USING FACEBOOK ETIQUETTE
Balancing your work and personal life on social networking tools such as Facebook has become more complex than ever - and the dangers go beyond the well-publicized examples of posting party pictures to your profile.
1. Choosing your profile picture
Thoughtful: Some people militantly believe that Facebook is all personal while LinkedIn is all professional. If this sounds like you, you might choose a Facebook pic of yourself fishing, hanging out at a party or playing a guitar. You're better off to err on the side of caution here, by keeping your profile picture professional, or at least neutral. Your photo doesn't need to be in a studio with a boring canvas backdrop - it could be outside on your deck or on a mountain side, for instance - but it has to be fairly even-keeled. (This is different than LinkedIn, where photos should be strictly professional.
Thoughtless: According to Dixson, don't post profile pictures that are "too sexy, cartoonish or that might alienate your audience." A look through your friend list can usually reveal the ones she's talking about. The stylized glamour shot, the quick snapshot of slicked up hair or low-cut dresses taken right before heading to a party, or worse, costume-like pics: wet suits and surfboards, bike gear, Halloween outfits -the list goes on.
2. Filling Out Your Biography
Thoughtful: The biographical section of social networks vary. On Facebook, the service provides fields for a variety of interests, both professional and personal. Don't be afraid to post some nuggets that convey who you are, within reason. On Facebook, you can decide with great granularity what information people can view by altering your privacy settings. For instance, you can set it so every visitor to your profile sees that you enjoy golfing, reading and civil war history, but maybe only a certain group of people see your religion, political affiliations and relationships. For Facebook's "About me" section, building on the Twitter doctrine, you need to be short and concise. Don't worry about being clever.
Thoughtless: While there aren't many numbers to back this assertion (because Facebook is a private company, and data can be hard to come by), most social networking and identity experts believe a great many Facebook users never so much as glance at their privacy settings pages. The same probably holds true for other social networks. Remember that social networks plan to monetize their service by ensuring that you share as much information as possible. As such, you should believe that they'll share as much information about you as they can, and make it available to the widest audience.
The default settings for Facebook, for example, make all your profile information available for everyone on the service to see. "Assume from the get go that anything you put in there is viewable on the public internet," Dixson says. "Go in with that line of thinking. Then go in and say, if you don't want to make certain information available to certain people, go turn them off with the privacy settings."
With the information you do share, avoid being vain. Social networks do enable, if not encourage, a bit of narcissism. But don't assume people want to read a novel about your life. Also, be protective of your family. It's fine to list yourself as "married" in the info section, for instance, but don't necessarily feel that you have to put down a link to your significant other. If you have young children, for their protection and privacy, Dixson recommends you don't include their names anywhere in the bio or in pictures of them that you decide to share.
Oh, and a word about age. While you may want to include your birthday on your Facebook profile, so people can message you on the big day, you should exclude the birth year. Your friends and family know how old you are, and there's no reason for your professional ones to know.
3. Posting content, links, and news
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 somuch time out of their day. Also, don't assume they care about every littlething 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 alot 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 noreason 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
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.