How to Connect on Social Networks

Posted on Dec 9, 2009 | 65 comments


I sometimes think that certain advice is BGO (blinding glimpse of the obvious) and doesn’t warrant mentioning.  But then people’s actions tell me otherwise.

I wrote recently about etiquette when you meet people at conferences or events so now that I have this done I feel I need to say some words about connecting on social networks.

Let’s start with a discussion of existing social networks and then how to approach people on them.

Facebook.  I know some people link to anybody and everybody on Facebook – I do not.  Facebook is a reciprocal (or symmetrical) network and therefore if you want to follow me by default I follow you back.  The problem I have with this is two-fold.  First, I send lots of private stuff on Facebook because that’s where I connect to my parents, my siblings, my classmates and my wife.  Second, I don’t want to clutter up the stream of information that I have in my Facebook newsfeed with information on people with whom I don’t have a relationship.

What I love about Twitter followers is that we can have an asymmetrical relationship.   There are some people I’ve never met that I choose to follow (such as Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus) and some people that follow me whom I’ve not met and don’t (yet) follow back.  I DO read all @’s sent to me and I try to respond to most of them.  I check many people’s profiles when they @ me or follow me.  I’m curious who you are.  Occasionally I will randomly follow people I don’t know just because they look interesting.  Usually it’s because your conversations steam looks interesting, your link goes to an interesting blog or website or you work at a company that interests me.  I read posts for a while and if I see stupid stuff I unfollow.  That seldom happens.  I am interested in a conversation with people of done professionally and respectfully.  But I’m just not ready to clutter my stream with that of 4,500 people and lose the stuff I really want to see from the 450 people I follow.

LinkedIn.  The old standard business networking tool.  I used to guard my network here and only link to people who I knew.  I felt that if people were contacting me to say, “so I see that you know such-and-such” that I really should.  Now I know that everybody links to everybody so on LinkedIn I’ve become less selective.  Why?  Well first I never send any private information on LinkedIn nor to I receive any.  Second is that LinkedIn has become a nice deflection for me since I’m not yet ready to connect on Facebook if I don’t know you.

So on to some FBGO advice on how to connect with people:

If you’re asking to “connect” with people you don’t know (or don’t know well), how should you go about it?  Send people a personalized comment on the intro saying who you are and why you’d like to connect.  I do this even for people who I know very well.  Put in any info about people we know in common, places we may have met or some other relevant fact.  Even if we don’t know each other – finding a common bridge increases your probability of getting accepted.

If you connect to me on Facebook and simply have an invite with no explanation and if I can’t figure out how I know you I’ll just hit ignore.  On Facebook there isn’t even a standard “join my network” introduction.  Sending a blank invite is the equivalent of sending your resume to a company with no cover letter.  People do it, but it’s not professional.

On LinkedIn I have a higher tolerance now.  If you connect to me with the generic BS message that, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” and I know you, I’ll add you begrudgingly and wish that you had better manners to at least say hello.   If I don’t know you and there’s no message I’ll add people 50% of the time – begrudgingly.  If you take the time to write me a small, private note on LinkedIn then I’ll add you 95% of the time.

The main message here is … if you REALLY want to connect with somebody show them some respect and at least write a one sentence original line to ask for the intro or say hello.  The rest I just chalk up as social networking spam.

  • http://nl.linkedin.com/in/kerryritz kerryritz

    Mark
    I was under the impression that LinkedIn was supposed to be a “trusted network.” And, part of that trust is based on people you know or those who are “trusted” by people who know. It seems the concept has broken down to the extent that it's now just simply a “network”. Call me an idealist, but i still prefer to maintain some element of “trust” and I do that by having one simple rule: I need to have met or have had a conversation with you to Link. I won't send you a LinkedIn invitation just to 'connect” . If I do want to do business with you, I will try and use my network or simply send you a direct message.

    People are going to use these social networks in their own individual way, just as we do physical networks. As you say, etiquette works exactly the same way in the virtual and physical worlds.

    Thanks for highlighting lots of BGO's! (it's been a long time since I heard that expression!)

    Kerry

  • caeious

    you'd think it was a no brainer. not for so many people hence the spam crisis. so many people are lacking basic digital social skills. education is needed.

  • http://www.uncorkedventures.com wine clubs

    I see a lot of this on Twitter, if you take the time to chat and learn about your intended audience things go much more smoothly. For example, if I just send out my url to everyone every day I won't have many non bot followers. If I get interested in their lives though, I just might find a couple of new customers for my wine club.

  • http://twitter.com/jreckseidler Jeff Reckseidler

    This is how I have to come to think of the more popular social networks:

    1) Facebook – for communications with those people of whom you actually know
    2) Twitter – for communications regarding what you know
    3) LinkedIn – for communications that for acquaintances and those you know – through business activity

    http;//jreckseidler.posterous.com

  • tunguy3n

    i agree with your opinions, and i totally agree with sending friend invitation with no welcome message, its a no brainer..

  • http://twitter.com/good_people JasonBall_GoodPeople

    Ditto. Almost mirrors my own views exactly Mark.

