5 Rules of Engagement for a Social Media World

We’ve all been there. After a nice conversation at a cocktail reception or business event, you get the hard sell within the next day or two. Sometimes it’s expected, sometimes it’s not. It can come in various forms. For example:

  • Someone wants to immediately “partner” with you (translation: please give me work, now, even though I haven’t asked you questions about your own work).
  • Someone wants to immediately have an in-person meeting or lunch, even though we haven’t even had a follow-on email conversation (translation: let me take up your valuable time when we really don’t know each other yet).
  • Someone has their secretary or assistant contact you directly that “so-and-so, whom you met recently, would like to partner/meet up/form an alliance with you” (translation: you’re not important enough for him or her to contact you directly).

And there are many variations on these. In some cases, they don’t even bother to connect with you on LinkedIn first. If I can’t see that they’ve checked me out on LinkedIn or through a web search, do I really believe they know who I am and what I do?

So, here are some rules of engagement for a “Social” world. The truths that underlie these rules (such as honesty, a touch of humility, being prepared, and showing respect) have been around for eons.

  1. Check me out online. Yes, while we can’t identify everyone who clicks on our LinkedIn profiles, for the large part we can. And that’s ok if you sniffed me out. It shows me you are interested and that you come prepared.
  2. Besides LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, put me in a circle on Google+, and so on. Today we’ve got so many “soft” ways of warming up to each other and learning about each other, so let’s make use of them.
  3. Let’s continue that cocktail reception conversation. And do that by interacting with me on these social channels. “Like” something I’ve posted, comment on something, even Share or Retweet something I’ve taken the time to write. Yes, it boosts my ego a little, but it also shows that you’re listening to me and to what is important to me. These can form the basis for future conversations.
  4. Be patient. Who knows, I might end up hiring you for something. But for now, let’s assume that will be in the future. I’d like to build some trust first, before opening up my or my employer’s wallet to someone I really don’t know yet. Patience to me isn’t weakness, it’s a strength.
  5. Know that sometimes the best I can do for you is to be a Referral Source. Yes, I may never give you money. In fact, most people won’t hire you. But the second best thing in the world is to build professional friends who can refer you. Consider that a huge win for yourself. But it won’t happen until we get to know each other better.

These rules are as old as human beings’ interactions with each other. But they need to be applied to our new social media context. If you don’t take advantage of these new tools, then you’ve proven to me that you’re not the type I want to hire, nor the type I want to recommend. I’d love to be proven otherwise.

Photo credit: kissro / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

1 thought on “5 Rules of Engagement for a Social Media World”

  1. Hi Nick, you’ve pointed out practices that are the foundation to all of this. Going into conversations, and these should be conversations, with your concepts in mind is the right approach. Doing our homework, being respectful and courteous by coming to the networking table informed, and trying to find ways to be of service to others will go miles toward a more productive experience in the long run.

    Thanks for sharing,


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