Do you have friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who get in touch only when they need something? If yes, I'm willing to make a bet with you: You're not as close to them as you are to those who contact you just to check in.

My friend and colleague Rob Blatt is the kind of guy who checks in regularly,and is willing to share all he knows about social media, podcasting, and online content management strategy. He helps me stay current...and is an expert in social media etiquette.

Recently, Rob warned me about "seagulls" online. Seagulls are those people who only share their expertise when it serves their need. They have little regard for participating in community dialogue. And tend to ignore proper conventions. Here's a seagull in action.


The seagull in the video, "Sam" from Aberdeen, Scotland, was caught on videotape stealing numerous bags of cheese Doritos. The formal term for Sam's behavior--is "Kleptoparasitism"
or the act of stealing food or other inanimate objects. Much like web surfers who usurp community discussions by changing the conversation to focus on themselves, Kleptoparasites "score" by stealing items they couldn't obtain otherwise--or by minimizing the time and effort required. They aren't nice.

Kleptoparasitism may have worked for "Sam," but it won't work for you as a job seeker. 

Here are three ways to avoid being called a seagull or--worse yet--kleptoparasite:

1. Express interest in other people, and show your appreciation.

See something you like online? Acknowledge where you saw it, praise it, and give proper attribution if you decide to share the idea. It may seem counter-intuitive to promote the ideas of others when you need to promote yourself, but it's good etiquette and shows that you are a team player.

2. Don't go "off the grid" in your response in online forums.

The best selling book "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" showcased the value of breaking ranks with the flock on occasion. As a job seeker, it's important to differentiate your skills and your interests. But this comes with a word of caution: Don't set yourself apart by violating community conventions.

If you are contributing to a website or blog with a particular area of focus--don't "hijack" the site with a completely unrelated topic. (Ever seen a LinkedIn Q & A forum or a blog post comment with a completely self-promotional response? It may boost traffic and awareness of your work--but it also makes you look like someone who can't follow directions and isn't interested in fully participating in discussions.)

3. Maintain a consistent presence--and engage. If you are using social media as part of your career management strategy, use it regularly--not just when you need something or have something to say. If you "fly in" only to serve a particular need--others will notice--and it will be more difficult to find help when you really need it.

These are my thoughts on how to avoid looking like a seagull, I'd love to hear yours...

Cross posted on Career Hub.