Ever since I fully embraced social media several years ago, I've been amazed at the power of different platforms -- LinkedIn, in particular--to connect me with people I would have never, ever had the chance to meet otherwise. I've also discovered my writing voice, honed my writing skills, and built a sizeable following of people who seem to enjoy reading what I have to say about the topics that interest me most.

Yet I've also seen how social media can -- in the hands of some people -- become a tool for annoying and even aggressive behavior that they would probably not exhibit if they didn't have the tools that allow them to connect with others so easily.

Let's be frank: Social media endows people with tremendous power to connect and communicate with people around the world. But with power comes the responsibility to wield it in a civil, professional, and productive manner. 

Nearly everyday I see someone commit minor offenses on my favorite social media platforms. Sometimes they get a little nasty. Here are some examples of the kinds of annoying social media habits that can hurt your business and keep you from accomplishing your professional goals (names have been removed to protect the guilty):

1. Leaving snarky or critical remarks in blog post comments.

Healthy debate founded on facts and informed opinions is a good thing. Whenever I see people disagree with me in the comments, as long as they do so in a professional and civil manner, I let the comments stand. But I've also seen comments that were clearly intended to be negative attacks without a basis in fact, and with clearly ill intent. Sometimes I'll check their recent history of comments and see a clear pattern of such behavior. 

For such people, besides simply deleting their comments, if that's even possible, there are a number of things you can do to deal with them depending on the platform you're on: Unfollow them, disconnect with or "unfriend" them, and even report them. 

2. Asking for favors before or immediately after connecting with someone for the first time.

While I'm happy to connect with people on LinkedIn, I continue to see people reach out to me immediately after connecting asking for time to "pick my brain" about a topic, introductions to people in my network, and requests to be considered for job opportunities at my company. 

While I admire their courage and gumption for making such big asks, I'm unable to respond to them because I simply don't have the time to oblige their requests, and more importantly, I don't even know who they are. 

If you're going to ask for something from someone you've only just recently connected with through social media, invest some time in developing a positive series of interactions with them. Like, share, and comment on their content. Compliment them on something they or their company have done recently. 

This may in the end yield nothing more than some goodwill between yourself and the person you're trying to build a virtual relationship with, but at least you'll have a more reasonable basis for making a request once the time is right to do so.

3. Promoting your products or content in comments.

This happens too often: A person leaves a comment on your post thanking you for sharing, and then mentions their own post and includes a link to it. This is what I call "comment hijacking," and such comments are not only subject to immediate deletion, I'll probably unfollow them or, in some cases, remove the connection completely from my network.

4. Putting people on your email list without letting them opt-in.

Some people think that by connecting with you on LinkedIn, you're giving them the permission to place you on their e-mail list so they can start sending you their newsletters. What they fail to understand is that e-mail newsletters--or any other regular e-mail communications--require the user to explicitly opt-into your list. Anything else is considered spam and is in fact illegal in the US.

5. Asking new contacts to share content.

I like to help friends out by sharing their content if it's relevant to the type of content I usually share in my feed, and as long as I have some relationship with the person. But some people I've never exchanged even a simple message with send me links to their latest blog posts with the expectation that I'll share them with my network. It's an intrusive request that I'm usually unable to fulfill. 

6. Tagging multiple people in a post.

I'll occasionally tag people in posts whom I know, and I usually call them out in a congratulatory or appreciative manner. I do it sparingly. But there are some people who tag multiple people they don't really know with the hope that they'll jump in and like, share, or comment on their post, thereby giving it broader exposure and potentially even making it go viral. 

If you want to build constructive relationships and attract more qualified business leads through social media, avoid these annoying habits that make you look unprofessional.

Published on: Feb 15, 2018