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I’ve observed some conversations online lately centered around what social media channels/tools to use, how to use them, when to use them, etc. I don’t really think it’s that difficult. Here’s why…

Are you concerned about being “successful” at social media? (First, you need to define success for yourself.) I don’t think you should be. Ask yourself a few questions before you become concerned:

  • Are you good at offline relationships?
  • Do you have a wide circle of friends?
  • Are you a connector for those in your network?
  • Is your network diverse in industry, age, gender, etc.?

If you can answer yes to any (better yet, all) of these questions, you’ll be successful with relationships online. After all, that is what social media is at its core – relationships.

So, if you can do relationships offline and online, you should behave online as you would offline. Don’t overlook this simple point. For some reason, people get stuck here and it can hinder their success.

Say things online that you would say offline. And not the reverse. You may feel a sense of liberation and/or anonymity when online. Don’t. You are actually more accountable for information that is placed online. Don’t say (or post) something online that you wouldn’t say in public.

Form connections online with those you may connect with offline. Determine how and why you make these connections, but remember that you are in control. You get to choose who you connect with, what you share and how you use the information you exchange.

For example, do you need to be concerned about how and why to use a tool like Foursquare? Not really. Yes, most people do not want to know where you’re eating lunch. So don’t share it. But if you’re interested in promoting local business, do share it. You get to opt in to information sharing but of course you don’t have to share. You also don’t have to connect with any and every one on Foursquare. Remember, if we behave online as we behave offline, why would you “friend” someone on Foursquare that you wouldn’t meet in person at the location or even worse, someone that you’ve never met in real life.

What’s the old adage….keep it simple stupid. I’m not calling anyone stupid, but let’s try to keep it simple. Behave online as you would offline. And if offline sharing of information and growing your network are not currently part of your life, you may find it a struggle to grow relationships online. And that may be ok. It’s all about how you define success.