    Only difference and extreme value I am getting from 'LinkedIn' (actually, I mean from my personal & in-person business network – it just happens to be 80% centralized on LinkedIn) is that I got disillusioned with all the generic BS invites I received (and actually always accept) then never heard from the person. So I:
    - closed off my network for browsing
    - created two groups; 1 for anyone around the world (GoodPeople 'from around the world') for B2C marketers, for the 'please connect to me' follower gathers and 1 for people who I knew in person, here in Tokyo (GoodPeople Japan)

    My open and generic group is my deflection group the other is comprised of my direct connections and the people that they know whom I constantly strive to meet in person and to understand who they are, what they do, how I & my connections can help them & how they might help too.

    I branded this GoodPeople Japan and am up to over 300 Tokyo based members who I encourage to meet in person in small groups where we really have time to get to know each other.

    Works as real value for anyone who takes part. I call it 'in-person, micro-networking'.

    Sometimes we/people forget SNS is still the first step to real connection with people. While this is very possible and valuable without meeting in person, the majority of the time real connection comes from getting to know a person in person.

    Thanks for the articles – I'll endeavor to read more.

  • caeious

    you'd think it was a no brainer. not for so many people hence the spam crisis. so many people are lacking basic digital social skills. education is needed.

  • http://www.uncorkedventures.com wine clubs

    I see a lot of this on Twitter, if you take the time to chat and learn about your intended audience things go much more smoothly. For example, if I just send out my url to everyone every day I won't have many non bot followers. If I get interested in their lives though, I just might find a couple of new customers for my wine club.

  • http://twitter.com/good_people JasonBall_GoodPeople

    Ditto. Almost mirrors my own views exactly Mark.

    Only difference and extreme value I am getting from 'LinkedIn' (actually, I mean from my personal & in-person business network – it just happens to be 80% centralized on LinkedIn) is that I got disillusioned with all the generic BS invites I received (and actually always accept) then never heard from the person. So I:
    - closed off my network for browsing
    - created two groups; 1 for anyone around the world (GoodPeople 'from around the world') for B2C marketers, for the 'please connect to me' follower gathers and 1 for people who I knew in person, here in Tokyo (GoodPeople Japan)

    My open and generic group is my deflection group the other is comprised of my direct connections and the people that they know whom I constantly strive to meet in person and to understand who they are, what they do, how I & my connections can help them & how they might help too.

    I branded this GoodPeople Japan and am up to over 300 Tokyo based members who I encourage to meet in person in small groups where we really have time to get to know each other.

    Works as real value for anyone who takes part. I call it 'in-person, micro-networking'.

    Sometimes we/people forget SNS is still the first step to real connection with people. While this is very possible and valuable without meeting in person, the majority of the time real connection comes from getting to know a person in person.

    Thanks for the articles – I'll endeavor to read more.

  • Pingback: Comments are the New Black | CloudAve

  • tunguy3n

    yea its true that people say one thing and do something else.. as for my original message i think i worded it wrong, as in i agree with sending an invite with a message attached, i hope you all understood me that way, and yes people need to be educated on the #nospamming part, i get spams in DMs and my fb inbox.. i mean if i didn't respond to it the first time, chances are, the next 20 times are not very likely… sorry this was long comment ^_^.

  • tunguy3n

    yea its true that people say one thing and do something else.. as for my original message i think i worded it wrong, as in i agree with sending an invite with a message attached, i hope you all understood me that way, and yes people need to be educated on the #nospamming part, i get spams in DMs and my fb inbox.. i mean if i didn't respond to it the first time, chances are, the next 20 times are not very likely… sorry this was long comment ^_^.

  • http://howhealthyisyourpersonalfinance.blogspot.com/2009/11/challenges-of-online-small-business.html scheng1

    Unfortunately many people do not mind their manners in social networking sites. There are even some ebooks about getting 20,000 followers in Twitter each month ( http://8d22flfglawy3z9d59vqmf62zr.hop.clickbank…), and juicing them to generate income.
    I doubt they will follow your advice to send “personalized invite”.

  • http://howhealthyisyourpersonalfinance.blogspot.com/2009/11/challenges-of-online-small-business.html scheng1

    Unfortunately many people do not mind their manners in social networking sites. There are even some ebooks about getting 20,000 followers in Twitter each month ( http://8d22flfglawy3z9d59vqmf62zr.hop.clickbank…), and juicing them to generate income.
    I doubt they will follow your advice to send “personalized invite”.

  • Pingback: Social Relationship Management | Thoughts on Blogs 12-11-09 | Wendy Soucie Social Media Consulting

  • Pingback: Comments are the New Black

  • Mica Scott

    Thanks for the lesson in social networking etiquette. I never considered some of the things you mentioned until I read your post. I'll be more mindful of in the future. Thanks again…

  • Mica Scott

    Thanks for the lesson in social networking etiquette. I never considered some of the things you mentioned until I read your post. I'll be more mindful of in the future. Thanks again…

  • Mica Scott

    Thanks for the lesson in social networking etiquette. I never considered some of the things you mentioned until I read your post. I'll be more mindful of in the future. Thanks again…