Why to Personalize Your Social Networking

Social media addict.

I unabashedly love social media. I’ve enjoyed being a part of a global community through tweets, status updates and #hashtags. I love the opportunities social media provides for us to connect in meaningful ways. So why do so many people squander the chance to truly connect?

LinkedIn Invitations from Strangers

I use LinkedIn a lot as a resource. I appreciate the focus on business and the way I can stay connected with colleagues from the past. I enjoy learning about the “professional” side of my friends. I’m apt to accept an invitation that is thoughtfully worded, as long as I appreciate why I’m being invited to connect. But lately, I’m getting so many random “I’d like to add you to my network” invitations that it’s easy to miss the good stuff in my inbox.

Part of this is LinkedIn’s one serious user experience design flaw. The “Connect” button so prominently displayed next to profile names reacts differently in different places. In some cases, clicking on the button leads the user to a form which can be personalized. I always like to add a note and say “nice meeting you at xyz” or “thanks for connecting on Twitter” or however I might reinforce the real connection we have.

In other parts of LinkedIn, the very same button reacts totally differently. Without providing an option to customize, it shoots out a generic invitation.

I’d recommend we all tread carefully and do our best to invite each other to connect with some level of personalization.

Facebook and Google Event Invitations

Both Facebook and Google+ allow lists or “circles” to help us provide relevant information to relevant groups. And yet when a realtor I know has an open house, she blasts every single connection on Facebook with event invitations. Realtors aren’t the only culprits here.

I get invitations for parties in different states, business events aimed at financial planners, or the “come buy some jewelry” (or bags or makeup) parties hosted by people I don’t really know. It’s simply not ok to spam your connections this way. Yes, it’s easier to just send a shotgun blast and hope for the best, but it won’t do anything to endear you to those connections.

Take a moment to organize your contacts and be judicious with your invitations.

Facebook “Get Me Outta Here” Group Messages

Sending a private message to 100 people is not private. And Facebook alerts anyone involved any time anyone in the group does anything. The conversation notifications are super annoying and then it’s hard not to offend the originator by clicking the “Leave This Conversation” box, but it’s necessary to maintain sanity. Again, this is especially egregious when the recipient doesn’t really know the person or the subject.

Twitter “Please Tweet” Direct Messages

I am all for asking for help. I’m all for building relationships. But when it comes to asking strangers for help in 140 characters, it’s a little weak. “Please tweet my seminar/ebook/new site” messages from people who typically don’t know me enough to know my business or interests seem impersonal at best. Lately, I’ve received some DM’s addressed to “Jennie” or “Janine.”

If you don’t know my name, you probably don’t really understand how I can help you.

As I said, I love social media. But I don’t love the behaviors that ignore the fact that these online relationships are still relationships to handle with care.

Jeannie Walters is the Chief Customer Experience InvestigatorTM and founder of 360Connext, a global customer experience consulting firm. As the mom of two young sons, you can find her at tee-ball games or stepping on Legos. Tweet her at @jeanniecw.