Every party has rules that should be followed. These rules are usually simple and assure that everyone has a good time. Following social etiquette lessens one's chance of offending others and embarrassing herself.
Cocktail Party (CP) Etiquette: If an invitation is sent, it's simply impolite to ignore it. You should accept it or decline it, but you should always respond.
Social Networking Community (SNC) Etiquette - If are invited to join a SNC, do your homework first. You wouldn’t accept an invitation to any event. You should accept invitations from acquaintances -- at the very least. If you're uncomfortable declining an evite, simply suggest an alternative community for networking (i.e. Facebook).
How to Dress
CP Etiquette - Cocktail parties have different “themes”: formal, semi-formal, or causal. You should check the invitation or ask the hostess about appropriate attire. You don’t want to come to a formal party dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.
SNC Etiquette - How to address: Every SNC has a different purpose. Make sure that you keep with the theme of the SNC. You don’t want to sell yourself or your products in the community. The community is not about selling but sharing.
CP Etiquette - When you walk into a room, walk with purpose. Make eye-contact, smile and shake hands when meeting and greeting.
SNC Etiquette - When you first enter the SNC, read what others are saying before commenting.
Eating and Drinking
CP Etiquette - Moderation, Moderation, Moderation! Eat something, drink something but never in excess. Also, be sure to keep your right hand free, so that you can shake hands -- and pass out business cards.
SNC Etiquette - ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE! Read what others are saying, share your viewpoint, but keep an open mind so that you can agree to disagree.
CP Etiquette - Cocktail parties are often great places to meet people, make new connections and strike deals. Speak to all the people you would like to meet, and allow them to introduce you to others. Do not monopolize conversations or steer all conversations to YOU.
SNC Etiquette - Also, a great place to network. You should be open to all community members. Leave your agenda at the door or you will be dismissed as a spammer. SNCs are a dialogue of give and take.
Social Networking Communities, like the cocktail parties, should be fun, but purposeful. The goal is to share ideas. Any contacts made are a bonus (that requires follow up). Foster authentic relationships on- and offline. Building a solid reputation within the community will have long-term benefits. Every good relationship is one developed over time. You should not expect immediate pay-offs for your involvement. But you should get involved. Think of what you're missing!