Sep 23

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Social Networking Invitation Etiquette

I remember when people first started using email, and there was a flurry of publications on "netiquette," the etiquette of how to use email. Social networking is at that stage now. There's been a lot written about the potential for future embarrassment from photos or videos published on Facebook or MySpace, but I am focused on a humber bit of social networking etiquette: the proper use of invitations.

Someone who is well known receives hundreds if not thousands of invitations from strangers, to every social network under the sun. Most of these, relying solely on the boilerplate invitation text, go right into the trash. "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn." Sure. Who are you? What do you do? Why should I care? (Even if I've met you, I might need my mind jogged, especially if you might have the same name as other people I know.)

Here are two invitations I've accepted recently from people who I don't know, but who explained nicely in their invitation why they were trying to connect.



Think about an invitation like you would an email or a phone call. Who are you trying to reach? What do you want from them? Why should they care to respond? If you can't practice that elementary courtesy, don't bother to ask.

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Comments: 14

  ann michael [09.23.07 07:25 PM]

I'm sure I don't get a tiny fraction of the invitations that must come to you, but even I wind up scratching my head wondering if I know the person inviting me. I couldn't agree with you more - a little background is very helpful!

  Search‚óä Engines WEB [09.23.07 09:52 PM]

If someone is not overwhelmed with invites, it might be best to go the extra distance and nicely ask how they found you.

Some social networks offer the option for others to search for those with similar profiles or interests as others on the same network or on related networks.

So in essence it is a stranger - but with the potential of being a worthwhile contact.

Having a blog that is rated high on Technorati offers an opportunity to further expose the blog to those with potentially similar interests - in that same email that one is using to ask for more background info.

  LivePaola [09.24.07 12:45 AM]

Very much agree. I see way too many boilerplate invites with LinkedIn's canned text (or, on Facebook, with no words at all). Especially if the inviter is a more junior person, I often kindly suggest that they consider personalizing the invitation text next time.
I then link only to people I've met face to face at least once, but I agree this is a matter of personal preference.

  Builders [09.24.07 12:51 AM]

An Interesting post. One of the best way on accepting an invitation from strangers is verify the background info "who really they are" of the strangers. coz, some invitation coming from others are not the true info. Some is using it to disguised. Also you need to determine if these social networks is suited for you and if you have similar interests.

  jeketem [09.24.07 09:23 AM]

remeber, a stranger is just a friend you havent me yet, and since you get to choose your friends, if you dont like this new contact just delete them

  Anonymous Coward [09.24.07 11:07 AM]

Admit it Tim, you accepted Janet's invitation because she's cute.

  jones [09.24.07 05:45 PM]

Oh, so this is why you rejected my invitation?


  Thomas Lord [09.24.07 08:04 PM]

Are there any games in this casino a cowboy might want to actually play?


  Bill [09.25.07 07:13 AM]

Your post popped up at just the right time. I joined LinkedIn at the behest of some acquaintenances I know in wildly varied fields (TV production and newspaper graphics). Faced with the possibility of issuing invitations, I had no idea what the etiquette is in this situation.

  Andreas Gohr [09.30.07 05:31 AM]

I wrote a similar post on my blog recently. The number of connect requests from complete strangers is getting really annoying and diminishes the value of the social networking platforms.

  Alex [10.02.07 10:06 PM]

How do those people feel about you publishing their names, occupations and photos on your blog?

  Jone Pressemitteilung [01.06.08 08:39 PM]

There's been a lot written about the potential for future embarrassment from photos or videos published on Facebook or MySpace, but I am focused on a humber bit of social networking etiquette: the stumbleupon use of invitations.

  Ivan Blinkov [02.07.08 12:45 AM]

In fact, I've found myself never filling that field with message in the form of sending social network friends invitations. I usually hope that my personal information published in my profile could give enough details about who I am and what I want. And really I don' remember that I've ever got such an invitations with any details about reasons of sending it, but anyway clicking on a profile link near the invitation always gave me a clear answer: do I want this person in my friends list or not.

  Kathleen Gage [07.02.08 07:56 AM]

Hey Tim. I couldn't agree with you more. Although lots of people "get it" when it comes to what is good and what is not regarding social networks, for some reason many people seem to hit a space of insanity and get caught up in the "gotta get more, gotta get more" syndrome.

Great post and excellent reader comments. I actually just posted an article on my blog called, Social Networking Etiquette...Why should I accept your invitation?

Kathleen Gage
The Street Smarts Marketer

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