Social networking is all about creating relationships. By connecting with people online, you are entering into relationships. This begins with the first contact and the first reply. Some of these relationships might be more fruitful or productive than others, but most have the potential to have some degree of productivity. Your success with online connections depends on how well these relationships are managed.

Managing your online connections means understanding the way they work. There are similarities between online connections and what we might refer to as ‘real world’ connections. Like the ‘real world’, the online world has its hazards; in the same way that you are careful about who you associate with at work, or in your neighborhood, you ought to be careful about who you associate with online.

You don’t need to share all the same interests with another person in order to establish a productive online connection. As long as the context in which you are associating limits or shapes your contact in an appropriate way, then you should allow yourself a generous amount of freedom to initiate, or respond to, potential online connections. For example, if you are a businessperson who is involved in a specific industry, you might want to make connections with another person involved in that industry, even though the two of you have little else in common. The proper social networking platform will allow this connection to take place.

This is one of the reasons social networking platforms are popular. They offer a structured meeting place for people who might not otherwise meet. In the ‘real world’, you are sometimes prevented by distance, or by superficial differences, from connecting with people with whom you have something fundamental in common. As long as the platform in question safeguards each user’s privacy, and allows users to determine the degree to which connections can interact with them, the platform is trustworthy.

This does not mean you should approach all social networking sites equally, or that you should trust everyone who contacts you via a platform. Anyone would be wise to develop conservative or reticent habits in their online interactions. Correspond slowly, and carefully, with your online connections, making sure that their intentions are what they appear to be. Once you have established a rapport with a connection, and vice versa, you might find that you have discovered a valuable resource.

Also, remember that most social networking platforms allow users to add or delete connections; if you want to change the status of one of your connections, you can do so quite easily. A person with a reliable online presence will not pretend to be someone he or she is not. If you feel as though one of your connections is presenting him or her self in a manner that is inconsistent, or untrustworthy, you should not hesitate to cease contact with that person. Always interact in a professional manner when dealing with colleagues.

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