Facebook Etiquette: Five Dos and Don'ts

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3. Posting content, links, and news

facebook, social network
Thoughtful: Post content that highlights your personal interests and your professional areas of expertise. A marketing professional might post some interesting links for a relevant trade publication he or she wanted to share, for example. Posting personal picture slideshows is fine -- again, within reason. You clearly want to avoid the aforementioned pitfalls of displaying shots of wild revelry. But for all the agony about what's acceptable and what's not, remember that offering contacts a decent glimpse into what makes you you can have business benefits. "It strengthens relationships," Dixson says. "It really helps establish connections. People like to do business with people they know."

Thoughtless: Spamming people is a big no-no, as it can irrevocably ruin your social capital. It's great to be so passionate about things in both your professional life and personal life that you feel compelled to share it with people who are important to you, but remember that people can only take so much time out of their day. Also, don't assume they care about every little thing in your personal life. People know you're proud of your kids, for example, and that speaks to your commitment as a parent. Yet you need to know when to draw the line somewhere in how much they want to hear.

Definitely keep your romantic break-ups and get-togethers in private forums, like e-mails, IMs and (who still uses it anymore?) the phone.

Oh, and this one should be self-explanatory: don't go flapping your gums about your company's affairs.

4. Talking to One vs. Many

Thoughtful: Posing a question to your entire network is OK, provided it's relevant to all of them, or at least won't be viewed as a nuisance. For instance, you might ask, "Getting a new phone. iPhone or BlackBerry?" Such a question will be relevant to a lot of folks who have gone through the same issue. The key is, if you're on the receiving end and want to weigh in on such an issue, be sure to respond to that person only - unless it's been made clear that he or she wants your comments public. This way, you avoid spamming people.

Thoughtless: Know that self-satisfied guy who unrelentingly decides to hit reply-all to every group e-mail that's sent in your company? You don't want to be that guy on social networks. On Facebook, one of the most utilized features is the Wall. It's a fun place to leave publicly displayed messages and a bit of witty banter. However, making specific plans with a person on the Wall, for example, is rude to that person's other profile visitors. Too many times, you see "let's get a drink at 5 today" posted to someone's Wall. Unless you want to include all of that person's friends in on the social engagement, there's no reason not to pose that question in the private messaging section of Facebook (or any social network for that matter; Twitter, for instance, has the direct message function).

5. Watching Your Tone

Thoughtful: It's important to keep a polite and measured tone on social networks; after all, the mainstream ones like Facebook are an extension of our lives in real life (that's not necessarily the case in virtual worlds, but that's a whole other topic). Say things you'd feel comfortable saying in person, and avoid inside jokes that only a few of your contacts would understand.

Thoughtless: With a social network that is fairly open, nobody is really going to be impressed when you post inside jokes that they don't understand; in fact, you run the risk of insulting people if they think you're making some veiled or coded comment about them. Remember, within most social networks, you can set up private groups where those kinds of exchanges will not only be more appropriate, but also encouraged. "It's better to be clear than clever," Dixson says. "Don't expect people to get it. Be very explicit."

Finally, sarcastic humor and anger can be dangerous in social network postings, just as they are in e-mail messages. Think twice before sharing. (For more e-mail etiquette tips, see Ten Things You Should Never Put in E-Mail.)

This story, "Facebook Etiquette: Five Dos and Don'ts" was originally published by CIO.

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