Your mother probably taught you to choose your friends wisely, because who you hung out with made you look good - or bad - depending on the crowd. Now it appears the same advice applies to connections you make on networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

Kirsten Dixson, a reputation management and online identity expert, warns prospective employers may cast judgments, so job seekers should be prudent when making online connections. Here's a summary of best practices, as described by ComputerWorld.

  1. Decide on a Friend Strategy for Both LinkedIn and Facebook: On LinkedIn, users don't trade the same types of personal information as they do on Facebook. But the LinkedIn contacts you make do matter, Dixson says. "Everything has to do with the company you keep," she observes. "So you really do want to think about who you accept or let in to your network, whether it's on Facebook or LinkedIn."

  2. Communicate a Clear Policy to Potential Contacts: The key is to communicate your policy clearly and concisely when people try to friend you on Facebook or "connect" with you on LinkedIn.

  3. Don't Ignore Friends, or Friends of Friends: While it's acceptable to reject a person based on your social networking friend criteria, you should always respond to the person if he or she took the time to write you a personal note in the friend or connection invitation.

  4. If the Answer Is No, Offer Alternatives: For the people you do reject, it's nice to offer alternatives. So, for instance, if you say, "I do not connect with work contacts on Facebook, but please connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter," that might be a nice option, Dixson says.

  5. Be Specific When Sending Invitations: In this case, Dixson says you should explain how you know the person. It will make a world of difference in having that person accept your request.

  6. Give a Heads-Up When Brokering Connections Between Friends: If you're introducing two people who don't know each other, realize you may have put one of them in a tough position - you've made it difficult for them to say no without feeling like a jerk.

-- Leslie Stevens-Huffman