When to Connect With Professionals on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook
These are questions I’ve heard many people ask when trying to figure out their online networking strategy. Ultimately it depends on your comfort level with social networking and the platform you want to use to connect.
When to add a professional connection on LinkedIn is very different from when to friend a person on Facebook. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when considering adding a connection on social media.
LinkedIn: Possibly the best website for online professional networking, LinkedIn is a great place to connect with someone before or after you meet them. Numerous professionals use LinkedIn to form connections in their industry so it’s a pretty safe place to try and connect with someone at any point in your networking relationship. If you want to connect with someone before you’ve met, check on the right-hand side bar to see if you have any mutual connections. If you do, you can use the “Get Introduced” feature and have that mutual connection put you in touch.
After you meet with someone I’d recommend connecting with the individual the same week as your meeting if you got along well. This will not only get your name in front of the person again, it will also remind them of your experience as they look at your profile. Personally I believe it’s never too early to start connecting with people and forming your network on LinkedIn.
Facebook: I’d advise more caution when connecting with your professional network on Facebook. If you “friend” a professional before meeting them, it may put off your connection. Facebook is still used by many for personal contacts, so if your connection does not have a public page for you to follow you’ll want to get to know them before sending them a friend request.
If you’ve met the person and they are open to connecting via Facebook then do so, but keep in mind that they will then see what you post on your profile page unless you restrict what they view. If you are just starting to connect with professionals on Facebook, look through your post history and photos. It’s important to make sure that you don’t mind your coworkers and other professionals seeing everything on your profile. If your profile has been mostly friends and you’ve been pretty open with what you post, it might be worth keeping it that way and not connecting professionally unless you are willing to change your settings to make sure only certain people can see certain things. It’s up to you to make sure to keep your personal and professional lives from clashing.
Twitter: Twitter is certainly a more casual network than LinkedIn but I’d say it has similar rules for connecting before or after meeting a professional. If your connection has a public profile, then they probably use Twitter professionally or at least are open to new followers and forming connections on the social media site. It’s perfectly ok to follow a person on Twitter and start a conversation with them there before meeting. I’d say it’s perfectly fine to follow them right after you meet as well. You can thank them for meeting with you and keep the conversation going by commenting on links they share and sharing links with them as well.
If someone has their profile protected then they may use it for mostly personal tweeting and you might want to hold off asking to follow them until you get to know them better. I’d suggest waiting until you’ve met with them a few times or at least exchanged a few emails and discussions online elsewhere before asking them to let you see their protected tweets. On the other hand if they ask to follow you or follow you publicly then it might be safe doing the same in return. Feel out your connection and use your judgment.
In the end only you can decide when you’re comfortable connecting with a fellow professional online. Over time and with increased use of these websites you’ll get a feel for when it’s best to connect. Hopefully these tips will help you navigate the waters when it comes to these three websites.