A colleague commented to me the other day that he had been mildly surprised to receive a friend request from an intern who had recently 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 the social networking world are Facebook and LinkedIn. In a nutshell, 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 a way to use Facebook as a marketing platform as well. 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 her request. As she had just started at this company, he 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 before sending her request.
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 at work first. She has the advantage of being in front of him and impressing him every day with her work and her effort. That is a decided advantage over anyone who seeks to connect and build a relationship only through the online community. 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, then complementing the in-person relationship with a request to connect on LinkedIn would be appropriate. Timing is everything.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
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