?" -- in 140 characters or fewer. Given that Twitter can be updated by phone, instant message or Facebook, the application has been used for many purposes including emergency news alerts (such as media notification of recent natural disasters), as a means of immediate shared feedback during live presentations, and for "as it happens" reviews of performance.
Mark Pesce predicted that Twitter would improve the behavior of supervisors because employees can instantly relay bad-boss experiences to others outside the office.
A limited survey of Linkedin users yielded another take on Pesce's prediction. Amanda Conger, a mechanical engineer at Inergi in Huntsville, AL, noted that "Using Twitter to 'tattle' on bad bosses strikes me as an incredibly bad idea. Due to the 140 character limit, nothing of much substance can be said on Twitter, so comments would necessarily be limited to 'The boss is yelling again' or things of that nature."
Fellow Aussie Robert Godden, operations manager at Morton Phillips, provided another perspective: "The real answer is to quit and find a boss who creates an environment where the tweets are positive."Regardless of how easy it may be to tweet and tell, it's never a good idea to badmouth one's colleagues. Given social networking tools and the ease of forwarding messages -- e-mail and Twitter messages are as private as postcards. Use with care and assume that your thoughts are public knowledge.