When is it okay to Direct Message someone on social media that you are not connected to? There are times, mostly in the sales process of business, when you need to reach out to prospects or leads and e-mail or phone/SMS messages don’t cut it. Social media now is a great alternative for this but there are rules of the game that you should be aware of so as not to be flagged or kicked off of sites. Here are some tips that we hope will help.

First, use Direct Messaging sparingly if not connected – If you don’t have a connection or friendship with someone then social media has at least some rules, though it doesn’t seem so, for how you can talk to them including the request itself. Facebook messages to unfriended folks arrive but are as far back in the queue as they can be. Plus, they are monitored some to see if you flag the messenger as spam and they note this as one of the data points on you that they maintain. LinkedIn only gives you so many, and we mean very few, messages to people you are not connected with. So use this sparingly so as not to be flagged as spam and shut down or kicked off the platform. Save it for if they don’t respond to your connection request and you REALLY need to talk to them.

Second, connect “gently” – Ultimately you do want to have a relationship with this potential customer even if they don’t buy right away. Social media connections are a great way to “color in” a relationship with someone. But, too many people (looking at you LinkedIn prospectors) connect to someone and immediately go for the pitch. While this is efficient in the extreme, it is generally more off-putting than nice people will admit. Who do you remember more, the store clerk who barely acknowledges you at checkout or the one who makes good, genuine, conversation with you? Though we are ultimately taking the things we bought and leaving, having that person make a genuine conversation with us makes a positive difference even if for a few minutes. The same is true in making connections on social media I promise you.

Finally, build a relationship – Though this can occur on different levels, taking the time to form a relationship with those you connect to on social media makes a difference in hat you gain from the interactions and yes, increases sales. As it makes sense, keep the conversation going and try to learn something from that person before offering advice. This seems so basic but is practiced far too little. When the time is right for the sale you will know, and you are more likely to succeed because you waited and didn’t “pitch” them to death.

While I am no sales conversation expert I do realize that these are the things that others respond positively to. You can build better, stronger relationships even online, and they can help you get the ultimate sale that you want with a bonus relationship that pays off time and again.