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. Samar

    The number of times I’ve scratched my head wondering how I know the person who has listed me as a ‘friend’ in their LinkedIn request is beyond me.

    Now I socialize a lot so it’s possible I meet people that I don’t remember so I always go to their profile to see who we have in common. That’s usually enough to trigger my memory.

    Unfortunately, it also means that if I know our shared connection(s) well, I feel bad about not accepting the friend request. Which is probably why I have so many LinkedIn connections.

    Reading your post Carol, I’m beginning to realize I need to tighten my acceptance policy on LinkedIn.

    I just wish LinkedIn had an option that said, I know this person through social media. Lol.

  2. Dindy

    Brilliant information particularly item #1 – my memory may be fading but generally I remember friends. Love your blog and all your advice!

  3. Bonnie Zink

    As both a freelance writer and social media strategist, I try to avoid these missteps and warn clients to avoid making these terrible mistakes. A “lie” shouldn’t be your first impression. Selling something is not what your activity should be all about. The most valuable advice I’ve received and given is this: “Social media is about beginning relationships of value.” It is not all about you all the time.

    Those who are successful at incorporating social media into their overall communications strategy make the effort to know their networks. Talk to them. Ask your followers questions. Find out who they are, what they, and what they are interested in. Be honest and genuine while you connect with new people and your network will grow and provide the value you deserve.

    Social media is, again, not about you, but it is about quality relationships and community. This is where the true value lies.

    Thanks for sharing these insights. No matter how many times I hear or read them, I am always appreciative of a well crafted reminder.

    • Carol Tice

      I love that saying, Bonnie — though often my feeling is it’s NOT beginning on social media — I’m connecting to someone in social media because I already know them some other way — from in-person networking, or because they’ve commented so much on my blogs or been a really active Den member or maybe a Den moderator I’ve gotten to know…and now I want to also stay connected to them on a social media platform.

      • Bonnie Zink

        I completely agree. Although I often begin a relationship on social media and it leads to other modes of connection. For instance, I’ll find people of interest and who can provide value to my network and connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms. We begin conversing and sharing knowledge, which often leads to either a phone or SKYPE connection, and, ultimately, we will meet in real time (at a conference, for coffee, etc.).

        Social media is a powerful tool that I use to build community and maintain relationships. I do connect with my in-person connections via social media as well. It all works together.

  4. Anne Wayman

    I so agree – for some reason I find the requests to connect with LinkedIN with no personal msg or no reason why we should connect particularly annoying – that and the dozen identical posts…


  5. Sarah

    All of the above are true but in my case I’m asked to subcontract out my web development work!!
    It’s amazing that some people still post in all caps, that I just don’t get but see it all the time on forums.
    I think the Friend option on LinkedIn is used because the other options don’t fit a lot of the time but when people you really don’t know use it then it’s odd, still it’s better than the ones I get saying that we worked at the same company when we most definitely haven’t.
    The ones that get me the most are when business connections use social media to tell me when they’re going to bed or what they’ve had for lunch, that is just too much information.

    • Carol Tice

      Oh exactly — people are checking ‘friend’ because they do not have a legit business connection with a company that they can claim with you, and that’s the workaround. But people need to realize it’s not OK to use that if we’re not really friends!

  6. Terri H

    Carol, thank you for writing this. The first item is one of my major pet peeves too! As a result, I have a long list of “requests to connect” that will go w/o response since I have no idea who these people are. It’s so annoying. Last time I checked, Linkedin isn’t Facebook.

    What I also hate are those people who will direct a Tweet to you with a blog link, etc. Then you click on their profile only to find that they’ve directed the same tweet to about 100 other people on Twitter. Can we say, SPAM?!!!!

  7. Carolyn

    I completely agree with everything you’ve written here. I have made a lot of acquaintances through social media and value the “relationships” that are gradually built up while we share information. As friendly as some of the websites and blogs are, I certainly would never dream of assuming that someone is a friend just because of a few messages or comments which pass between you and that person.

