The Fool's Guide to Internet Etiquette?

You receive a comment on your social media post from someone stating, “Let’s Connect.”

It seems harmless, doesn’t it?  Warning! That simple statement could change the entire future of your business.

Now that you’re trying to figure out what I mean by that, and why it’s so critical to your business, I want to throw another punch at you (I do love to kick ‘em when they’re down).  Do you even know what “Connecting” with another business owner even means?  Ouch.

Here’s a little background.  I work with mompreneurs every single day because I’m a Business Coach.  That means I talk to a lot of them.  Do you know that not everyone is happy with the current “social media etiquette?”  I bet you’ve seen it, people complaining about never ending spam friend requests.  Messenger spam from people you don’t even know.  And, let’s not forget the “will you like my page?” Especially when it comes from someone you don’t even know.

Those are NOT connections.  All of those are spam.  If your intent of becoming friends and contacts with someone ONLY FOR YOUR BENEFIT, you’re one of the unsavories.  Sorry to break it to you.  Yep, you’re the one people think is spammy, and they actually ignore.  Because it’s clear you’re not there to build anyone else up.  

Social Media is an AMAZING place to network.  You can get to know far more people online than you can in person.  We can meet people from the other side of the world, and even work together with them on projects - in real time.  (Just for reference, when I was growing up, most people didn’t have email, there was no such thing as a text message, and it was common to have a corded land-line phone to call your friends.). Technology is amazing!  

But there’s no etiquette online.  People are not real, when you’ve never shaken their hand, or talked on the phone.  No one has published The Fool’s guide to Internet Etiquette.  (Yet? Maybe I just gave someone their million dollar idea.)

So back to the idea of “I’d like to connect with you.”  By commenting on your post, the person has invited you to shake hands.  Essentially, they’ve walked up to you at a networking event.  Shake hands with that person.  Go ahead and message them privately WITH AN INQUIRY, NOT A PITCH.  Find out what they’re interested in learning about.  Share some high level information about what you do and who you serve.  Just like you would in person.

After this initial exchange, if you find the person to be of interest, THEN ask for more interaction.  Email.  A Phone call.  Facebook Friendship.  And build from there.

People who do business in person understand the relationship piece of connecting to a new potential client or collaborator.  You would never walk up to someone you’ve never met before and tell them to be your Facebook Friend.  Establish a relationship.  

There’s a theory about 12 Levels of Intimacy (see for more information).  I realize that there (generally) isn’t ANY 12th-stage intimacy (that’s actual sex if you didn’t go to the page I referenced!) from business “connections” online.  But at the same time, there are lines that feel icky and make people’s skin crawl when you cross them.  If you’re lucky, they’ll ignore you.  If not, you could be reported as spam, and your entire account could be locked.

So why risk it?  Take the time to get to know your colleagues.  Go have coffee with the business owner you met.  Maybe there is a collaboration there.  Maybe there’s not.  But now, you’ve officially connected.