One reason social media sites have caught on like wildfire among users is that, by and large, they operate on basic principles of social decency. Now, be honest: Do your social-media skills match the subtle standards set at sites like Twitter and YouTube?

Not sure? Well, here are a few site-inspired rules to help ensure your online outreach efforts are socially acceptable:

Don't stifle the conversation. It's easy to react negatively when you spot a negative review at a social site, but first take a deep breath. Consider this: do the comments have merit? If so, acknowledge them and commit to making a change. If they are silly or mean, it's probably best to let them go. (Picture the guy with the lampshade on his head at the cocktail reception. Best to ignore him, right?)

Bring something besides your product to the table. People don't want just a pitch, they want a person. Don't spend precious social-media time pushing your wares; pass a little time with your audience. Let them get to know you and your brand.

Be responsive. Agencies have spent decades trying to get people to cultivate emotional connections with logos and labels; it's only natural that, now that they have a soapbox, users demand to know why they should ally themselves with you. Demonstrate that you care what your customers, donors or clients think: Follow their discussions, engage them in dialogue, express interest in who they are.

The Po!nt: Toe the social line, my dear. Social media sites are about being natural—in acceptable ways. Make sure your outreach—no matter how fun or creative—always shows consideration and respect.

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