  8. Chris

    What a great post. Useful tips. I hate the DM autoresponses, but I don’t usually unfollow anyone unless they’re trying to sell me something right away, or only post things like $29 for 1,000 followers. Geeze.

  9. Rob

    Nobody wants to know me on LinkedIn, so I don’t have your problem. However, on occasion I’ve really wanted “befriend” someone I have only a tenuous connection with. Since LinkedIn (probably wisely) makes this difficult, I, too, have been guilty of ticking an untruthful box. I do, however, usually remember to write, “I understand if you don’t wish to accept my request and won’t be offended if you don’t” in my personalised introduction.

    I can imagine how annoying it must be for you to get all these friend requests, but hey!, look on the bright side. It means you’re popular. Imagine how I feel, all forlorn and lonely on LinkedIn. Please be my friend and I’ll give you a discount on my new ebook, “29 Ways to Make Friends and Profit on Linkedin” and I’ll even give you a discount rate on the articles you pass my way!!

    Thanks in advance.


    ps: look for a copy-paste update tomorrow and the next day and the next and the next . . .

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks for my laugh of the day Rob — I think you get a prize for combining as many faux pas as possible in one message!

      I just try to imagine how many of these bogus reach-outs someone like Chris Brogan gets a day — gotta be staggering. It shows the challenge of connecting in a meaningful way with really big bloggers whose attention your trying to get.

      Which all leads to…writing awesome blog posts with truly GREAT headlines. That’s what worked for me.

  10. Anne

    I accidentally did the LinkedIn “friend” faux pas. I saw a link for someone in the “people you might know” list, expanded the list and found a lot of former colleagues from a large company that I had worked with. I was kind of wondering why I didn’t have to select the field that specified that I knew them through a previous employer. I didn’t think too much of it, just figured LinkedIn changed or somehow recognized the connection since it was from that list. It must have been a glitch. Apparently, all the requests went through specifying the relationship as friend. No big deal, except I had accidentally requested to connect with someone that didn’t have a photo. I can only guess that she was right beside someone I did know. I have no clue. Dumb on my part, but it happens. A day later I get a sarcastic message from a marketing pro that I don’t know. I apologized, but geez. A couple weeks ago I was looking for sources for a feature story and asked the editor if she had any companies in mind. Guess who’s name was listed among possible people to call? I used the other contacts on the list. Her snarky response reflected poorly on her and lost the company she represents publicity, which is the essence of her position. So I can definitely attest that people do NOT like to be approached as a friend if they are not! I would also suggest that on LinkedIn, if you must respond to an unappreciated request, do so professionally… you just never know!

  11. Cathie Ericson

    This was a great article, as always.

    In minor defense of the “friend,” one, sometimes the categories don’t fit. You can’t say you’ve “done business” or are a “colleague” if it’s someone you know from LinkedIn groups, for example. And sometimes I do want to “connect” with those people that I interact with online.

    I am very active in the LI groups I belong to so I get lots of requests. Sometimes they indicate they know me from a group, but if it’s someone who doesn’t participate in the group, who cares? There are thousands who belong but never join in.

    I think lots of people want to amass as many contacts as possible since a higher number makes them look more “connected” but to your point…connected to what/who?

    Many times I have looked through people’s lists and asked how they know so-and-so (mutual client or whatever) and they say “oh, I don’t really” and mention it was someone who knew someone else or whatever. Well, how is that a useful connection?

    Every single one of mine, with the exception of a very few group people I accepted before I understood the lack of value, is someone that I could tell you at least a few sentences about. I don’t have a lot of connections but to me they all have value of some type.

    I can’t imagine asking the subcontract question; wow! That is nervy!

    • Carol Tice

      Well, a lot of people have that nerve, I can tell you! They think asking a writer to sub their work is going to solve all their client-seeking problems.

      The thing to remember is each platform has its own flavor. Obviously, on Twitter I’m followed by 6K people now — and they are not all people I know! And even the 600 I follow myself, many are thought leaders I don’t personally know. The connection there means something else — it means “I’m a person who’s interested in what you have to say.” And that’s all.

