How to network on social media: do's and don'ts

Photo by Jason Howie

You’ve just met a potential mentor, client or future boss at a networking event, and the next thing you know, they’re following you on Instagram. Or, perhaps they haven’t followed you back on Twitter, and you’re wondering if it’s okay to be Facebook Friends instead. But one wrong move could remove you from a list of potential candidates.

Social media levels the playing field when it comes to professional networking.  It provides greater access to direct conversation with individuals whom you may not have been able to reach before. It acts as a platform to showcase your personal brand, and it can help you stand out from your peers.  But if you use it inappropriately, it can put a damper on your chances of getting that elusive job interview or landing that client.  Keep reading for my do’s and don’ts when it comes to proper networking etiquette through social media.

  • Do follow your persons of interest on their social media streams, especially if they’ve provided those accounts on their business cards, email signatures or LinkedIn profiles. LinkedIn is the best place to start when making professional connections.
  • Don’t be a stalker. Following is safe, but relentlessly stalking your new network friend is not a good idea. For example, if someone hasn’t replied to a message you sent through one platform, don’t send the same message to them via another social platform.
  • Do be present and show your professional self in your chosen platforms. Be yourself, true to your brand and tone. Pipe up in your areas of interest or expertise and show off your personality. Got an interesting and relevant article someone in your network might find useful? Share it with them!
  • Don’t post or share anything that would make you uncomfortable if it made headline news. Would you be proud of that message, image or content if a future boss, peer or client saw it?
  • Do add your new networks as soon as possible if you’re at a conference or major event. Providing timely and relevant content during the course of an event can help  you stand out and lead to deeper conversations that started during the in-person meeting. Use the event hashtags where possible and add event photos (with permission, of course).
  • Don’t nag if someone doesn’t respond to or reciprocate your friend request—even if they’ve accepted you on one social network but not on another. Leave it be.
  • Do say hello or send a note of thanks to your new contact once you’ve connected online. A quick, “Hi, it was great to meet you at Monday night’s event” is friendly without being overbearing.
  • Don’t outright ask for anything, especially a job interview, when you’ve only just met. Although friendships can be accelerated in the digital world, real-world manners still apply. You wouldn’t just email a new connection after an event and ask for a favour. Always offer more than ask.
  • Do understand the medium. What’s appropriate on SnapChat may not be taken in the same light as on LinkedIn. Tailor your content to each platform and to your audience.
  • Don’t trash your current job, co-workers or boss. You never know how everyone may be connected (and besides, negative posts tend to be viewed and shared less often than positive posts).
  • Do keep your profiles and streams completed and fresh. Fill out all the details on your profile page, add relevant links to your blogs or websites, and use a recent profile photo.
  • Don’t send invitations for games, quizzes or other trivial things. Save those for your close friends and family (or not!).

As a communications professional, I can only imagine the opportunities had only social media existed when I first entered the workforce. Use it to your advantage, and it may well open doors to a whole new world.


About the author

Liv Hung is a digital consultant, blogger and award-winning interactive producer. She currently works as an independent consultant specializing in digital planning and social media strategy.

She has over five years of advertising experience on the agency side, and eight years of marketing communications experience. She was a connection planner and media buyer at Wasserman + Partners Advertising, B.C.'s largest independent advertising agency, where she created connection plans to help brands connect with their target audiences.

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