It continues to amaze me how many relationships we now build online first. With the rise of social media, most of my connections with others now start on Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social networks. When you meet face-to-face after corresponding for a while, it feels like you've known each other forever. It's a strange world we live in now. You don't have to look a person in the eye to establish a connection with them.

My friend Bryan Kramer calls social media "the ultimate online cocktail party" in his new book "Shareology: How Sharing Is Powering The Human Economy." He says that "it mirrors our real-life encounters, but without the distance and physical limitations that can erect barriers to human connection." And he is right.

Now, I am not saying that digital encounters can ever replace face-to-face human interaction, but it definitely shrunk the world and expanded our communities.

And just like unspoken rules of behavior, or etiquette, exist around attending the real life parties, there are also guidelines you want to consider while participating in online gatherings if you want to build and keep that personal connection with people real.

Here are some online social cocktail party rules from Bryan:

  1. Don't just introduce yourself and walk away. Don't be "that guy", the one that tries to shake as many hands as possible and collect the most business cards. Have a meaningful dialogue with folks, show interest in who they are, share stories, try to find common interests. Cannot agree more here. Personally, my favorite question to ask people I meet for the first time is "What is your passion?" You won't believe some great conversations I end up having with people because I just show a bit of interest in them.
  2. Let the ice melt. Downing your drink just leaves you with an empty glass, a cold hand, and a brain freeze, says Bryan. Sit back and sip your drink. Enjoy getting to know someone.
  3. Know who will be at the party. Do your homework. Search and sort conversations by relevance (use hashtag for this on Twittter, for example), know who is driving the topic, who is most engaged, who is most consistently present. Get to know community.
  4. Create party lists. Never walk away from a great conversation without listing people you connected with somewhere, so that you don't forget how you met them and what you have in common. It's contact management for social, Bryan says.
  5. Be first to call. Isn't it great to see someone following up with you after you first "met", saying thank you for sharing your wisdom, asking a question, sending you a thought, or simply retweeting something you shared? Don't wait for others to do so. Be the one who reaches out and engages again.

"Meeting someone at a cocktail party is just the first step--it's the conversation that comes afterward where the magic happens!" says Bryan Kramer. Couldn't have said it better myself.