Social media is basically a virtual cocktail party where real world etiquette rules still apply.
In order to optimize your efforts and avoid offending others, here are some basic etiquette rules to follow:
When connecting with new people, write a personalized message and explain how you know the person or what your common interest is. This will greatly increase the chance your invitation is accepted. People are more likely to reject your connection with a canned invitation. Your message can be as simple as “Hi Pat, we met recently at an A&WMA meeting in Dallas and I’d like to connect with you on Facebook/LinkedIn.”
Another strategy is to find out if they blog, tweet, or belong to LinkedIn groups. What issues are they engaged in? Leave comments or join the discussion. Use this link to identify yourself in your personalized message.
What should you not do? Don’t immediately indentify yourself as a job seeker, ask who is the hiring manager, or request help. This type of introduction makes people uncomfortable. Building rapport first will increase the chances that your new connection will be beneficial down the road.
Important Advice: LinkedIn tracks who has views your profile and provides a report. So if you don’t want to your digital fingerprints all over people’s profiles, log out or change your profile settings before doing your searches.
The company you keep
The people in your social networks is in many ways is a reflection of you. Both Facebook and LinkedIn offer the capability to "suggest a friend" or "introduce" one through a mutual connection.
Before introducing two people who don't know each other, make sure that the two people will appreciate the connection. What interests do they have in common? How would each benefit from this connection? When using introduction tools, first alert your friend ahead of time and explain why you think they should connect. Once you’ve sent the private messages then you can send over the official introduction.
The same etiquette applies if you want one of your contacts to introduce you. Send a personal note and identify what you have in common with his/her contact. This will make it easier for your contact to facilitate an introduction.
Important Advice: Look through your network and ask yourself if you would feel uncomfortable introducing any of your contacts. If the answer is yes, then you might reconsider why they are in your network.
Be intentional about your social media policy
Some people choose to connect with colleagues on Facebook, while others decide that they want to keep that network for just friends and family. Whatever position you choose, be consistent in your decision and communicate it clearly to current and prospective contacts who connect with you on social networks.
While it's acceptable to reject a person based on your social networking friend criteria, you should always respond to the person if he or she took the time to write you a personal note in the friend or connection invitation. Offer alternatives to those you reject by suggesting they connect with you on LinkedIn or follow you on Twitter.
Important Advice: Remember that when you post content online, you are making it available to the world, no matter what your privacy settings are.