Dear [Person I Haven't Spoken to in Five Years / Sales Guy I Kind of Know Who's Plugging His Social Media-ish Company / Someone Whose Connection Request I Accepted for Some Random Reason at the Time but Now Has Me Wondering How I Know Him],
I see you started a [group / Page] on [LinkedIn / Facebook / Plaxo Pulse]. I get why you're doing it. You really want to raise awareness for your [company / book / obscure cause]. You get social media enough to know that if just 10% of the people you send requests to accept, then you can play the numbers game and get many more exposures in their friends' news feeds.
You also probably know, if you're being totally honest with yourself, that most of those people who do respond in the affirmative aren't really fans, nor will they participate in any discussion board. They'll probably forget they even agreed to join until you start sending them too many messages. Really, they joined because they [know it's quicker to just say yes to everything than think too hard / hit the wrong button / plan on spamming you and everyone else they know later with similar requests].
But what about the 90% who don't go along with it? You're probably hoping that it doesn't matter much. On the cost-benefit analysis, you see the benefits of the 10% who join so alerts show up for their friends, so you're influencing far more than just that 10%. And many of the 90% will simply hit [ignore / archive] and not give it more than a split-second's thought. It's a wash for them – no harm, no foul.
Yet some of those 90% are going to think less of you. They're going to think you don't get how this social media stuff works. They're going to wonder why anyone except [the company's staff / the book's author / the cause's founders and only donors] would participate. They wonder who has time to join another such discussion where no one's discussing anything.
It's these people in that 90% who only kind of know you. Your closest friends will [humor you / forgive you]; you've probably done worse. The people who are a bit further out don't need to be so forgiving. They may not even know who you are. And as they're trying to make up their minds about you, you become one of the bad guys, or at least someone who doesn't get it.
I still haven't made up my mind about you. But I'm more wary of you because of this. If you're lucky, I'll forget about it. If you're not, next time I see the name of your [company / book / cause], I'll think a bit less of it, and I may even be momentarily annoyed.
So, count me out. Count everyone out, even those who humored you. And next time you plan on shameless shilling through social media, rethink the plan and instead try to add something of value to the community. Then, when you send personal notes about what you're doing, you may be able to target your outreach so well that a far greater percentage will participate, while a handful of others will simply ignore it, and no one will have to think less of you.
Thanks for listening, even though I know [you're not sold on my argument / you'd spam me again in a heartbeat / you think I'm some uptight butthead]. I can live with that.