You’ve stumbled across the LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram account of someone you have a ton of respect for and would love to connect with. You’ve got that compose window open and you’re preparing to send a private message, but you know it’s a risky endeavor. Miss the mark, and at best you’ll be banished to the depths of their inbox. Get it really wrong, and you run the risk of your message been screen-grabbed and meme’d all over the interwebs. Gulp!
If private messaging a business prospect is new territory for you, don’t stress. Here’s how to slide into someone’s professional direct messages (DMs) in a way that’s actually good for your reputation.
Tip 1: Don’t give them “stranger danger” flashbacks
These days we’re all online all the time – and broadcasting our content to the world. When you’re hanging on someone’s every social media update it’s easy to feel like you already “know” someone, but remember that that feeling isn’t necessarily mutual.
Most likely, you’re going to be reaching out to someone who considers you a stranger, even if you make it a point to like and comment on all of their stuff. Don’t make the awkward mistake of assuming an existing connection where none exists. If you are connected to this person in some way, say through a mutual client, friend or alumni group, flag that so they know who you are. For example, if I’m connecting with someone over social media direct messages, and they happen to be from my alma mater, James Madison University, I’m signing off with “Go Dukes!” a staple phrase of students past and present.
One more thing: Chances are the first thing someone will do is check out your profile, so make sure it’s filled in and can pass the “this looks legit” test.
Tip 2: Know your private messaging etiquette
Ack, you’ve got a blinking cursor and all that space to fill. What to write? Where to begin? And more importantly, where to stop?? Just in case you need a private messaging decorum refresher, here’s what to keep in mind when reaching out to your prospect or connection:
- Keep it short. Think friendly introduction, not Master’s thesis. A few sentences or even a paragraph is plenty.
Give your reasons. Say why you’re reaching out – and make sure your reason is both specific and professional. Don’t be a creeper!
- Add some value. Offer up something relevant to the person the person you’re connecting with. Maybe it’s a link, some new research or a book relevant to their work. Hint: Only send your own stuff if it’s directly relevant, not tangentially so!
- Don’t make demands. Asking to connect is already requiring someone to take time out of their day. Unless you’re looking to hire or acquire, don’t add additional requests to that.
- Don’t be a spammer. Personalize your message – and double check you’ve got their name right! People can sniff out a spammer instantly.
Keep it to one platform. If you don’t get a reply on LinkedIn, don’t go stalking someone across other social platforms. Give it some time and follow up if needed, but if you still get a non-response, step aside. Not everyone has the bandwidth to respond to every message, and that’s OK.
- Understand your message could be taken public. It shouldn’t have to be said, but a “private” message can easily be screenshotted or shared. Never write anything in a message you wouldn’t want to see posted all over the internet.
Still at a loss for words? STEAL MY SCRIPTS HERE!
Tip 3: Handle your own letter-writing
All that online schmoozing can be time-consuming, and it’s super tempting to farm out the meets and greets to a virtual assistant. But hold your fire. You’ve got one chance to make a great first impression, and having someone else blindly send out messages that lack context or background can end up doing more harm than good. Make it a point to own your inbox so that you can be the one personally managing those all-important relationships. If you’re really short on time, you can cherry pick which messages require a personal response from you, and delegate the rest to your VA.
Tip 4: If all else fails, there’s always email
Sliding into someone’s professional DMs can be a great way to connect with someone with a strong online presence or who is otherwise hard to pin down. But if their social profiles aren’t super active or you urgently need a response to something, your best bet is usually to send an email. You can search for their email credentials on their social sites, company website or use a tool like Hunter.io to try and find the information you’re seeking. It’s still the most reliable, professional option available to you – plus Gmail has that handy “undo send” option for those of us who only notice our typos after hitting send!
Looking for more tips? Be sure to subscribe to our Weekly SNAPshot for more tips and tricks just like this inside your inbox!