Handling social media connection requests with grace and purpose

Ever feel confused about how to handle the many online connection requests you receive? LinkedIn, Facebook, Townsquared…the list goes on. You might wonder who you should connect with and if it’s okay to decline a request. People have different approaches to accepting requests but I thought I’d share my approach and why it works for me.

LinkedIn. LinkedIn is for making business connections. It’s not a social site, which I appreciate. It allows you to highlight your professional side. I am pretty careful who I agree to connect with on LinkedIn for a few reasons. Because connections can ask for recommendations and introductions I want to be sure I feel good about the people I’m connected to. That said; I wouldn’t give a recommendation or make an introduction for someone I don’t trust or like. I also avoid connecting with sales people I haven’t met because they are typically just looking to make a sale.

The rule I follow is I have to meet someone and like them or understand why they want to connect with me before doing so. If someone sends a default connection request with no personalized message and I don’t recognize the person I will usually message her and ask what made her send a connection request. This may sound like a lot of work, but I do it for a few reasons. I meet a lot of people through networking, speaking and my corporate trainings. It’s hard for me to remember everyone I’ve met. I also am happy to connect with potential clients. So if someone requests a connection and I don’t recognize him even after looking at his profile I will ask what compelled him to request a connection. If I don’t get a response I don’t accept the request. If it is a sales person appearing to want to promote her business or product I don’t accept the request.

Facebook. Ahh Facebook – the site where even the classmate who bullied you in school wants to be a friend. I am even more cautious on Facebook then I am on LinkedIn when it comes to who I agree to friend. I see Facebook as my home. It’s the place where I want to feel safe to be a little more open, vulnerable and candid then other sites. So, I ask myself, would I invite this person into my real house? Do I know, like and trust this person? If the answer is no, I decline the friend request. The person requesting the connection will not be notified. They just won’t see your feed. I’ve made a few exceptions to this rule and sometimes it’s led to awkward or uncomfortable situations – like people I barely know asking me about something I posted on my wall, or reading very personal things from almost strangers.

One thing I do strongly suggest is not friending bosses or coworkers. It can lead to some uncomfortable or negative work related problems. Invite them to connect on LinkedIn instead.

Townsquared. This site is growing daily and it’s for business owners and is focused on specific neighborhoods. It provides an opportunity to network and get to know the local businesses in your area. Because it is less about posting things and more about connecting with your neighborhood business owners I always agree to connect with someone. I have not had a problem. It’s a good site to share best practices or answer questions as fellow business owners. They also have some fun networking events.

Ultimately, how you connect on any site is up to you. You may be more or less open to connecting with strangers or people you don’t know well. You have to decide what works for you. But, I don’t think it’s a problem to err on the side of caution with the exception of Townsquared. I’d love your thoughts. How do you approach connecting with others on the various social media sites?

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