Social networks are maturing. We’ve watched them grow from toddlers to punk teenagers.  Their features are becoming defined.  Their personalities are starting to surface.  We’re starting to see how they might be when they grow up.

All social networks have their own personality or culture, which evolves as they grow.  From my personal perspective, Facebook has gone from “I wonder what my friends are up to?” to “I wish my mother would stop sending me Farmville requests!” I say this tongue-in-cheek but also to illustrate a valid point. Our views of acceptable and common behaviors on social networks change as they evolve.

For advisors joining social networks for the first time, it’s important that they consider the culture as they get involved.  I was recently asked to describe the culture of LinkedIn during a presentation.  The best description I could muster was a real world parallel.  LinkedIn is a business networking event, but after hours.  It’s understood that the underlying reason you are attending the networking event is for business purposes, however, blatantly selling your services is looked down upon. Being too salesy, slick or pushy will get you ignored and damage your personal brand.  Instead, find ways to create synergy amongst other professionals and build business and personal relationships.

In the spirit of our LinkedIn real-world parallel, the following are five tips on appropriate LinkedIn (and business networking event) behavior.

1. Don’t Be Anonymous

Make your LinkedIn profile public and visible to everyone. If you insist upon your profile being anonymous on LinkedIn… don’t use LinkedIn! It’s like going to a business networking event and not telling people your name or having any business cards handy. 

2. Upload a Photo

I can’t tell you how many profiles I see that have no photo posted.  Would you wear a paper bag on your head at a business networking event?  Of course not!  I understand that this is not a beauty contest but a photo breathes life into your profile. It’s always good to put a face with a name. Not to mention, it gives your profile credibility.  

3.  Don’t Get Too Personal

While it’s great to show some personality on LinkedIn, personal updates should be minimal.  If you’re itching to tell your connections about the delicious ham sandwich you had for lunch or show a picture of the #selfie you just took, use Facebook or Instagram.  Getting too personal at business networking events can come across unpolished and awkward.

4.  Typos, Typso, Tyopsssss

Would you hand out a resume or business card at an event riddled with errors?  Of course you wouldn’t.  The same level of care should be applied to your LinkedIn profile.

5. Describe Your Job

If you were at a business networking event and someone asked, “What do you do?” you would be prepared to give some explanation.  Therefore, don’t forget to describe your profession on LinkedIn.  Include what you do, whom you serve, and why someone should hire you.  Tell your story!

Social networks are in a constant state of change as new users are added and others leave.  It’s important to take notice of the evolution and adapt your behavior. This evolution happens quickly, because as the culture of these technologies change they change our real-world culture at the same time.

Kevin Nichols is a thought leader with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry. Follow him on twitter @KevinANichols| www.Oechsli.com