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Oh, Behave!

Social networking has its own social dynamics. Here's how to navigate them.

The burgeoning world of social networking has led to a new slew of socially awkward situations. Fortunately, Rachel Weingarten is on the case. The author of Career and Corporate Cool and president of marketing firm GTK Marketing Group writes a blog on business manners and is seeing demand for information about dealing with uncomfortable online situations. Here, she weighs in on how to keep your cool when sticky social networking situations crop up.

 

Sticky Situation: You get a friend or link request from someone you don't know or with whom you don't want to connect.

Keeping Your Cool: A competitor is languishing in Mark Ramsey's inbox. The 47-year-old founder of Mercury Radio Research, a San Diego radio industry market research firm, didn't want to open up his hefty contact list when a competitor invited him to connect on social networking site LinkedIn, but he didn't want to offend a player in a small-world industry. "So I let [the invitation] die by benign new media neglect," he jokes.

 

Weingarten recommends taking a more direct approach. "Many of the better sites have certain restrictions so that some contacts have a limited ability to view your other contacts," she says. Also, if you only use a specific site for a specific purpose, say so. For example, your Facebook page may only be used to connect with friends and family, while your LinkedIn page is only for staying in touch with clients.

 

Sticky Situation: A contact posts embarrassing information on your site or on his or her own site, making you embarrassed by association.

Keeping Your Cool: If your MySpace or Facebook page is getting inappropriate postings, send the offending contact a note explaining the concern. "You want to be very benign and to the point, without accusation," she says. Simply say that you have business contacts on the page and want to be sure the content is professional. If the contact still pushes the envelope of taste, it's time to lose the connection.

 

Sticky Situation: A contact asks you to post a permanent recommendation or to be referred to one of your business contacts--neither of which you'd ever consider.

Keeping Your Cool: According to Weingarten, having a prepared response can ease the tension. If you've never made such a recommendation, you can say that it's not something you do. If it's a new contact or you're in mentoring mode, she suggests you say it's something you'll consider once you get to know the person's business better or once your contact gains more experience.

Gwen Moran is co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans. Reach her at gwen@gwenmoran.com.

Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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This article was originally published in the April 2008 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Oh, Behave!.

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