Social Networking Online-How to Dodge Potholes | Reader Q & A


Social networking online is a lot like driving in Chicago in winter. This time of year it’s difficult to drive down the street without dropping into a pothole. You know, a dip that jars your car. After a few potholes, you start to dodge the drop off. This post covers five ways to fill the biggest potholes and navigate your social network smoothly.

Here’s where the question originated . . .


In preparing an online networking presentation for small business owners, I got a call from the meeting planner who asked me: “Can you talk about the icky stuff first? I know these questions will come up sometime in the presentation.”


As a former sales person, I know how important it is to overcome objections. And, I know that not every product or service is for everybody. If you’re one of the ones who sits on the sidelines and waits for people to invite you to join their social network – or you’re not participating at all, see if one of these possible potholes is holding you back. The two biggest concerns are privacy and time management.

1. PRIVACY Set social network privacy boundaries – shading the view 

How much do you want people to know about you? is not the question

This is: How much do people have to know about you before they make a decision to connect with you?

Meeting someone online is a first stopping point in what may or may not be a long-term relationship. The key here is to give people who want to follow enough information to make a decision to connect. It’s okay to turn off some people. Believe me, you don’t want to attract everybody.

Decide how much you want to reveal before you get started because once you put anything out online, it can be impossible to cancel it. For example, if you work from home, you don’t have to give your specific address or even the name of your village. I use Chicago because more people recognize this city than the name of my town. Will you post pictures of your family? Mention your hobbies?

2. TIME MANAGEMENT Manage your online social networking time as an investment in your business

Yes, social networking can be time consuming and distracting. But, most business owners aren’t used to spending much personal time on building their business. Typically, they’re more focused on delivering products or services. Traditionally, brochures, mailings and emails manage most of the marketing contact time. What do these strategies have in common?

To build your community online, think of treating your time as an investment in building your credibility and connecting in new ways. How do you find time to network online? Try checking email only once or twice a day and then schedule in 30 minutes to check in with your online networks. Start small and build up. The key here is frequent interaction, in small bites. It’s kind of like working out. You don’t run a marathon the first day you start training.

3. INVITATIONS Decide who you want to connect with

Be prepared for “invitations” that come from unlikely people on networks you aren’t on. Don’t join a network just because your friends are on it. Check out every person who invites you to connect before you accept. Have an invitation you don’t want to accept – like the one from your sister’s ex-husband? It’s up to you to decide. If you have 1500 connections, one isn’t likely to stand out. If you have 20, you want them all to be people you like.

4. PRIORITIES Strategize your system by identifying professional priorities

Why am I here? What do I want to get out of it?  Who do I want to talk to? Should I stay or should I go now? 

Join networks that you will participate in – check out the conversation first. Smaller networks within a larger site like LinkedIn offer more opportunity for connecting in a small group setting.

5. ETIQUETTE Be nice and act responsibly

You get what you give. If you’re nice, others will be, too. But, sometimes people are mean and nasty to those who are more successful than they are. And, your message might get misconstrued. Nuances drift into short messages. People read words the wrong way. Apologize and correct any misunderstandings immediately. Read your message out loud before you send it. And, if you don’t have anything nice to say . . . well you know  . . .

What do think?

What’s your biggest social networking pothole?


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