Social media has been instrumental in changing how we do everything from business to personal relationships. Heck, it’s even changed how we’re meeting our spouses. By far, one of the biggest changes social media has brought about, however, is how we network.

Think about your first days or weeks using a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter. Maybe even MySpace. What was the allure for you? For me, it was a way to be in touch with a lot of my friends and family members in one place, especially as both MySpace and Facebook were taking off just as I was graduating from college. I’ve always placed great value in maintaining my relationships despite distances, and this seemed like the perfect way for me to do that.

I’m sure many of you can relate.

What occurred to me much, much later, however – and well after social media as I knew it in 2005 really began to evolve into something far greater – was that these tools could be used to network.

Sure, I’d dutifully joined LinkedIn back in 2006, but I hadn’t done anything with it. For the entirety of my post-collegiate teaching career (four years), that profile sat dormant. In 2009, I found myself at a crossroads. My temporary teaching gig had ended and I was having a lot of trouble finding something for the fall.

As time wore on, I applied to a host of jobs with no real idea of what I wanted to do with myself anymore. Eventually I realized that even if I didn’t know what it was, I knew what it wasn’t: teaching. Don’t get me wrong – I loved teaching, but I wanted something else. I started writing again, as well as spending a lot of time learning different social media tools.

That’s when I realized how powerful social media tools had become in those few years. And in that, I include blogging, because that was my own personal breakthrough.

I’d been blogging in some form or another since 2001, and with all of my free time, I was doing an awful lot of it. I became really involved with Business 2 Community – a fabulous community of bloggers – and began to connect with other B2C folks on LinkedIn and Twitter. From there, my involvement carried over to Twitter chats and guest posts on other sites, such as

When Google+ launched, I connected there, as well.

And suddenly, I realized what I wanted to do with my life.

I remained open to meeting people, helping them out, and collaborating when possible – networking, if you will. I knew that, especially because I was a career switcher, I was going to have to build from scratch, and that it would likely not be a fast process.

And do you know what happened? Opportunities started coming in to me. It took some time, but slowly my social network started to learn that I was looking for work, and they started looking out for me and introducing me to others who might know of something.

And so it went that I became the managing editor for Business 2 Community. Every day I’m emailing with contributors and helping them however I can. In short, it allows me to build my network, which is great because that’s what brings me here!

Content Equals Money founder Amie Marse and I connected on LinkedIn through our mutual involvement with Business 2 Community. We got to talking, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’d always enjoyed CEM’s posts on Business 2 Community, and am thrilled to be a part of this community, as well!

As I continue to grow in this content marketing profession, I continue to meet great people every single day, and that’s led me to other freelance opportunities, as well.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I owe social media networking for this content writing and editing career that I love.

Looking to give professional networking on social media a try?

I’m a firm believer that networking on social media can make a huge difference and open up so many doors. How could I not be?

But make no mistake: not just anyone with a social media account somewhere can make things happen. You’ve got to know a little bit about etiquette when it comes to networking with social media.

#1: Have a professional social presence.

Obviously, in order to network online, you’ve got to be established on various social media sites. Decide what platforms you’re going to use the most – certainly don’t feel like you have to use all of them. For example, I prefer to use my Facebook for keeping in touch with my friends and family, so I don’t really network with that like I do with Twitter.

Make sure those profiles are professional. I can’t stress that enough. If you want to meet professionals, that’s exactly what you have to be. No [email protected] email addresses or account names. No default image of you with a disembodied arm around your shoulder. Keep it professional.

And speaking of presence: be present. If you’re only working at this every so often, it’s not going to work. Make a commitment and be there.

#2: Introduce yourself and build relationships naturally before asking for favors.

You’d be surprised (or maybe not) how often it happens that some form of this takes place (this is a made-up name, by the way):

@ContentWritingRocks: Hey @IndustryThoughtLeader! I know we’ve never met, but would you take a look at my blog and give me some feedback?

My guess is that you wouldn’t walk up to a random person on the street and ask them to proofread your resume, so don’t treat people on social media like that.

Instead, build relationships organically like you would in real life. Once you are regularly interacting with someone and you have some kind of connection, then you can ask for favors.

#3: Don’t spam people with your content.

If you’ve spent any time at all on LinkedIn, you know exactly what I’m talking about. People are on a discussion board having a great conversation, when all of a sudden Joe and Jodi Schmoe show up and start posting shady links that potentially lead to a site of ill repute. Or worse: they break up the conversation begging for someone to read their blog posts and leave feedback.

I’ve seen this happen during Twitter chats too. Everyone is all a-twitter when suddenly someone breaks the flow of conversation. “I’m sorry I can’t make it tonight, but here’s my latest blog post!”

That’s not okay.

If you want to share one of your blog posts, make sure first that it’s relevant to the conversation. Participate in the conversation and discuss some of your ideas without mentioning the blog post. If, at the end, you feel that the others would enjoy your post or benefit from it, then include the link with some thoughtful commentary.

I liken all of this to the eTrade commercial in which one of the babies is singing the classic Mr. Mister ballad, “Broken Wings.” The other tells him to stop because “it’s not the venue.”

In other words, recognize the time and place for including your links (or “flexing the golden pipes,” as it were).

#4: Don’t play up relationships with others or name-drop for gain.

This is a no-brainer (I thought), but apparently some people don’t get it. They want to drop lines into blog posts that say things like “my friend Chris Brogan” or “my mentor Seth Godin” when, in fact, they have no existing relationship with either of these men.

If you manage to catch the attention of a big name, fabulous! But don’t make that interaction into a relationship that it isn’t. In other words, if you receive a “thank you” tweet from someone, you can’t really claim that person to be your friend or mentor. Know what I mean?

Before you feel tempted to build up relationships or name drop, ask yourself if that person would agree with you (or, in some cases, if that person would even know you).

This doesn’t hold true for big names only, either. You should never fabricate your relationship with anyone. Period.

#5: Don’t suck up.

Sometimes it really hurts to watch the old Twitter stream. You see people throwing themselves at other tweeters, really laying it on thick.

“Oh, Mr. So-and-So, yours is the only blog I EVER read! You are just the nicest person in the world!”

“Hey, everybody I know! I just want you and Mrs. What’s-Her-Name to know that I think she’s awesome!”

These messages aren’t really bad on their own. Everyone enjoys being paid a compliment every now and again, right? Everyone likes to hear praise and to know that their work is appreciated and benefiting someone.

The sucking up problem starts when this praise is doled out on a daily basis, and sometimes numerous times a day. I hate to be the Negative Nancy here, but no one is awesome 24/7/365. They just aren’t.

So instead of treating someone like the sun shines out of his or her face, treat them like a person. Ask them questions, converse with them, but develop your own opinions. Don’t throw yourself down at anyone’s feet and treat them like the best thing to ever happen to the Milky Way Galaxy.

Recognize that behind that avatar is a person who is fallible.

Sucking up and glorifying someone else isn’t going to make that person take you seriously. It probably isn’t going to make many people take you seriously, if you want the truth.

Then again, that’s just the way I see it. Maybe you’ve got it differently. What social media networking etiquette lessons would you add to this list?