Choose Wisely: Scrutinizing Your Social Network Connections

Last week I conducted an overview of social media for a client.  After the meeting, I executed my usual drill: I followed up by taking business cards and checking if all the meeting attendees I hadn’t met before were on LinkedIn and Facebook, and sent out a series of thank you notes through those tools and requested connections.  In an email response, one of them asked me flat out, “So tell me how you stay in touch with 500+ LinkedIn folks??”  That got me thinking about how I leverage these tools personally.


Everyone has a different level of scrutiny on who would be a suitable connection in social networks.  LinkedIn has an army of folks who refer to themselves as LION – LinkedIn Open Networkers.  I’m clearly not one of those and try to ‘filter’ connection requests a bit.  While people in some professions, like recruiting, may value hoarding connections and “friends” on these tools, I’ve tried to stick to a guideline depending on the tool.  The following chart shows how I use some of the major networks out there, with the size of each circle representing the relative number of connections I have in each as of this post:


Social Media Tools



Set Parameters For Using Social Media Platforms


I primarily utilize 3 tools the most right now: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  Friendfeed is growing on me too. I could see that changing over time and have played around with many others for different purposes, like Dopplr, Plaxo Pulse, BrightKite, Upcoming, and others.  For now I’ll compare my daily usage, scrutiny of connections and number of connections on each of the major social networks I use.  I’d be interested in what works for you and whether you have set a “guideline” for using the same tools.

  • For LinkedIn, I prefer to keep the connections to people I know personally or have met in a business context.  Lately I’ve been meeting many in the social media space through events in Boston, but I will use LinkedIn like a rolodex that maintains itself once I connect.  I have many connections who are colleagues from the past and present, business partners and many clients as well.  I check the site regularly, but not much interaction going on.  I like to ask and answer the occasional question but there isn’t too much else that is sticky for me.  It is a great way to keep up with friends who change jobs over time, and I value that 98% of my connections are people I really know and could refer someone to down the road.  I’ve been a LinkedIn user for many years and like the direction the site is taking with adding more “Web 2.0” features.
  • For Facebook, I use a similar guideline – although there are many more people I know in a non-business context there including high school, college, elementary school and especially summer camp.  I do check Facebook regularly and am amazed at the velocity of new joiners.  There are more conversations happening in groups and commenting on photos, and the “stickiness” is improving.  I ignore many of the application requests out there unless I’m investigating how one works (or talking the occasional Red Sox trash).  I do value the interaction greatly but more in a friendly context and less so (although still relevant) for business purposes.
  • On Twitter, I have a much lower level of scrutiny on connections – I will block a spammer or someone with a high following to follower ratio, but if someone has something interesting to say, I’m happy to follow.  I find that Twitter has a very low barrier to entry, not to mention great tools for finding people, searching conversations for folks with similar interests, and learning about the platform.  The value is in the conversation, sharing of information and the constant flow of information.  I try to share and contribute there but it can be very time consuming if time management isn’t a strong suit.
  • Friendfeed is helping me to not chase down the same people across many Web 2.0 services.  I like it, I connect to someone with the same level of scrutiny as Twitter, but I haven’t spent enough time with it yet to become mainstream for me.  I also haven’t taken the time to build up connections yet.
  • Honorable mention is Plaxo Pulse (not going to share my link but feel free to find me).  I just can’t get into Plaxo – of hundreds of connections, a handful there are unique to that site.  I am already connected to people on LinkedIn or Facebook.  There’s something about the UI I just don’t like, but the sharing of feeds is helpful and “Friendfeed”-like. 

It’s important to set some parameters for how you leverage the tools.  What works for you? How do you choose who you connect to?  Do you have different standards in each network?  What are the pros and cons of your approach?

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  • Adam,
    Great post – you categorized the “main” tools for folks very well. I have a similar usage pattern, although my schedule sometimes makes me fall off the face of the “social media earth”.
    Glad to have been introduced to you via Mike Langford and we’re now following each other on Twitter. I’m sure our paths will cross sometime soon.
    Debra

  • Adam,

    Great post – you categorized the “main” tools for folks very well. I have a similar usage pattern, although my schedule sometimes makes me fall off the face of the “social media earth”.

    Glad to have been introduced to you via Mike Langford and we’re now following each other on Twitter. I’m sure our paths will cross sometime soon.

    Debra

  • Adam, Great salient points as usual. I have similar usage patterns and scrutiny levels as you. However, looking at your framework made me question my decisions and behavior. If I use Twitter the most and scrutinize my connections the least there, yet do the inverse on LinkedIn, is it possible that my rules should be reversed or at least relaxed. In other words, since I get the most out of Twitter and the least out of LinkedIn, maybe I shouldn’t be as discriminating in my LI selection criteria. I don’t have many conversations on LI, so what’s the harm in being more liberal?

