New York Etiquette Guide

How to Use Social Media for Business Networking

Posted on Fri, Jan 08, 2010

Social Networking

by Jeremy Willinger 

 In today’s world of business, the old axiom of “network, network, network” is particularly relevant. Along with in-person networking events and cocktail hours, many people are choosing the online arena for meeting new business contacts.

Following certain rules of online networking etiquette can help make the most of these new relationships. The first is how to present your online persona so that those you are hoping to meet will know enough about you to confirm and respond to your outreach.

Websites like LinkedIn and Facebook, especially the former, are designed to facilitate connections between people, but it is considered poor business etiquette to seek an introduction without having filled out any personal information in your profile. If the only thing that is provided under the sender’s space for information is a name and home town, the request does not seem like it comes from a person interested in making a real connection.

Proper  online business etiquette dictates that a full profile with accurate, spell-checked, and non-controversial information be completed before seeking new contacts. And it goes almost without saying that bombarding people with requests is disingenuous if you are doing so only to accumulate friends or group members.

As in the real world, there is an acceptable timeframe for responding to online requests. Proper online networking etiquette includes responding to requests for connections or recommendations within three days, but a request is in no way an obligation for affirmation. Once confirmed, you should send a small, cordial message through the network’s contact system acknowledging the new connection.

A more extensive note, however, should be employed when seeking a contact with whom there is no previous acquaintance. This message should accompany the request to join, indicating how the person was located -- i.e., through the job title search on LinkedIn -- and a note about the sender and  his or her motives for contact.

When joining networking groups online, a good rule of etiquette is to introduce yourself via a brief email to the group admin after membership has been approved. Do not strive to be an over-sharer, or that one group member who comments and posts on every link that appears. When participating, review your post before submitting, and be sure that all links and information you submit are working and accurate. This ensures a seamless and convivial atmosphere that makes networking more conducive to results.

No matter which service you use, lessons of etiquette learned off line will translate well online. While online networking should not supplant in-person relationship-building, it is a modern, inexpensive, and easy way to gather contacts quickly. The key is to use gracious and considerate etiquette to stand out from the pack, and make a virtual connection translate into real-world benefits.

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Tags: business etiquette, online business networking, social media, lessons of etiquette