When it comes to social media networking, the community seems to be polarized about how it should be done. Platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook go so far as to post statements telling account holders to only invite people you know to join your networks. Even worse, they go so far as to suspend accounts of people who reach out to those they don’t know on a frequent basis. Many that use it, on the other hand think account holders should be able to indiscriminately send out invitations to people they don’t know. As someone who networks on social media regularly and has received accolades for her approach, I can tell you from experience that there is a “happy medium.” It’s a matter of applying both approaches and doing so with the same social etiquette used in face-to-face communications.
The networks are right about at least one thing, invitations should be reserved for those people that you know will accept the invitation. However, tools such as message option that are available on LinkedIn and Facebook should be used to reach out and introduce yourself to those you don’t know. The key is getting these virtual strangers to be willing to accept your invitation. This is where good social etiquette first comes into play.
When reaching out to strangers on social media, it is best to select individuals that you have things in common with, including other friends or connections. Mention these points of common ground in a general statement that you have shared connections in your message. People will respond much better to a personal touch than a canned message. These messages should also inquire about the recipient’s willingness to connect with you and should request a reply from them that lets you know that they are willing to accept an invitation.
There’s one more thing to keep in mind. Before you send a message like this, ask yourself what is the value of this connection? What is the reason you want to connect to this person? If you don’t have a reason other than you want to increase the number of connections or friends you have, reconsider that connection.
Social media networking is all about the first word in this phrase “social,” which implies that you want to develop an ongoing exchange with these individuals.
Once someone you have sent a message to responds that they are willing to accept a Facebook friend request or invitation to connect on LinkedIn, the best practice would be to reply to them through the message system. Thank them and let them know that you will send the request or invitation shortly. If working within LinkedIn, the best practice again would be to let them know that you are sending them the invite per their agreement to accept it. The reason for this is that LinkedIn no longer sends automatic emails out every time users receive invitations and correspondence from other users. Therefore, it could be several days or longer before the recipient checks their account and notices your invitation. By this time, they may not remember the exchange they had with you. This type of polite reminder should be enough to jog their memory.
Author:Leigh March is a digital media and e-commerce entrepreneur.