A colleague commented the other day that he had been mildly surprised to receive a friend request from an intern who had started working at his firm. His comment raises the question: When is it appropriate to submit a friend request in business? Before you decide to send a request to connect or friend, think about:
■ The social network you are making the request on.
■ The relationship you have with that person.
■ What you want to achieve.
The two gorillas of social networking are Facebook and LinkedIn. Think of LinkedIn as a networking tool and contact management system designed for business relationships. Facebook is more of a place for people to socialize and connect on a personal basis, although businesses have certainly found ways to use Facebook for marketing. But for the individual, use Facebook for personal life and LinkedIn for business.
So, my colleague’s intern should have been looking to connect with him through LinkedIn, not Facebook. But timing also made a difference to the intern’s request. As she had just started at this company, my colleague had no real relationship with her yet. Consequently, from his perspective her request was like receiving a request from a stranger. Her better course of action would have been to wait a few weeks.
For the intern, she should have answered the question “What do I want to achieve with my request?” before she sent it.
If she is simply trying to build a relationship with my colleague, her best approach is to do it in person first. She has the advantage of being in front of him and impressing him every day with her work and her effort.
Even if her goal is to friend him on Facebook, she should first give him a chance to get to know her better She should also consider just what kind of access she wants him to have on her page.
If she is seeking to get him to be part of her professional network, again, the relationship she builds at work with him is a much better way to encourage him to join. Once she’s established a track record with him, complementing the in-person relationship with a request to connect on LinkedIn would be appropriate. Timing is everything.
E-mail questions about business etiquette to firstname.lastname@example.org.