Social networking tools, now with years of mainstream adoption behind them, have certainly facilitated those connections. Indeed, social networking has expanded the network potential of anyone with a Web connection.

And yet, even in the online marketing industry where we like to think of ourselves as expert communicators, networkers, and lever-pullers, bad networking exists.  Bad networking might mean selfish, or spammy, or over-reaching, and it’s not any better when conducted via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram than in the real world. There remains the “human interface”, as we call it , a set of rules grounded in good sense that guide our best practices, even as we seek more and more data to support our instincts about what works online.

Social networks are extensions of ourselves and what we do there reflects on us no less directly than how we behave in real life. So, the marketer who throws up stock photography of their product on Pinterest, just so he can be “where the women are” has the equivalent of a limp handshake. The marketer who has auto-tweets set up to offer discounts any time someone mentions a keyword (no matter the sometimes totally inappropriate context) is the equivalent of an conversation-interrupter.

 Maintain focus on who you are and what you want to accomplish, so you can approach every encounter with a sense of purpose, and the potential to deliver and derive value.

In the marketing world we seek to quantify the value of every online engagement, but find it more challenging to count the value of real world engagement. But if we look at the aggregate value of these micro-engagements–a cold call, a conversation had over coffee, or even a kindness done for a stranger–we should see very real trends toward building a supportive network, and ultimately positive outcomes for ourselves and our organizations.