Social networking is a fun way to make new friends and interact with others online. But your online social life requires management and, as in the real world, the rules of social etiquette and privacy apply when dealing with other people. Here are our top tips for getting it right:
Tip 1 Make use of privacy options. Think about who you want to view your profile. Make good use of the privacy and security settings of whichever social networking site you use. As the social network may change these settings without warning, review them every once in a while to keep them up to date.
Tip 2 Keep personal life and professional life separate. Use a business-focused networking site such as LinkedIn for co-workers, and keep a Facebook account for your family and friends. If you’ve only one account, give different access settings to colleagues and family members.
Tip 3 Be careful what you post. Avoid posting personal details on your social networking site – anything from phone numbers and your home address to your date of birth. Be careful when writing about upcoming holidays or times when your property might be vacant.
Tip 4 Think before you post or tweet. Social networks encourage a fast response to news, events, comments and other posts but remember that you’re dealing with a public space. Make sure that all your comments and photos are those you’d be happy for anyone to see – and that once posted, you can’t take them back. Also, be aware that you’re not anonymous online – your account can be traced directly to your computer via your ISP.
Tip 5 Consider others. Don’t bombard people with friend requests without a personal message or repeatedly invite disinterested friends to play online games and quizzes or try new software applications.
Tip 6 Don’t rush to befriend everyone. Accumulating a huge number of friends is very common on social networking sites – mainly because it is so easy to make new connections even with complete strangers. However, a good rule of thumb is that you should invite only people that you know or have some kind of link to, even if they’re a friend of a friend of a friend.
Tip 7 Say no to a friend request. Just because someone sends you an invitation to become their friend on a social networking site, you don’t have to automatically accept. You have the right to reject their invitation – especially if you don’t really know the person. In real life it might seem rude, but when online you can either reply with a ‘No, thank you’ or not reply at all.
Tip 8 Cross-generation friendships. If you accept friends from several generations, such as your children and grandchildren, be aware of the type of content you and your adult friends share online. This may include images, videos, conversations, jokes and games. Consider if it is suitable for younger friends to see.
Tip 9 Keep it clean Don’t have embarrassing party photos, offensive jokes and comments, and bad language on your social networking page – whether it is put there by yourself or by your friends. Many employers now check social networking sites to pre-screen candidates for jobs, so avoid anything that may harm your reputation or that of your friends.
Tip 10 Don’t share private conversations. If you want to have a private conversation with another member of your social networking site, check your settings before posting. That way you’ll avoid posting the entire message on your Facebook wall or sharing it with Twitter’s global audience.
Tip 11 Be careful what you sign up for. Applications such as quizzes, polls and games can make your social networking experience more fun, but often by signing up to these you’re giving the people who developed them permission to access the personal information contained in your profile. Check the privacy settings of your social networking website for help to avoid this.
Tip 12 Remember that you’re dealing with real people. Although you’re interacting with others online, be sure to treat them in the way you would if you met them in person. That way, your social networking experience will be more enjoyable.