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:
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?