      But on LI, it’s built to be a real reflection of who we know…so the rules work differently. And I do feel you’re better off only connecting to people you really know, even if it means a smaller circle of connections.

      To the topic of building those connections, I would challenge anyone who says “Nobody wants to know me” to get proactive and look at former editors and coworkers…you can probably increase your network with some invitations to people you really DO know!

      • Cathie Ericson

        Yes, definitely, it is a different vibe. I follow lots of people on Twitter I would never dream of asking to connect with on LinkedIn. LI is way more “personal” in that way. Really, if you think about it, the nuances of the different platforms are fascinating. Twitter is the only one that’s not a “two way street.” You don’t have to follow me, just because I follow you, but on FB and LI, both connections have to “accept.”

  12. Barbara

    Excellent – Ironically, I made the mistake of accepting the follow response of a guy who’s first tweet to me was literally, “Thankyouthankyouthankyou, nowbuymybook, k, nowbye.” I told him, “Hey, that’s spam and I can report you for that.” No response.

    Truthfully, though, I’m still learning how to interact, function in, and use social media. This one is a definitely a saver!

  13. Thomas Ryan

    2, 4 & 5 are my biggest pet peeves. 3 has yet to happen, and 1 is not a problem. If they friend, follow, or try to link to me, and they are nothing but SPAMMERS [all caps intended], then I have ways of enacting revenge.

    I also understand the value of quality networks rather than those with just large quantities of occupants-however-there is much to be said about the necessity for massive numbers of people seeing our work, yeah?

    Bottom line for me is this. I have no problem with people I don’t know linking up with me. It’s up to me to determine if the match is win-win or not. If it is, great. If not, good-bye.

    Great stuff, love reading your articles.

  14. Ted Bendixson

    Genuineness >> Douchebagery.

    • Carol Tice

      Loved this comment, once I figured it out! But shouldn’t it be douchebaggery? Writers are so picky eh? 😉

  15. J. Delancy

    An observation. The anonymity of the internet married to social media is making for some very strange offspring. Too many people are forgetting that the same manners and social mores that govern our daily interactions should form the basis of our behaviour online.
    Stories like Carol’s re-enforce my belief that social media is like nuclear energy, capable of being used for both good and evil, but the good is still only marginal.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi J –

      I don’t agree the good is only marginal — I’ve made amazing connections and tens of thousands in income from interactions and people I connected with on LinkedIn and Twitter both.

      And I can’t wait to learn from Chris Brogan about how Google+ is going to make this all work even better…hope you can join us for that tomorrow!

  16. Carol Tice

    I can’t believe it — I just checked my email and even having just posted this, I’ve got two fresh new LinkedIn invites from ‘friends’ I don’t know! Apparently these are friends who don’t even read my blog…

    • LindaH

      LOL, that’s way too funny. Maybe you should reply with a link to this blog post and a “No thanks!”

  17. Marla Markman

    My big pet peeve is No. 1 as well. I also wish that people would take the time to write a personal note rather than using the default “can I add you to my connections.” Even if I truly am a friend, I always take the time to write a brief one- or two-line personal note as to why I want to connect with them, or at least a “hey, how are you, would you do me the honor…”

    • Carol Tice

      Me too, I’m never leaving that default language in an LI invite. That just doesn’t work. It needs to be a connection request from a human, not the LI robot!

      • Cathie Ericson

        Not to mention that we are WRITERS!!! LOL! Default language is for scientists.

  18. Karen Cioffi

    Wow. This information is right on the mark. I also get requests to connect with ‘friend’s who I don’t know. And, none of the prefab text is changed. It’s just amazing. And, I’ve had people I don’t know ask me for recommendations. It’s just crazy.

    I also agree that the internet is an arena where courtesy and manners seem to disappear. I’ll get emails to attend webinars or other requests that lack the common courtesy of “Hi” or “It’s nice to meet you.” It’ll just be “Sign me up.” Again, just crazy.

