I didn’t envisage, a few months ago, how soon I would need to follow my own advice, and state my personal social networking policy. I get invites all the time from people I’ve never met. When their potential connection to my business is far from obvious, I don’t want to cause offence, or miss connecting to someone valuable…
There’s no doubt that the marketing story of 2009 has been social media. People are racing to understand what’s possible with LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and the like. When I first wrote about this several months ago, in ‘Friends, Real or Illusory?‘, I talked about how perplexed I was by the people who allegedly have thousands of ‘friends’.
At the time, I talked to people I met about the need for individuals to figure out what their personal policy for online social networking was. I could see this getting a little out of hand. Do you connect to everybody that asks? How to avoid possibly offending the people you ignore or block?
My Personal Networking Policy
So to help everyone who thinks that they’d like to connect with me, here’s how I handle things. And I’d be very interested in what your personal policy is.
LinkedIn is great for keeping track of the many people that you run into in your business life. The original premise was that you linked to people that you would recommend, and that’s still in the back of my mind when I look at potential connections. I’m keen to extend my network with the right people – so who are the ‘right’ people?
I accept invites from people I’ve met, or spoken to, or with whom I clearly have compatible interests. The same criteria are used when I send an invitation. I might still connect with you if none of those things are true, if you seem interesting, or could extend my network in a useful way. My main objective with LinkedIn is to help other people make useful connections.
This blog tends to be reasonably focused on my business – with occasional off-topic diversions. My Twitter stream, on the other hand, includes anything I’m thinking about – which can include sport, politics, information technology, the visual arts, philosophy, gossip and many more topics. I try to pass on things that are both weighty and fun.
Twitter is a place where I can discover interesting people and information that I couldn’t find in a structured environment.
I don’t have to ‘accept’ connections on Twitter, but I’m ruthless about weeding out irrelevant followers. You will be quickly blocked or un-followed if you’re boring (at least, to me), appear to be promoting (yet another) get rich quick scheme, or don’t pass on useful (to me) information.
I set myself up on Facebook without knowing what it could do for me, and I’m still uncertain. I’ve not sought any connections, but have accepted requests from friends, ex-colleagues and family.
There’s even a ‘fan page’ for Goldsbrough Consulting, but it doesn’t yet have a legion of fans, and I don’t expect it to.
I don’t intend to put much effort into making Facebook useful for my business interests.
What About You?
My personal policy is quite fuzzy, isn’t it? Is yours clearer?
I expect I’ll need to change my policy as the technology evolves, and the way that people use it also changes.
I’d be very interested in how you are dealing with this. Please share your experience in the comments.
Jon Clements says
Matthew – thanks for the tip; I'll certainly give it a try. Google Reader can be a little clunky.
Jon Clements says
I think LinkedIn has really come into its own in recent months. Perhaps it's because the volume of users has increased markedly – now up to 31m worldwide – that its value has become apparent.
Through LinkedIn I've been able to post questions that have introduced me to new people with similar professional interests; answer questions that have given me endorsements for my advice; obtain recommendations from people I've worked with; find guest bloggers that have given a new dimension to the company blog I'm responsible for and find relevant online groups with offline spin-offs, etc. It's also a great way of finding the right decision maker in a company whose identity is often protected by gatekeepers.
A useful addition, while not social in itself, is Google Reader, which enables me to keep tabs on blogs relevant to what I do and provide the opportunity to add comments (like I'm doing now – which is social!).
Friendfeed? Facebook? Neither have made much sense to me at this point and I think that's the key: try out a few social networks and they'll soon become self-selecting by the value you derive from them.
Matthew Goldsbrough says
Jon, if you like Google Reader, try the Feedly add-in for Firefox: it’s slicker to use. I just wish it would work on my mobile phone.