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Practicing good social media etiquette is critical in the digital economy

Raise your hand if you like getting solicited from random strangers. Strange, I don’t see anyone’s hand raised.

The pandemic has nearly doubled the number of requests I’ve been getting on LinkedIn from people I have zero connections to. While many of them seem innocuous enough, the majority of them aren’t. These “harmless” requests may seem like an ideal way to expand my network, but far too many times they end in disappointment. If you’re fed up like me, the rest of this article should put a smile on your face. If, however, you fear you may be an offender, then please read on for some tips on how you can improve.

Let’s start by asking the question, “What should LinkedIn be for?”

It’s about developing your network and elevating your brand. The best marketing experts will tell you that to succeed in today’s economy, it is no longer about mass appeal, but about niche appeal. You don’t need your message to be heard by everybody to generate enough leads, you really need it to be heard by a narrowly defined audience that has the highest likelihood of becoming a client or partner. Since I know my brand and our value proposition extremely well, and also have some very clearly defined target audiences I would like to approach, I’ve always tried to be strategic with the connections I both pursue and the ones I accept.

This is my first tip: if you really want to optimize LinkedIn for yourself, do not use a buckshot approach spraying connections requests everywhere based on “suggestions” or people from your network you really don’t want to do business with.

Admittedly, with many people reaching out to me, every once in a while, I do decide to give someone the benefit of the doubt and let my guard down. Nine times out of 10 it is a bad idea. So, my second tip is: go with your gut because it’s normally right (that’s true for food and LinkedIn).

In the digital marketplace, the wrong content can be deadly.

People tune you out or don’t respond favorably because you’re demonstrating you don't know them very well. Far too many financial professionals talk at their audience instead of talking with them and inviting them into a conversation. My third tip is: Don’t be tone deaf. Develop an audience-first mindset to meet people where they are. Provide your connections with meaningful content and start the relationship by supporting their growth and aspirations before you invite them to work with you.

Let me share with you my list of do’s and don’ts that should hopefully help you take a more strategic approach and see much better LinkedIn results.

Let’s Start With the Don’ts

Don’t send auto-generated LinkedIn invites. Either send a personal note, or no message at all, but the canned invites just demonstrate you are thoughtless about your approach at the outset of forming a potential relationship.

Example: Hi Brian,

Hope you are well. I am actively seeking new connections on LinkedIn and was hoping you would become one of them.

Warm regards,


Don’t just connect with anyone who asks. Place a high value on forming meaningful relationships. Have a strategy for growing your network. If you have too many connections that don’t represent your target audience, you can start to lose the power of socialnomics. Socialnomics, as Erik Qualman describes it, “is one where your digital connections that are kindred spirits will actually interact with you and support you… and eventually even refer people to you.”

Don’t be tone deaf to someone’s response.



Hi Brian, thanks for connecting.

So many families are scrambling right now, doing their best to figure out what to do with their finances and how to plan for their future during this crisis. To that end, we have a program that helps you get in front of high-income families that need your help (especially during a crisis when they need you most). Most of our advisors using this method are acquiring 2-3 new clients a week worth $3000-$10,000 each plus AUM if they are securities licensed.

We’ve taught it to 1000s of advisors over the past 20 years across the country and I'd love to share the details of how it works.

May I send the details your way?


SOMEONE that’s clearly not interested in you for anything more than selling you something

Brian Haney CLTC CFS CFBS CIS LACP CAE sent the following message at 7:30 AM

No thanks SOMEONE. Not looking for solicitations when I connect with people virtually. I use LinkedIn to develop virtual relationships and get to know others but since we have yet to form such a relationship I have to be up front and tell you I’m not interested. Thanks anyway though!


Someone sent the following message at 4:46 AM

Hi Brian, and happy new year! I wanted to get your take on this ...

We've launched a new service where we generate 10-20 appointments for financial advisors with high-income families in their area who desperately need their help to navigate this new economy. We fill virtual rooms with your dream clients, create a presentation for you to share and ultimately have you close 2-3 new clients a week. These results are typical of what we see w/ the 80+ advisors we've worked with thus far.

Seeing your background I thought this could be of interest. I'd love to set you up a call with myself or a member of our team to share more details + network a bit + give you a better sense of how we could add a new revenue stream to your business.

Perhaps a brief chat later this week or next?


SOMEONE who clearly didn’t listen the first time

Brian Haney CLTC CFS CFBS CIS LACP CAE sent the following message at 8:14 AM

No, thank you

Don’t be a yucky salesperson. No one likes being a part of some online lead generation system that is impersonal. Yes, salespeople are trained that it is all a numbers game, so send out as many messages on LinkedIn as you can and something is bound to pop. However, with more and more people recognizing the “game” the likelihood that this ends up alienating potential customers while damaging your brand seems like the greater risk to me. There are also a lot of studies showing that client retention suffers when the basis for the relationship was built on “sales scripts & tactics” and not on relational understanding.

Be wary of how you use automatic content posting services. While they have the advantages of being convenient and trackable and offer the convenience of a “set-it-and-forget-it” auto-post dynamic, they are widely utilized, which dilutes your brand and makes what you produce seem thoughtless and impersonal. People can tell how much thought goes into your posts, just like they can tell how much thought you put into a card or an email. Covet and protect your brand at all costs, and be sure your messaging is a positive reflection of your practice and yourself.

Let’s End With My Favorite List of LinkedIn Do’s

Connect to people for genuine and legitimate reasons. This includes being interested in who they are and what they do. If you have well-developed “buyer personas” that are driving your niche market development efforts, then take some extra time to consider the connections you’re approaching. Read their profiles and some posts before sending an invite request so you can add a personal note like, “Hey, I really found your post about X interesting and would love to become a connection and see more of what you’re doing!”

Take time to get to know someone virtually before approaching them for business. Be interested! No one likes spam emails, robocallers, door-to-door donation grabbers, or used car salespeople, so be the opposite of that. When you demonstrate you listen and know someone, this creates a level of understanding that is a much better basis for starting a business relationship than, “Hey, I am short on my sales goals and need to find some new leads fast!”

Be considerate. If someone responds negatively to your request or your posts, be respectful of that. There’s plenty of fish in the sea, so no need to constantly re-approach people who have responded negatively before.

Be authentic. Being the best version of yourself trumps slick language, scripting, and tactics by a landslide. When you’re personal and genuine people can tell and will respond a lot more favorably than if you’re scripted or methodical.

Understand the power of two-way communication. Build better relationships by connecting to your audience and drawing them in with engaging content that sparks thought-provoking conversations. Find the practical places (platforms) and spaces (groups) where you need to be in order to thrive.

If you want to be a social media superstar, then focus on providing value to your audience. After you take the right approach and get to know and understand them more in the digital space, then create content that meets them where they are and addresses expressed needs you know they have. The best content has an OFFER to it. It helps your audience move the needle and take a step. For example: “Want to learn more? Download the free whitepaper here.”

Develop a social media presence that is short, simple to create, and leaves your audience wanting more. Now more than ever before we have massive capacity to share our brand with the right audiences and demonstrate our credibility in a myriad of ways that will lead to meaningful and profitable relationships long term. It all starts with practicing good social media hygiene!

Brian Haney, CLTC, CFS, CFBS, CIS, LACP, CAE, is Founder and Vice President of the Haney Company.