Building Relationships: 10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Social Networking Sites

Complete your profile: You’d be surprised how many people never do this. Yet it’s the first thing people want to know about you. Most people check all the boxes (I’m a Virgo, in a relationship… done!) but don’t do much with the real “meat” of their profile, the About Me section. Put some thought into what you want people to know about you and why people should care.

Don’t follow the leader: It can be tempting to sit back and wait for people to contact you, for people to leave comments, for people to suggest installing some new application — rousing yourself only to respond to whatever prompts come your way. Take the initiative and add people, select a handful of apps you like and stick with them, and update on a semi-regular basis (or a regular basis; schedule 30 minutes a week to update your profile, if it’s an important part of your public image).

Accept everyone: There are two schools of thought on this: create an inner circle of close colleagues, comrades, or companions; or create a huge body of followers, fans, or ex-girl- and boyfriends. I fall into the second camp — anyone who has taken the effort to “friend” me gets added. Those are the people who are willing to invest their attention in what you’re doing, who have given you permission to “broadcast” your life to them. Welcome them.

Add everyone you know, no matter how little: Most services these days will scan your address book and tell you if there’s anyone you might already know onboard. Some will also recommend people a on people you already know, places you’ve worked, or interests you’ve highlighted. (LinkedIn is scarily good at this!) If you come across someone you actually know in “real life”, no matter how distantly, add them. That is, after all, the point of social networking — to leverage the often-invisible connections that exist between us and other people. The worst that can happen is that they say “no” — this has never happened to me.

Pick one or two networks and work them: It can be tempting to sign up for dozens of social networking sites, especially when different contacts turn up on different sites. But it’s nearly impossible to make use of a dozen different sites, unless you figure out how to make a career of it. Instead, pick one or two sites and focus all your energies on creating useful, meaningful connections there.

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