5 Stupid Things You Do in Social Media That Brand You a Pariah

Carol Tice

I’ve frequently mentioned that freelance writers should use Twitter and especially LinkedIn (and now of course Google+ too) to connect with influential people — target editors, send your blog posts to top bloggers, and so on.

Now that some people consider me a popular blogger, I’m getting a lot of those reach-outs myself.

And I’ve discovered there are some problems.


And I don’t just mean people with unpronounceable names from far-off countries who maybe don’t know the ropes yet, either. Often, it’s U.S.-based freelancers.

So here is a quick guide to help you avoid blowing your chances to connect with influencers by committing cringeworthy social media blunders. These are the top things that annoy me, and I’ll bet I’m not the only one.

1. You say you’re my friend on LinkedIn when you’re not. I wish I had a dime for every total stranger who has checked the “Friend” box on an LI connection invite and sent it off to me, without changing the standard language in the box or anything. Lying about our relationship does not make me like or trust you — or want to help you.

It seems quite a few people have not read LI’s guidelines for how to connect with people on this platform — we’re supposed to report as spam people who do this. When I told one offender that I was keeping my LI connections to my actual, well, connections, she blithely responded, “Well, that’s a novel approach!”

Actually, it isn’t. It’s the way most professionals are constructing their LinkedIn networks.

There’s no point in my being connected to people I don’t really know, just to enlarge my network. At one point I made an offer to connect with everyone in one of my LI groups, and I see now it was a mistake — I just acquired a bunch of contacts who might want an introduction or referral to someone else in my network, but I can’t really do it, because I don’t know you well enough. It just doesn’t work.

“Friend” means just that — I know you and like you. We have a relationship that is longer than five minutes in duration.

Hint: Write something unique in that box that describes how we know each other — something beyond “I subscribe to your blog so please connect with me here” — if you want an acceptance from someone who’s getting dozens of these invites daily. If you’re honest about how we know each other and I can recall you and your writing, I might want to connect. But liars will never be my friends.

2. Your first reach-out to me is a sales offer. This goes doubly true when you have no connections or followers. This is super-popular on Twitter, especially the automatic-DM sales response if I’ve made the mistake of following you. Once again, I don’t yet know or trust you — we just virtually met. I am not buying your thing, especially after clicking on it creates popups that don’t want to close. With this type of first tweet, I’m blocking you so fast your pixels will spin.

3. You ask me to subcontract my writing work to you. This is another strangely popular first message I get a lot, on email and in social media. So let me clarify: I will not ever be subcontracting out writing work to writers who are complete strangers, just because they ask me.

I have no clients who would be OK with some of my writing secretly being done by someone else with a fraction of my experience, and I will never be taking the risk of blowing a client relationship to throw you a little work. When I do get client leads for gigs I don’t have time for — which at this point happens nearly every week — I sometimes refer them to longtime writer friends, but mostly I post them in the Freelance Writers Den Junk-Free Job Board.


5. You post ten identical updates in a row.  Or it’s the same message every day. I block these people right away, too. Would you do that if we were having a conversation in a coffee shop and you wanted to build a relationship? I think not. Basic rule: Don’t say anything in social media you wouldn’t say in a coffee shop.



  1. LindaH

    Just today I got an Invitation from someone I don’t know who called me a “Friend” and I accepted because it made me laugh. I’ve had several do it, and while I’m flattered I’m starting to get picky. Apparently, I’m growing in popularity too, because I had one freelance writer who was whining about not making good money actually ask me to send him some work and hire him. When I told him why I wouldn’t, he got mad and I ended up reporting him to LI.

    I’ve probably been guilty of #2, but I have to say that I’ve also received several #2s and just deleted one today. And I’ve received several #5s so that was just funny and I smiled as I clicked delete.

    Linked In has proven a good source for leads and business connections, and recently I’ve gotten several new clients from forum posts I made. I’m learning more about Google+ and am aware of Twitter, but don’t use it much yet. As I get to working more, I’m using these social media networks more.

    Thanks for a great post, Carol, as always. You made these issues entertaining while making significant points about professionalism, tact and diplomacy and just plain — don’t do this folks! Now that I’m more aware, I’ll likely start seeing more of these and getting a bigger chuckle out of them.

  2. Di Mace

    Perfectly on mark, as always Carol. As has been said before, last time checked, LinkedIn isn’t Facebook or Twitter and numbers don’t count for kudos.
    I’m pretty tight on my acceptances as I’d perfect 100 solid contacts to 500 flakey ones. But the other LI trap I’ve fallen into a few times is when I get contacted for a quote/pitch on some copywriting or article work.This is then followed (during talks and intial scoping) with a request to connect. Having checked out their profile, and from my side the job is moving along, so I’ve stupidly accepted the request. Once I’ve done that, I never hear from them again! Hmmmmm….

    • Carol Tice

      I’ve had people ask to connect during a negotiation too — and I just hold off on it and keep looking at whether we’ll really be working together, so I can avoid the whole issue if we don’t. Your experience tells me that’s a good idea!


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