  • Adam, Great salient points as usual. I have similar usage patterns and scrutiny levels as you. However, looking at your framework made me question my decisions and behavior. If I use Twitter the most and scrutinize my connections the least there, yet do the inverse on LinkedIn, is it possible that my rules should be reversed or at least relaxed. In other words, since I get the most out of Twitter and the least out of LinkedIn, maybe I shouldn’t be as discriminating in my LI selection criteria. I don’t have many conversations on LI, so what’s the harm in being more liberal?

  • Scott

    Nice post Adam. You raise some interesting points.
    I’m fairly new to social networking (I had actually been postponing using any of the sites because I just was never interested.) After about five months of using FaceBook and LinkedIn (I have a Twitter and Pounce account, but have only used them once), I’m starting to see some of the appeal, but I’m still skeptical.
    I can’t honestly see myself maintaining my work email, two personal emails, Web site, blog, FaceBook account, LinkedIn network and Twitter feeds, as well as retrieving my cellphone-mail messages all while texting on my Blackberry. Doesn’t leave much time for FTF (face to face). Now THAT’S old school. LOL.
    Keep up the good posts!
    Scott

  • Scott

    Nice post Adam. You raise some interesting points.

    I’m fairly new to social networking (I had actually been postponing using any of the sites because I just was never interested.) After about five months of using FaceBook and LinkedIn (I have a Twitter and Pounce account, but have only used them once), I’m starting to see some of the appeal, but I’m still skeptical.

    I can’t honestly see myself maintaining my work email, two personal emails, Web site, blog, FaceBook account, LinkedIn network and Twitter feeds, as well as retrieving my cellphone-mail messages all while texting on my Blackberry. Doesn’t leave much time for FTF (face to face). Now THAT’S old school. LOL.

    Keep up the good posts!

    Scott

  • Debra – Great to meet you as well and thanks very much for your comment. Engaging in these platforms takes a commitment in time, and for those of us where social media is not our “day job” it can be easy to let it go.
    Warren – Good point, that’s exactly what I started to question. I think the only harm about being too liberal in LI is that I do tend to do referrals for folks and don’t want anyone to assume I know someone well who I actually have no interaction with. It’s a careful balance. On FB, I’m not quite as interested in seeing newsfeed updates from total strangers – there needs to be some common ground/experience.
    Scott – Welcome to social networking and I agree on the challenges of maintaining multiple emails/profiles across so many tools. That is one beauty of the potential of Friendfeed. But, as you point out, nothing can replace face to face. One FTF meeting is worth 10 conference calls is worth 1000 posts on Twitter.
    Thanks everyone for the comments!

  • Debra – Great to meet you as well and thanks very much for your comment. Engaging in these platforms takes a commitment in time, and for those of us where social media is not our “day job” it can be easy to let it go.

    Warren – Good point, that’s exactly what I started to question. I think the only harm about being too liberal in LI is that I do tend to do referrals for folks and don’t want anyone to assume I know someone well who I actually have no interaction with. It’s a careful balance. On FB, I’m not quite as interested in seeing newsfeed updates from total strangers – there needs to be some common ground/experience.

    Scott – Welcome to social networking and I agree on the challenges of maintaining multiple emails/profiles across so many tools. That is one beauty of the potential of Friendfeed. But, as you point out, nothing can replace face to face. One FTF meeting is worth 10 conference calls is worth 1000 posts on Twitter.

    Thanks everyone for the comments!

  • Shmuel

    Hey Adam,
    Great post. How do you feel when the same person you know in a number of different contexts ‘hits you’ for a connection on multiple networks within a short time?

  • Shmuel

    Hey Adam,
    Great post. How do you feel when the same person you know in a number of different contexts ‘hits you’ for a connection on multiple networks within a short time?

  • Hi Shmuel,
    Thanks for your comment and question. I don’t have a problem with someone “hitting me” across multiple networks at one time so long as we have established one of them. For example, if I accept a LinkedIn request first, I have no problems with having other requests come through. If they all come through at once, without one being first accepted, it may appear like either a spammer or overly aggressive networker and I would give it a second thought before connecting.
    Adam

  • Hi Shmuel,
    Thanks for your comment and question. I don’t have a problem with someone “hitting me” across multiple networks at one time so long as we have established one of them. For example, if I accept a LinkedIn request first, I have no problems with having other requests come through. If they all come through at once, without one being first accepted, it may appear like either a spammer or overly aggressive networker and I would give it a second thought before connecting.
    Adam

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