9 Etiquette Guidelines for Social Networking

Like any business activity, social networking comes with a few guidelines in proper etiquette. Failing to follow these guidelines can burn bridges and cost you future business, not just in the short-term but long-term as well. Word-of-mouth works both ways—good and bad. You can count on bad word-of-mouth impacting your business far more effectively than good word-of-mouth can. When participating in social networking activities, follow the guidelines below to ensure you don’t burn any bridges along the way.

But first, determine what you want to accomplish from social networking. Do you want more business? Do you want to chat and socialize? Do you want to help others? Most people use social networking to get more business or to spread the word about a new product or service. Once you define your goals, you’ll be able to develop a plan to achieve those goals.

  1. Be polite and courteous to everyone. You never know who other people know. That one person you ignored, rejected, or offended just might know the owner of the company you want to win business from. Also, be friendly to those you’ve met before. First impressions are important, but so are future ones.
  2. Don’t judge or discriminate. Appearances don’t tell the whole story, and tying in with the first guideline, be nice. Getting to know everyone maximizes your social networking experience.
  3. Avoid the sales pitch. It’s okay to give your elevator pitch and talk about what you do, but don’t try to convince someone that your product is perfect for her, unless she wants to hear it. Know your elevator pitch and be prepared to answer questions.
  4. Establish relationships. Building rapport with others will be more effective in growing your business than giving them a sales pitch. Focus on establishing relationships with others to build trust, and the business will follow.
  5. Mingle. Don’t just hang out with the people you know. Talk with new people and learn about what they do. If you can, help them achieve their goals or point them in the right direction.
  6. Ask questions. By asking questions, you show your new acquaintance that you are interested in learning more about what he does. It also gives you a better idea of how you can help him, either by referring him to someone you know or keeping him in mind for future reference.
  7. Exchange business cards. If you are networking to get more business, always exchange business cards. You never know when it might pay off. Someday you may receive a call from someone you exchanged cards with a year ago asking you for a quote. It can happen!
  8. Send follow-up e-mails. Everyone enjoys receiving personal letters and e-mails. Sending a quick ‘it was nice to meet you’ e-mail to the people you met at a networking event is a nice gesture. And when you receive one first, send a quick note back. It doesn’t have to consume your day. Just write a brief e-mail, save it as a template, and personalize each message you send out.
  9. Don’t add to your mailing list. It is tacky when someone puts you on a mailing list, especially when you didn’t ask for it. Find other ways to increase your mailing list, such as including instructions to sign up for your mailings in your e-mail signature or adding a sign-up page to your website.

Remember, social networking is about interacting with and getting to know others. You won’t learn everything you need to know about a person during your first meeting, or even the first few. Continue to interact and get to know people and you will develop important relationships with people who are eager to help you grow your business.

About the Author: Jody Calkins is a freelance business writer who writes about business development, risk management, security protection, and business standards. Visit www.emeryroad.com for more information and samples.



  1. Very practical list Jody! My version of #8 is that I send a LinkedIn invitation to connect with a short note that I enjoyed meeting the person. That way I am still proactively growing my network and hopefully setting up a long-term connection. It also helps reduce my business card clutter.

  2. […] Getting involved in networking events hosted by your local chamber of commerce, BNI chapter, or other organization is a great way to spread the word about your business. See my post on social networking etiquette. […]

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