So you’ve got a killer product or service and you need to get it in front of the right people online. Alas, you’re struggling to make connections on social media with people who give a crap what you have to say.

Sound familiar? Trust me, you’re not alone.

The problem may be that you’re just trying to move too fast making virtual connections…

Yes, everything on social media happens WAY faster that IRL (In Real Life – a perfect example of faster, or at least it would have been had I not stopped explain the acronym). It’s just the way of the internet, of course things are happening faster.

But does that mean that the way you build relationships has changed? No.

Yes, you can certainly find like-minded people faster. A LinkedIn group is easier to get to than a networking event. So that’s faster, yes.

Scrolling down a page scanning profiles doesn’t take nearly as long as walking across a room scanning name tags, and you’ll learn a lot more about them in the process. Again, faster.

The difference is that while these things happen faster, it doesn’t change the WAY they are done. That said, why do some people think it’s okay to interact with people differently just because we’re in a virtual space rather than a physical room?

Perhaps it’s the false sense of anonymity the internet provides. I say false because, unless you’re REALLY doing things wrong, you’re virtual presence is anything but anonymous. It’s your personal brand.

And guess what? A mistake on the internet has the potential to destroy your personal brand 100 times faster than a mistake in real life.

If celebrities on social media have taught us anything, it’s that an ill-timed Tweet or Facebook update is like pee in a pool. Once it’s out there, there’s no getting it back. If they’re fast enough, maybe they can delete the Tweet before it gets screenshot and blasted over the interweb, maybe.

And the bigger and better your personal brand gets, the harder your mistakes will be to control. You’ve spent a lot of time building that personal brand. Respect it. Nurture it. Pet it like a bunny and name it George.

But let’s get back on topic.

For all you non-celebrities, the more realistic danger is you’re going spend a lot of time spinning your wheels and annoying people with nothing to show for it. If that sounds like a good use of your time, you can stop reading now.

On the other hand, if you treat prospects like people, you’ll connect with less but convert more. Now, that sounds pretty good; right?

So now that we’ve established that behaving online has the same rules as IRL, do you still think it’s appropriate to charge in at warp speed with your, “Listen to how awesome I am” pitch to anyone within virtual earshot? I sincerely hope not.

If this is how it feels when you’re attempting to connect online, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Look at it from your own perspective. How many times has this happened to you? You get a message on LinkedIn from someone wanting to connect. This is the virtual equivalent of introducing yourself at a networking event IRL (you remember what that is, right?).

So you accept the request and, keeping with our analogy, you’ve now essentially accepted the IRL handshake and introduction. Online, this is where the wheels come off.

Within five minutes, your new connection sends you a message that goes a little something like this:

‪Thanks for connecting. I reviewed your profile and see that you have a great business. You should incorporate [insert amazing service or product] into your product roster. As luck would have it (they are not usually this entertaining) my company, ABC Amazing Consultants, happens to offer such a product. ‬

Please let me know if Thursday at noon would be a good time for me to call/come by/bother you with all the irrelevant details. Here’s my auto-scheduler, phone number, email address, and homing pigeon. I’ll see you on Thursday!

Oh and by the way, would you write a recommendation for me and introduce me to your connections?

Now, let’s get back to our IRL analogy.

Imagine, if you will, a person at a networking event who introduces themselves, shakes hands, and then the next words out of their mouth are the message we just detailed above. You’d probably feel like you were in an episode of Twilight Zone.

The truth is, no one behaves like that IRL. And while it would seem bizarre in person, online it’s just really stupid, annoying, and a general waste of everyone’s time.

Listen up gang…we’re talking about Social Media, yes? The main word to remember is “Social.”

I don’t know about you, but I happen to believe creating business relationships takes just a little bit of finesse. At the very least, start a conversation and remember that conversations go both ways.

Start by gathering a little information about the person you’re connecting with (I guarantee you find something on their LinkedIn profile) and use it as an ice breaker.

Once the conversation is started, show some interest and ask a few strategic questions.

How Not to Connect on Social Media Ask Questions
Get to know your new connection by showing interest in them.

Asking questions to learn more about your prospect accomplishes a couple things.

One, you’re showing (hopefully) genuine interest in the person; something almost everyone appreciates.

And two, you will be gathering the valuable information you can use to convert this connection into a meaningful relationship.

You may immediately realize they don’t belong to the target market you thought they did. In which case, you can politely ease the brakes on the conversation, promising to keep them in mind if you see something you can help them with in the future.

Also, actually do this. Keep a database/spreadsheet/hand-written scroll of people and their needs you can’t help with right now, but may be able to in the future. You never know when or how spreading goodwill may come back to you (maybe never), but it’s a great practice to get into.

Even better, by asking questions you can find out what specific product or service you offer may be the best fit for them.

By this time, you’ve started to get to know them. They’ll naturally feel more comfortable interacting with you. Now you can pitch them with a real and specific value proposition.

So what have we learned?

  1. Social media is after all, social.
  2. Selling shouldn’t require lube.
  3. Creating a relationship is first base.
  4. Help instead of sell.

Well, there you have it…how NOT to connect on social media. Just always keep in mind that you’re a human being trying to connect with other humans, and you should be just fine.

Now get out there and make some REAL connections!