There’s lots of conflicting advice about how to build a network and thrive on social media.
But here’s one rule which is pretty much universally accepted.
You might be playing in the new online world, but you play by the rules of decent behaviour in the old world.
A few examples:
This one, I call the dinner party rule.
You don’t impress people on social media by just talking about yourself. You do much better by asking about others, and showing interest in them.
It’s not just about you posting, posting, posting, going on and on, the way that gets other guests exchanging pained glances and rolling their eyes.
It’s about commenting constructively and positively on other people’s posts, not to mention sharing them.
And it’s also about knowing when to shut up and listen to others.
Sherlock Holmes used to tell Watson that he was the ideal companion because he understood the gift of silence.
So it goes on social media. Yes, by all means, make witty, incisive, insightful and amusing contributions.
But know when to let up, and appreciate others when they’re doing the same. Just like you would at a dinner party.
It doesn’t make you any less of a person; it makes you far more.
The second dinner party point is the way you interact with people.
There’s something about the online world which makes some think the rules of normal, civilised behaviour are somehow suspended. And it’s okay to make personal attacks, be rude or offensive.
Surprise surprise, this isn’t the case. Far from it, in fact.
If you want to build your network (meaning build a network which is actually worth having, rather than a group of people you would far rather not be associated with) then be kind, decent, positive and warm.
Just like in the real world. Surprise surprise, you get on a whole lot better that way.
The result is you get introduced to other interesting and uplifting people, who might just be able to help you on your way.
The third point to keep in mind is that first impression matters.
Lastly (ironically), don’t forget that the way you introduce yourself to others is as important on social media as it is in the real world.
You wouldn’t say hello by bragging on endlessly, being crass or unpleasant, or not saying anything much at all.
But you might well give a little summary of who you are, and what you do, and end your introduction with a smile.
So it goes with your bio.
Think carefully about how you describe yourself on whatever social media platforms you choose, because it’s likely to be the first impression you make.
And that goes for your profile photo, as well.
I’m not saying you have to be perfectly attired in the most stiff and starchy of formal dress. But if you’re going to use social media for business, even subtly, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to look at least a little businesslike
Overall then – yes, social media is a whole new world to play in. And it can be confusing, and, frankly, rather scary sometimes.
But work by the rules of the world you know well, that strange but generally pleasant place called the real world, and you won’t go far wrong.
Simon Hall is a writer and journalist, with 25 years’ experience of covering some of the biggest stories Britain has seen. Most of his career has been spent as a BBC News Correspondent, working for television, radio and online.
As well as being a journalist, Simon is an author, teacher and public speaker. His novels – the tvdetective series – are about a television reporter who covers crimes and gets so involved in the cases he helps the police to solve them. Seven have been published.
Simon lectures on careers in the media at a range of universities, as well as giving talks about the industry at schools and colleges across Britain under the auspices of the Speakers for Schools charity.