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How Social Networking is Like a Dinner Party

It's a little bit ironic that a lot of people who use "social" media extensively find themselves sorely lacking in social skills. Believe it or not, there is a certain decorum to the way things are done on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and the further you stray from it, the more your manners are going to affect your ability to market yourself and your company.

Think of social media sites as a big dinner party; it's okay to talk business and network a bit, but being rude and overbearing is only going to scare people away. Here are three quick tips to help you stay polite and profitable:

It's ok to put your business out there. People, even those you don't know personally, will sometimes be interested in your company, what you do for a living. Feel free to answer questions enthusiastically, but don't make every profile or post into a virtual advertisement; you'll only push interested prospects away.

Don't dominate every conversation. Just as in real life, if no one else can get a word in edgewise, or express an opinion that's contrary to yours, you aren't exactly going to attract new friends. Be engaged but not bullying – you want to leave people with the impression that you’re a helpful professional, not someone in full-time marketing mode.

Participate in conversations started by others. Whether it's online discussions, forums, or even just short posts on their wall, try to get involved beyond your own content once in a while. Not only does that make everything a lot more fun, but it shows that you’re online for reasons other than making a quick buck.

There are a lot of great potential customers for you to meet through social media. Just be sure to follow the rules and stay in their good graces the same way you would if they were actually sitting across from you.

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