    I know we’re all overstressed and overworked with the ‘work day and night’ atmosphere of the internet, but simple manners shouldn’t be optional.

    I guess I ranted a bit here. 🙂

    Great post.

  19. Theresa Cahill

    Carol this is an excellent post, it’s as if you’re reading my mind.

    I started all my accounts years ago (doing a course online that I cancelled 1.5 months into since it was not as it claimed). The truly sad part is the desire to start all over again (no one account is that big that it couldn’t be ditched), but I do have real friends and close associates within each community. Weeding out is time consuming. Starting over… not sure if that would be a wise decision?

    Actually you are one example. I chose to follow you a while back. I cannot remember who sent me what, but one day I found myself here reading your work (and signing up for your feed for good reason). You had posted, at the time, your interview with Jon Morrow (which prompted me to sign up for his course, thank you).

    This is a clear cut way of making viable connections (even though you don’t [yet] know me from Adam). I follow your work and those who write with you and appear on your feed (via email).

    What drives me crazy are clients who ask for a personal recommendation. Yes, I help others (it’s my job), but I do not join what they promote. Thus, how can I in all honesty recommend someone who isn’t a close friend based on a single or even multiple interactions. It’s not the person wanting to “join up,” they want access to serve up what they promote.

    Social media… a slippery slope.

    (BTW I’m hoping in August or September your Den opens for new members… watching carefully for those announcements. I know you have the course during July, which unfortunately I could not attend.)

    What would you suggest, when, for example, a person’s facebook is a joke, but tearing it down could possibly have adverse reactions within say search engines tracking social connections…?? (Wow, what a convoluted question lol!)

    • Carol Tice

      Congrats on taking Jon’s class! I just think he’s so genius. I don’t know anyone else at his level that’s offering that kind of personal assistance.

      Lotsa questions and thoughts there…I don’t know why you would start over — why not just upgrade and edit the profiles you have? You can also edit your connections in the social media platforms if you’re not happy with who you connected to originally.

      I’m not sure I understand about clients wanting personal recommendations. If a client I like wants me to give them a recommendation, I will — why not?

      But you raise an interesting issue — the one where you follow a popular blogger and get to feel like you know them…but they really don’t know you. To me that’s what being a Twitter follower is for — the connection can be one way. Where LI connections are a 2-way thing — you are connected to each other.

      And yes…the Den will reopen later this summer. Stay tuned. Got some stuff to do first, but it’ll be snazzier with some 1-year anniversary cool new features by the time you get in. Gonna rock.

      • Theresa

        Thanks on the congrats! I’ve learned a ton (and even after blogging for over four years, that’s saying something).

        Great on the not starting over… what I really need to do (and it’s probably my most active forum so to speak) is to concentrate on LinkedIn. It also would be the easiest 🙂

        As for clients and recommendations, I know them in terms of helping them choose advertising methods, but not so “intimately” that I KNOW them (make sense?).

        Throughout each year, I have 100s to 1000s of people seeking resources. Of those 100s, a handful of solid connections. Of that handful, a few I definitely KNOW would be perfectly acceptable to “endorse.” Most, and I’m referencing mostly facebook here, want an endorsement which would be personal whereas I only know them on a certain level. Maybe it would help if I also said we are talking affiliate marketers versus bloggers. That may (or may not) clarify my position. So endorsing the person is as if I’m also endorsing what they do. Since there are literally tens of thousands of affiliate programs, with tons springing up every day, well… again slippery slope.

        Where I’d like to head is to take what I do (writing) to the next level (hence Jon’s course and my waiting for the next open door with the Den). Adding to my 10+ years experience online, and branching out. Can’t wait for your anniversary details!

        (Also a big thank you on replying to my comment. It’s given me food for thought and will help me narrow down my decision(s) on what to do where.)

  20. Charmaine Clancy

    Most of this is true for fiction writers as well. I have a great pool of FB and Twitter peeps that actually interact, but there are some that just use every post to blast about their product or promote themselves. I cringe for them.

  21. 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!

  22. 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.


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