Sep. 2, 2013 at 11:29 AM ET
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Everybody likes to make a good first impression. Even more - maintain a great relationship.
For those of you who are in-person communication geniuses, keep this in mind: the game is changed on social media.
What you might convey in person, might not be appropriate typed online. Before you know it, you may have crossed that fine line to find yourself "unfriended".
How do you know when you're about to go too far with what you are planning to write or post?
This guide on social media manners will help you navigate through a few critical situations.
Friending your boss
This is where you must be strategic. Friending your boss on Facebook can either strengthen your relationship or get you fired in a hot second. To be safe, it's best to keep your personal and professional worlds separate.
However, if your company's culture fosters strong relational bonds - and both parties consent to the "add" - by all means click away.
Just keep this in mind: everything is visible. If your boss doesn't like what's posted, it may affect his or her judgment of you as an individual.
One controversial post can put you on the fast track to the job boards. Regulate your Facebook page, and everything is great. Post without much thought, and you're toast.
With this in mind, one social media site is completely fair game: LinkedIn. Feel free to friend your boss and anyone else you desire. After all, you're building your network.
Staying out of controversial discussions
Much like a one-on-one conversation, everything you post on social media is subject to individual perception - only more so.
I say this because people only perceive your words. None of the other non-verbals - the most crucial aspect of communication - factor into the equation.
What you write will be seen and will be criticized (for your benefit or your dismay).
Discussions on subjects such as politics, religion, and abortion should be avoided, unless you put significant thought into what you say, if you really feel you must say it. In regard to these topics, voicing your opinion is the quickest way to get yourself unfriended.
Nobody likes someone who shares your dirty laundry.
What's worse? Realizing you're on the other end of the deal - and apologizing significantly.
Here's a rule of thumb when posting via social media: be conservative and always empathize. Don't over-explain a situation; get to the point with what's necessary to communicate a clear picture.
While doing this, continually think about who you include in the message. If you think they would be okay with you sharing their details to a room of fifth-graders, then go for it. Anything else, and you better think twice.
Keep your sharing ‘to the point' with careful consideration of others who may be involved, and you're good-to-go.
How to deal with rude comments from others
First things first: walk away from the computer. Take a few deep breaths and relax. The worst thing you can do is respond emotionally. After you've gathered your thoughts - respond in a productive, respectful manner.
If you can't possibly think of what to reply back, and you're fired up...there's no harm in deleting their comment and responding at a later time via their email.
How to best comment when people share major things
This can be tough. How do you respond to someone's post regarding issues such as the death of a spouse or parent, or even the birth of a child?
Answer: with empathy.
Anything along the lines of: "Sorry for your loss"; or "Keeping you in my thoughts"; or "Please let me know if you'd like company"; or "Congratulations on the new addition to your family! I can only imagine how happy you are" goes a long way.
No need to write a novel. If you feel that desire - call them.
Best advice of all ...
For those of us who are relatively late coming to the table without the best understanding of social media manners: engage the tutorial services of a responsible person younger than 25.
(Mary M. Mitchell has written several books on the subject of etiquette, now in 11 languages, most recently "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Modern Manners Fast Track" and "Woofs to the Wise". She is the founder of executive training consultancy The Mitchell Organization (www.themitchellorganization.com). The opinions expressed are her own.)
(Editing by Paul Casciato)
Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters.