Over the past couple of years, it’s become more and more apparent that LinkedIn isn’t the only place to make lasting professional connections. Twitter can also be great for building authentic relationships online (perhaps even better—it’s much easier to bond with people over similar interests than just similar career paths or jobs).
However, much like LinkedIn, there are nuances to making (and maintaining) professional connections on Twitter so that people don’t find you overbearing, creepy, or just plain weird.
Here are five major things to avoid doing when it comes to networking in the Twitterverse.
1. Joining Conversations and Being Off-Topic
I’ve seen this a scary number of times on Twitter, and it not only comes across as off-putting, but it also makes someone even less likely to want to connect with you.
If a professional you admire is talking about something on Twitter and you really want to join in, that’s fine; just be sure that you’re totally on topic with what he or she is talking about (and avoid being self-promotional at all costs!).
For example, a couple weeks ago, a couple of Twitter friends and I were discussing our favorite career books, when suddenly another user jumped in and started talking about her lifestyle blog. Not only was it incredibly self-promotional, but it also had nothing to do with what we were talking about.
Awkward? Yes. Was a connection forged? Nope. Could it have been done in a way that worked in her favor? Absolutely: She could have given a couple of book suggestions of her own, and after one or two more exchanges, could have directed us to a specific post on her blog about career books. It makes for a much smoother transition.
2. Favoriting or Retweeting Everything Someone Tweets
I speak from personal experience when I say it can be extremely annoying when someone you don’t know favorites or retweets everything you put on Twitter, regardless of what it is or to whom you’re talking.
To someone who doesn’t know you, this can come off as overbearing, intrusive, and even a little fangirl-like, so make sure you limit your favorites and retweets when you’re first trying to reach out to someone. A general rule to follow is to only favorite or retweet one thing per day—tops. Eventually, after a couple of weeks, comment on something that person posted if it’s relevant.
The name of the game here, though, is moderation. You’d be weirded out in real life if someone you didn’t know at all started trying to talk to you every five seconds, and Twitter isn’t any different!
3. Asking to Direct Message All the Time
Direct messaging (DM) on Twitter only works if both users are following each other, so it’s all too common to get multiple tweets from someone you don’t know saying, “Follow me so I can DM you!” And it, frankly, comes across as annoying and kind of creepy.
Remember: You don’t need to have a one-on-one conversation with someone through direct messaging to build a connection. Start off with talking to him or her publicly before moving to something more private.
Again, think about this as if you were networking in person: If someone you didn’t know immediately asked if you wanted to step into another room to chat privately, you’d probably be turned off. Keep things public for a while and avoid scaring someone off.
4. Assuming One Tweet Means You’re Best Friends
So, you took your time, favorited some tweets from a professional you admire, and finally worked up the courage to tweet something directly at that person. And he or she responded to your tweet!
It’s easy to want to think that because this person has talked to you once, you must have a genuine connection. However, don’t fall for the trap of believing that you’re now best friends. Connections aren’t built overnight; they take weeks and months and years to construct, so keep this in mind if you have any interactions with another professional.
The bottom line? Keep your correspondence casual, and remember that it takes a lot more than one reciprocated tweet to build a rapport.
5. Saying You “Know” Someone Because You’ve Interacted on Twitter
Another big no-no when it comes to Twitter interactions: Don’t assume that chatting on Twitter with someone automatically mean you two are professional contacts. Twitter is a great place to meet people you wouldn’t normally have access to every day or via other channels (like LinkedIn or email), but that doesn’t mean that it’s the be-all and end-all of these relationships.
The main goal of building relationships online is to take them offline as soon as possible (or at least take them off of public networks). If you make a genuine connection with someone over time on Twitter, work up toward asking for his or her email address and setting up a coffee meeting or a chance to meet up at a networking event.
A related tip: Don’t automatically assume you can “e-troduce” other people to this contact just because you talk on Twitter!
Twitter is a totally awesome place to make some really great connections to other professionals. The big thing is to make sure that you’re considerate when it comes to the other person’s space and time.
Remember: Being attentive and fun can really easily become being creepy and overbearing, so limit your interactions at first, be mindful of how your behavior affects the other person, and get that connection off of Twitter as soon as possible!