Nancy White commented on my Parenting in the Online World post that she wanted to know more about what to do and not do on sites like Facebook. I had mentioned that parents should not comment publicly on their kids’ wall posts and that is a key tip, but let me lay out a little more detail. Let’s start with some more on Facebook.
First, the wall. The wall is generally public, though people can control who sees it. But it’s best to simply assume that everyone can see it. Think of it as being in a coffee shop. Would you criticize something your kid said or did loud enough for the whole shop to hear? I hope the answer is no, though I have unfortunately witnessed such incidents. So that’s one thing.
Also, don’t mention personal things like bathing habits, underwear size, girlfriends or boyfriends, parties, etc. The bathing and personal habits might be obvious. But you aren’t always privvy to the social life of your teen and you never know if you say “hey, are you going to john’s house?” on her wall that you might have created a bad social situation for your teen. The same is true for your own postings. It’s not friendly to say, going out to dinner with Susie and Sarah, knowing that you’re intentionally leaving out Martha. Just be careful when posting about social engagements. You might hurt someone’s feelings.
Be careful about publishing religious and political opinions. I have my views posted in my profile, but I rarely post anything on Facebook about those opinions. Facebook generally attracts a wider variety of people with a wider variety of opinions. If you’re cultivating a network for professional reasons, you might lose people by posting staunch opinions about something. I defriended someone who posted some really mean things after the health care bill passed. Saying which side one is on is probably not a huge deal, but spouting off personal attacks can make you look unprofessional.
Don’t post messages to the wall that would be more appropriate in an email or personal message. Many of these may fall into the categories above. Before posting, consider whether you want the whole world reading what you’ve written.
This should be obvious, but don’t post about your drunken or sexual escapades. Grownups may not need this, but teens and college students might.
For a humorous take on Facebook faux pas’s, check out Failbook.
Ok, now for some more positive things.
It’s quite alright to post some personal things, noting what you’re doing, what music you’re listening to, etc. Just consider how others might view it. Keep it simple and you’re usually going to be okay.
Do post links that are interesting to you, especially ones related to your work. I actually have Twitter and Facebook connected, so that what I post to Twitter makes it to Facebook. Since much of what I post to Twitter are links to articles, that ends up in Facebook. Think of it as providing a service, especially if many of your friends are in your field. You’re filtering for them, providing them the things that you think are important.
Post links to your blog posts if that’s an important part of your professional life. Again, I installed a plugin that automatically sends my posts to Twitter, which then sends it to Facebook.
Make connections to people. I have to admit that this is problematic in Facebook. It’s easy enough to connect with high school, college, even graduate school friends, but reaching out to random people is more difficult. It’s much easier to do in Twitter or LinkedIn. But, you might connect with them in another venue first and then find them on Facebook. And they may not friend you. Maybe Facebook for them is a purely personal venue and they leave their professional lives on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Likewise, tap into your connections when you need to. Are you looking for a job? See which of your friends are in your field or in your area and send them a note (do not post on their wall!) that you’re looking and ask if they know of anything. Obviously, this can be done in other venues, like LinkedIn and Twitter.
Also, try your best to maintain those connections even if you don’t need them now. Make comments on people’s posts, respond to questions via Twitter or Facebook that you know something about. You never know when you might need a connection or when they might need you. It’s best, too, to do this naturally. Don’t go too much out of your way or you might look desperate. Instead, just keep an eye on your feed and comment when you have time and the mood strikes. But make time to do it and it will pay off.
Keep your profile professional. Have a good picture. List contact information and websites. List employment and education. In a way, this is like a shortened resume.
Consider starting a group or a page. This can raise your profile. You can create a page for your business or non-profit or you can join groups related to your field. Again, be careful about what you join. These may show up on your wall or profile and you probably don’t want people to know that you’ve joined the neo-Nazi group or a sex group. 🙂
Okay, on to some other sites. Many of the same rules apply, but keep in mind that each site has its own vibe. Tread carefully until you get the feel for it.
LinkedIn. This is a purely professional site. Keep your information up to date. It serves as a resume.
Link your presentations (if you do this kind of thing) using SlideShare.
Search for jobs on the site if you’re looking.
Connect with people. Since this is what the site is for, if you see someone whom you think could advance your career and that person is connected to a friend, get introduced and connected. It’s like getting introduced at a conference or cocktail party, just virtually. On the homepage, you’ll often see a list of “people you may know.” Take advantage of this and add them to your network.
Get recommendations. Ask former employers, co-workers, students, etc. to write recommendations for you. These appear on your profile and can be a real added bonus.
Connect your blogs, Twitter feed, etc. LinkedIn allows you to show your other sites on your profile. If, like me, you use these for professional purposes, by all means, include them.
There’s also a question feature that may be useful to you. People post questions about things in their field. Answering these well can get you a “best answer” star, which will show your expertise in a particular area.
Twitter is just status updates, but you can make those updates count and you can learn a lot from other people’s updates.
Pick people to follow. Search on Twitter’s site for people in your field or check out the people someone you know and respect follows and follow them. If you pick well, you can end up with great information as people post news and articles that can keep you up to date in your field.
Post questions that you need answers to. Poll the twitterverse. This can be a great way to connect to people as well as get information.
Like Facebook, be wary of the personal update. Everyone posts some, “OMG, I ‘m busy!” or “I’m headed to the ballgame” posts, but if you’re using Twitter professionally, keep these minimal.
Retweet things that are interesting. Twitter allows you to retweet someone else’s post, giving them credit. This can get you a new connection.
As mentioned above, post your own blog posts. Be careful about this if you’re a prolific blogger as people can get annoyed if all you’re posting is your own stuff.
One final word of advice about any of these sites. Turn them off when you need to focus. When I’m writing, I turn off Twhirl and close Facebook and other web pages that might be distracting. These sites can be a time suck, so be aware of how much time you’re spending. While it can be productive, it can easily take you away from what’s important. Constantly re-evaluate.
I’m sure others have advice or other sites to include. Let me know in the comments!