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So Social

Social media first impressions: Your digital handshake

How you come across to others online matters more than you know

By

Tribune Newspapers

May 2, 2013

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You've been preparing for that job interview for weeks. You're wearing your best suit and tie. You walk into your interviewer's office, look the person in the eye and shake hands firmly.

The bar is hopping and there's this cute redhead you've been dying to ask out. But you've already had one too many, so you spill some of the drink, fail to apologize and manage to slur a few words that make no sense.

Two first impressions, one good and one bad. Now think about how you use social media. When you follow someone on Twitter or Facebook and make that initial connection, is it like the job interview or the bar outing?

Whether we're communicating while out and about or typing from a bedroom in our pajamas, first impressions count. Here are five tips to make sure your digital handshake is firm.

Shore up your bios: Those few words by your name on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other platform matter. Put strong keywords up front. These are the things you'd want to tell someone if you only had 30 seconds to talk to them.

Don't be an egg: Twitter's default icon is an egg, so that's my name for people who don't bother to add a profile photo or image. One example of how important it is to upload an image: I won't follow an egg.

Watch what you tweet and what you share: We see those bios that read "retweets do not mean endorsements, opinions are my own." Those don't matter. When you retweet something, you want your followers to know about it. Be very aware that touchy, controversial material can raise red flags. Same for sharing on Facebook: If you share a cute photo of a puppy that was originally shared by a hate group, your name and that hate group are linked by a cute puppy and everyone else can see that. Even if you didn't realize it, you're at fault.

Don't take too many social media vacations: Are you the kind of person who tweets or posts a few times every few weeks? Find ways to make your posts more regular. There are several tools that can help you create an automated schedule, including Buffer, TweetDeck and Hootsuite.

Spelling and grammar count, even in 140 characters. If social media had referees with whistles, you'd be fouled for using "to" in place of "too" to save a character or "ur" to replace "your" and save two. Part of being a good communicator on social media is to write concisely and coherently. When you don't, people notice.

Bonus tip: When you see someone make a mistake, especially when it's someone you know, alert them. You don't want to come across as a know-it-all, but it's good karma to help someone out.

Certainly, there are more tips for first impressions, both in real life and in social media. Feel free to share some of your favorites in the comments.

What questions do you have about social media? Tweet them to @scottkleinberg or @amyguth. We might select yours for use in a future column.