You may have inched your way into Facebook or Twitter as a way to follow your favorite comic book editor or to swap stories and photos with people you sort of knew in middle school. But the new wave of Web social networking can be valuable to your business life as well — just as long as you keep a few things in mind:
Keep your private life separate
This is the easiest thing to do and also the thing most people screw up. If you’re going to keep a professional Twitter and you already Tweet, go ahead and open up a second account. If people are looking for your thoughts on investments or retail but all they can find are your reviews of Celebrity Apprentice, it just frustrates users.
Quantity over quality
One of the biggest mistakes of early Twitterers make is letting content get stale. While you probably don’t need to be posting as much as blog experts say you do (which is anywhere from 12 to 40 posts a day), you should make a point to give something out at least once a day. Even if you don’t think it’s worth posting about, drop something out there anyway. It gives people incentive to tune in and follow what you’re doing. When readers are engaged, they are more likely to exchange information — which is part of the reason you are doing this in the first place.
Keep the conversation going
The whole reason to network is to actually start conversations with people, so make sure the people are engaged in what you are posting about. You have to be present — these services can’t do the work for you.
Stay off of LinkedIn
It’s got too many people with too little organization or practical use. It’s Thunderdome in there.
So tell us, cyber-world: how do you use social networks other than to make snide remarks about American Idol?