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Learn About Someone Online Without Being Obvious
By: Aprel Phelps Downey
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Social media networking is all the rage these days! With the click of a mouse or tap of a finger you can find out where a potential business partner goes for networking events or how that next client truly engages in the outside world. Social media also allows you to keep tabs on people you associate with, yet might not want to be "friends" with. There are a few tricks of the trade that can let you learn more about someone without revealing who you are.

Instagram is a fast-growing social media picture-based application that is great for information gathering. Users are located with a simple search of their real name regardless of whether or not they use a witty screen name on their account. Once located, you can view all of their pictures as long as their account is not set to private. This will help give you a visual feel for someone’s life outside the office. Just make sure you follow a few rules first. Avoid double clicking a picture. Yes, this action will enlarge the picture of interest, yet doing it too fast will mark the picture as a "like." This information gets sent to the account owner with your name attached. So you are now associated with a picture posted six months ago. Unless you can give a valid explanation as to why you went that far back in someone’s Instagram account, you are going to be busted.

Twitter is another great place to gather information on your next client, business partner, or employee. You can see the sorts of things someone likes to share or discuss in 140 characters or less. You can favorite a tweet or re-tweet it entirely and still remain somewhat anonymous. These subtle activities will keep you flying just under the social media action radar screen without drawing too much attention to yourself. Going crazy by re-tweeting everything or marking it as a favorite will get you deemed "discreditable," hindering your chances at fostering future business connections online.

Facebook is quickly growing in terms of information-gathering capabilities. You can view a company’s page to learn more about their mission statement, product lines, and customer service. This information can prove invaluable for setting up a potential meeting to add that company to your client list. Facebook is a pretty safe way to gather information as long as you don’t go overboard.

The key to social media information gathering without outing yourself is to do it in moderation. Avoid adding that person or company to your entire social media circle all at once. Seeing “Jane Doe wants to follow, friend and tweet with you” all at once is unnerving to the person on the other end of those requests. Instead of that next big client project or coveted networking invitation, you will be seen as uncreditable and your business will slowly slip away as a result.

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About the Author
Aprel Phelps Downey is a writing/marketing professional who holds more than seven years marketing experience, including all aspects of promotional and informational campaigns and website development.  To learn more about Aprel please visit her website at www.aprelphelpsdowney.com or follow her on twitter: @aphelpsdowney.
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