In today's ever-evolving world of email, blackberries, iphones, twitter, ning, facebook, myspace, linkedin and a plethora of other social networking mediums, it's important to understand that although there is a lot of information readily available about people, there are still lines over which we must not cross when expanding our social networks.
I attended an all-day session of the Recruiting Roadshow that was held in Portland and sponsored by Adidas. One of the key ideas that was explored, explained, and expounded on was the idea of social networking: what it is, where it's grown from, how it will continue to morph, and some new technologies that are just around the corner in the evolutionary process. One thing that surprised me was the number of people who either didn't understand social networking, understood it but weren't interested in getting involved, or were so genuinely technologically clueless that they were completely unable to utilize social networking sites.
As with any new technology, there are risks in the social networking arena. The risk of putting yourself out there and being rejected, the risk of everybody knowing that you're a complete newbie and taking on a condescending tone, and last but certainly not least, the risk of trampling over the loose and largely unwritten rules surrounding social mediums and becoming the Creepy Creeperton Cyberstalker.
So here are a few pointers from Nancy The Recruiter to help you to avoid becoming The Creepster:
1) Set up a professional profile and use an appropriate photograph. Some may wonder if a photograph is necessary at all. True, some linkedin profiles do not have photographs and that seems to be acceptable. But a facebook or myspace profile that doesn't have a photograph is Creepy. The picture you use doesn't have to be a close-up, although a head-and-shoulders picture is best. If you're not comfortable with that, the picture could be a of a mountain you climbed or your favorite vacation destination. If you decide to include a full body shot, please be sure that you are fully clothed and that the picture doesn't involve alcohol or illegal substances. The purpose of the photograph is simply to show a little bit of your personality, to give a face to a name, and to make yourself approachable; you are one human reaching out another human.
2) Monitor all comments, wall-to-wall postings, etc., that are on your pages, and be sure to check out "tagged" photos of yourself that are posted on the profile pages of others. It is extremely irritating to be contacted by someone and, before approving their request, you check out their page only to find a a bunch of spamming comments OR an empty profile that tells you NOTHING about this person is or why they would want to connect with you. The profile was basically set up and parked; the contacter takes no pride in their page and makes no effort to keep it updated and spam-free. This makes you wonder who this person is, why they're contacting you, and basically causes them to lose credibility. Additionally, finding this type of page would be like handing a dirty crinkled-up business card to a business prospect, or sending someone an invitation to your party with coffee stains on it. Your profile does not have to be super-pimped, but it should have a clean lay-out, be easy to read, have just enough information for someone to get an idea of your personality, and be free from spam or rude/crude comments.
3) Once you have made an attempt to be "linked-in" with someone or have sent a request to become facebook or myspace friends, sit back and wait. Do not make repeated requests. If you are not approved, A) do not take this personally, B) do not send an email berating/bullying this person about their decision, and C) do not make repeated attempts to add this person to your networking circle.
4) I don't care who you are, what you look like, or how pithy you think you are, social networking invitations should be polite, brief, and respectful. This is not the time to try out your new pick-up lines or make an attempt at humor that will fall flat in the eyes of the reader.
Those are enough rules to get you going safely. We may not be face-to-face with the people in our network (or prospective networks), but the rules of common decency and courtesy still apply. When in doubt, DON'T DO IT, or say it, or invite again or POST IT. And avoid, at all costs, doing anything that would earn you the Creepy Creeperton CyberStalker title.