Without Personalization, Social Networking is Not Social

by Jeannie Walters

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We’ve come a long way with social networking

In the past few years, social networking has really taken off!  Use of social media is quickly becoming mainstream communication. It is great to see so many people getting connected in ways they never thought possible.

Yet many people are jumping in without understanding the value of personalizing their messages.

Social networking for 2014

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?

As we head into 2014 and start to think about making resolutions, I’d like to suggest that we all resolve to treat online relationships like real relationships and stop treating people like they are all the same.

social networking

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.

social networking

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.

social networking

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.

This post was written for, and a version originally appeared on SocialMediaClub’s Clubhouse blog

 Image credits: shannonkringeneeekkgirl and mrbill78636 via Creative Commons

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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