Mind your Facebook manners

Social-networking sites can be a career boon - if you don't annoy people in the process.

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By Dan Kadlec, Money Magazine contributing writer

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Dos and don'ts
Do ask pals to be fans of your latest project.
Don't ask them to be fans of you personally.
Do add a personal message to your friend requests.
Don't friend business contacts you've never met.
Do create a Facebook page for business.
Don't automatically import friends to that page.

(Money Magazine) -- When my new book was published in March, I replaced my profile photo on Facebook with a picture of the cover. It was cool, I thought. With each "status update" I posted, an image of the book popped up on my friends' screens. But now I wonder: Did that bit of self-promotion cross the line?

As I've watched my boomer friends get comfortable with the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (older users are the fastest-growing group on social-networking sites), I've also watched our generation clutter their accounts with self-hype.

In fact, boomers are more than twice as likely as younger people to use these sites for professional advancement. One Facebook friend even started a fan club for herself and invited me to join. I did, and now I gag every time I get yet another status update on her oh-so-fabulous career.

How can you ensure that you don't elicit a similar reaction? Just follow proper social-networking etiquette.

Know your place. Networking sites like LinkedIn and Plaxo are designed to help users advance their careers. So it's fine to post updates there about your latest business project, promotion, or blog entry -- your connections expect it, and will do the same.

Likewise, it's okay to indulge in modest self-hype in a Twitter feed ("I'll be giving a speech today at the Kiwanis club"); if people don't want your updates, they simply won't follow you. But on a mostly social site like Facebook, your friends should hear about only the big career stuff, not minor exploits. Otherwise you risk seeming self-absorbed or, worse, a braggart.

Edit yourself. Unless you're Brad Pitt or maybe Jon Gosselin, none of your business contacts care if you nicked yourself shaving this morning (to be honest, your friends probably don't care either). To avoid bothering work connections with a barrage of personal details, use privacy settings to limit their access to nonwork parts of your profile.

Share info, not hype. The updates that do your career the most good show off your expertise, not your accomplishments. If you're a financial analyst, for instance, offer some insight on the banking crisis and include links to information on how people can protect their assets, instead of touting your latest appearance on CNBC. One or two work-related updates a day should be the max for most sites (Twitter is an exception); in fact, one or two a week is probably plenty.

"Before you post, ask yourself if you'll be providing value," says Mitch Joel, author of Six Pixels of Separation. "If not, you're just being obnoxious."

Wait for an intro. No one likes a cold call. "I never accept a friend request from someone I don't know," says Kirsten Dixson, co-author of Career Distinction: "Stand Out by Building Your Brand." If you're eager to connect professionally with someone you've never met, try to find a contact in common. Then send the middleman a note explaining why you want to be introduced.

Do unto others. "These sites are real communities," says Tamar Weinberg, author of "The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web." "Help the people around you and you help yourself." So be generous with recommendations of colleagues and unstinting with advice when asked. Your contacts will usually be glad to return the favor.

Contributing columnist Dan Kadlec is co-author of "With Purpose: Going From Success to Significance in Work and Life" and "The Power Years," a guide for baby boomers. To top of page

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