AIM Rules of Engagement

aol instant messenger

Networking doesn’t always to have take place at conferences or events, it can also take place on the web. One way I network with individuals is through instant messaging services like AIM. But before you start networking through messaging services, make sure you follow these steps.

  1. User name – your user name can say a lot about you. If you call yourself “Bengali Sex Tiger,” people are going to relate you to sexual thoughts. Make sure you don’t pick a name you don’t want to be associated with. Instead pick a name you are comfortable using for a long time. And if you can’t think of a good user name, your full name is a safe bet.
  2. Buddy icon – your buddy icon should represent you. If you want others to get to know you, then make sure your buddy icon is your picture. Because of buddy icon size limitations, I recommend using your headshot instead of a fully portrait.
  3. List out your prospects – before you can hit anyone up, you need to know whom you want to talk to. Create a list of all the people you want to talk to and start researching each individual. The last thing you want to do is hit someone up and not know much about them. Plus knowing all about the other individual may flatter them.
  4. Introduce yourself – You are now ready to add people to your buddy list and create a conversation. When you first start talking to others make sure you introduce yourself because the other party may not know who you are. If you don’t, your networking efforts may be useless.
  5. Be courteous – whenever you hit someone up through AIM, the most important thing is to be courteous. Before you start chatting away, you should first find out if that individual has time to chat. You don’t have to do this after you get to know the individual, but you should do this the first few times.
  6. Show your value – most commonly people ask questions through instant messaging so that they can gain knowledge, but they never really reciprocate. Even if you think you don’t have anything to offer, you do. Make sure you tell the other party that if they need anything from you to feel free and ask.
  7. Start observing – the way people chat on aim says a lot about them. Some people like keeping things short while others like chatting away; make sure you flow with their style. For example if someone likes to type out long detailed messages, be respectful and type back detailed responses. If someone likes to keep the conversation short and to the point, make sure you don’t ramble on.
  8. Never stop networking – chatting with someone a few times isn’t effective. Keep the conversation going if you really want to network with others. This doesn’t mean you should have one really long conversation, but instead have multiple conversations over a period of time. By doing this the other party will not forget you. Just be observant when doing this because you don’t want to irritate the other party.

Anyone have any other tips for networking through instant messaging services?

P.S. If you want help building a network for your business click here.


  1. Dan Schawbel :

    Neil, I know our generation is more prone to use IM than the older ones. I think emailing someone before you IM them (if their IM is listed on their website) is a better route. I just feel like AIM/Skype/Phone is more for friends, family and professional contacts.

    If I didn’t know you, I wouldn’t pitch my business to you in IM.

    What are your thoughts?

    • I think you can actually IM someone you don’t know. A new person messages me at least once a day (or at least when I am logged on), which means it must be working for someone.

      You are probably right about email with older people. I think with younger people you can get away with messaging without sending an email first.

      • After being introduced to Neil at PubCon a couple of years ago, one day he reached out to me on AIM when I was back at the office, and I have to admit I felt it was a bold move, and future forward thinking. Anymore, the waiting game with e-mail is reminiscent of the way I used to look at snail mail. Life moves faster than ever, and professionals are wearing more hats than ever, It makes a ton of logic to fire off an IM and make a call on the fly in todays world. Kudos Neil.

        • Thanks for the kind words! What made it really easy was that we first meet in person and you are a very approachable.

  2. Luke Harvey-Palmer :

    Neil, as always I tend to agree with Dan on this one…I am gen X, with a very strong corporate background, and there is no way I would pitch my business using IM to anyone – even colleagues. In fact I favour face to face and phone over any kind of email/IM contact! Mind you, there is a good case to get rid of the old ‘direct mail letter’ followed up by a phonecall?

    • Thanks for the input Luke. Dan is a smart guy who has a lot of experience with networking.

      As for the face to face point, I can see where you are coming from. I also prefer face to face or phone call conversations versus IM.

  3. This post is right up my alley. My whole business is dependent on Instant Message. Without Instant Message I would not have the speed of communication with customers that I need to convert them. All are friends of friends also I am sort of a big deal in my industry and social network so that gives me an added level of permission.

    I would say that branding through my main site really helped my instant message contacts and ultimately my conversions longterm.

  4. At our bank we use Gossip Corporate Client which is a LAN NETWORK Instant Messaging. When I do my work, I contact with Daily Newspapers and Media through Yahoo.IM. For networking I used YIM in the past, I don’t know why but for some reason I used all of the above when I contact new people. It’s probably my way of being polite.

  5. I wish I could get the screen name: “Krutal”

    But good points Mr. 162

    • LOL, the 162 never stops to haunt me. I am not sure why I used it, but I had that aim sn since high school. I want to change it, but if I do some people will not be able to get a hold of me. 🙁

  6. lot of people went for Mr.81 after Kobe did what he had to, can you believe in Mongolian Basketball Professional League one player scored 152 alone.

    • WOW, 152 points is a lot in one game. I am pretty sure that has never been done in the US. My guess is the highest score is under 100 points in a game, but I could be wrong.

  7. I suppose it is pretty obvious to say, but it depends on the personality type, position (yes and generation) of both parties. There probably is some risk with some people.

    The one thing it does do very effectively is remove the excuse of “I sent her an email so there’s nothing I can do until she gets back to me” approach I’ve heard too many express.

    If you are sending emails rather than making phonecalls, in-person vists or IM because it is safer, more distant, less immediate and less prone to embarrassing yourself, then it’s time to change strategy!

  8. Margarita De la Cruz :

    how do you change you aim buddy icon to a real picture of you???

  9. Motorcycles for sale :

    This is exactly the kind of thinking I needed to be reminded of today. Reading this was even better than coffee.

  10. Online College :

    These are all good points, yet I feel my AIM is kinda like my cell phone if I want you to have it you will. Now I don’t mind the occasional random, maybe someone needs something and a coworker gave them the aim name, cool.

  11. I am 52 years old. I guess that may have somthing to do with why I do not IM as pointed out by you and other commenters.
    I find that my dayis usually ran in segments. One of which is dedicated to email. I usally work better when I feel I will not be interupted. I possibly will give this another try…
    Really like reading your posts.

    • Have a schedule to when you respond to the things you need to respond to. That way your day becomes a lot more structured.

  12. This should be applyed to twitter comment facebook and email.

  13. Nick Rodriquez :

    Hi Neil,

    I have never used Instant Messaging to promote myself or my business, because it looks a bit weird to start bombarding your connections telling them how great you or your product/business is.

    In fact, we can relate it to spam comments put forward by people on public chat sites. Correct me if I am wrong?

    • It can be considered spammy, but it all depends on your appraoch. You don’t want to bomard someone with your stuff. Connect with them.

  14. Adrian Cole :

    Is Facebook competing against AIM? Because they seem to be doing much the same things.

  15. No doubt AIM also have share of searching world.

  16. Online Mastering :

    for whatever reason i feel like aim lacks a certain “professionalism”. skype is better i guess, even though it serves virtually the same function. i just feel like a 12 year old when I’m using aim…

  17. This post is right up my alley. My whole business is dependent on Instant Message. Without Instant Message I would not have the speed of communication with customers that I need to convert them.

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