How to approach people on social media

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Something has really bothering me lately: people add me on Skype, but do not write a personal message explaining where they are from or where I know them from. I always have to apologize and ask them if I know them so I can decide if I accept the person or not. After all, my Skype is definitely not a place where I collect random people for fun. It’s for work, for immediate and urgent contact with clients and colleagues. Since this (in my opinion) impolite attitude is not restricted to Skype, but also happens quite frequently on other social media as well, I decided to write a blog post about basic social media behavior. Similarly to social behavior, there are some good manners you should follow online as well not to sound impolite or unprofessional.

Let’s start with the main purpose of this post: how to approach potential connections on social media. Always take the time to write a brief personal message to the person you are requesting contact introducing yourself, explaining where you know the person from and the reason you are adding them. This won’t take long and it will allow the person to easily decide if he/she accepts your invitation or not. Chances are they will be more willing to do it just because you were kind enough to provide a personal message. At least this is what happens to me. It shows you are adding that person to your network because you feel they could add something to your knowledge, not simply as another contact to increase your network in numbers.

Have a decent profile picture. By decent I mean one in which anyone can identify you. Not a picture of your puppy, not a picture of a landscape, not one in which you are miles away and your face cannot be recognized. Especially not one emphasizing your boobs, instead of your face, making inappropriate gestures, making a sexy face, in underwear/swimming suit. Your profile picture is your first impression on social media and the only way someone can recognize you or not, especially if you have a blocked network. People will not lose time trying to figure out who you are in order to decide if they accept your invitation or not. If it’s too much trouble, they’ll just ignore you.

Only add people on Skype if you really need to talk to them on a regular basis. Skype is not a social network, it’s an instant messaging system. If you really want to connect with someone, try their LinkedIn, Facebook fan page or even Twitter. If you only want to ask the person something, e-mail them.

Last, but not least, be careful with what you ask people when you do not know them. Asking for personal favors is not a good idea. I was recently contacted by someone who found me on ProZ.com. The person liked my profile and wanted that I “had a look” at their CV and cover letter to “review, edit and analyze” them. Besides contacting me straight through Skype, he/she was pushy and kept insisting even when I tried to say I also had a lot of work writing mine. Even though spending a long time politely explaining I couldn’t do it, the person eventually sent me an email with the CV and the cover letter. I really don’t mind helping with reasonable doubts (as I have already done publicly here on the blog), but asking for personal favors is beyond reasonable. So be careful yourself when you approach a colleague. You can do it, and should, but be reasonable.

There are many other tips as to how to behave online, but these, in my opinion, are some of the basic ones and the ones I felt like sharing because they have already happened to me. If you feel like sharing any other, please feel free to comment below. Or event if you do not agree with any of the ones I mentioned, say it out loud.

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13 thoughts on “How to approach people on social media

    • Hi, Cendrine!
      Yes, unfortunately, most people simply forget the rules of engagement also apply to social media. However, I do not think this is strange, because the more we use social media, the more people seem to think they are free to do whatever they like, since social media itself has no limitations and boundaries.
      Thanks a lot for your comment!

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  1. Excellent points, Caroline. Social media has, in a way, eliminated certain boundaries. It makes communication and networking easier and faster than ever. But this does not mean we should not apply the same rules we would in real life.

    If some people made the effort to imagine what their social media behaviour looked like in real life, they would be shocked. Using your examples: trying to connect with someone you don’t know without taking the time to write a personal message (and without a proper profile pic) would simply be creepy in real life – like someone wearing a mask would approach you and asked you to, I don’t know, have a coffee. At least that’s how I see it.

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    • Exactly, Alina! Comparing to real life is always a good way of knowing if we’re doing the right thing or not. But it seems people simply don’t care. The only thing that matters is having an impressive number of connections on the social media network.

      Besides, since our lives are open to everyone (or at least to a lot of people), the notion of space and boundaries are blurred. I guess people think that, since they are “close” to us, they are free to do whatever they want. Would you stop a random person on the street and ask them to be your friend? Or would you stop at a random shop that you liked and asked them to do you a “favor” and help you with your business?

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  2. I’m afraid that people are on social media as they are in real life. Behavior tendancies are maybe clearer due to the fact that one is in front of a screen and not of a person. That also points the sliding tendancy of our societies to be more and more self-oriented.

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    • I agree with you about the tendendy of the society to be increasingly self-oriented, Philippe. As we say in Brazilian Portuguese, people only “look at their own belly buttons”.
      I guess this explains most of modern social media behavior.
      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment! 🙂

      Like

  3. It always bothers me when people send a friend request on FB or whatever with no personal introduction, no effort or anything. I usually just delete the request out of hand.

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    • It’s simply annoying, isn’t it? Most of the time, on Facebook, it’s rather easy to identify who the person is, because we usually know who is adding us (at least that is what happens to me). Even if not, since it’s a personal account, I simply ignore the request if I don’t know the person. My biggest problem, however, is with LinkedIn and Skype. Since they are professional accounts, it’s not that simple to ignore people. However, I always feel disturbed to go on accepting anyone. It’s a pickle, I must say.
      Thanks a lot for your comment, John! 🙂

      Like

  4. Dear Carol, I loved your tips! I’ve recently had a very bad experience on Facebook. Some dear friends of mine commented on one of my posts in a way that I’m absolutely sure they wouldn’t if it had been a face-to-face conversation. I told them that this upset me a lot. They apologized but said that they had done nothing wrong. One of them told me that “there’s no ethics on Facebook”. I guess this is the problem. In my view, the ethics you have outside the social networks must be applied anywhere you are.

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    • Hi, Carol!
      I’m glad you liked them.
      Indeed, people should start paying more attention and being more careful with their social media behavior. As you said, sometimes a person who isn’t impolite on “real life” may slip up and do something that may be considered rude or non ethical on social media.
      However, unfortunately, it seems people simply don’t care anymore. All they care about is to show up, no matter what.
      Thanks a lot for your comment, dear! 🙂

      Like

  5. Pingback: Weekly translation favorites (Sep 12-Oct 9) | Lingua Greca Translations

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