Our Thinking

Can You Ever Have Too Many Friends? (Yes)

Do you play the milestone game with your Social Media accounts?

When you first sign up, you aim for ten connections.  Then 50, 100, 250, and finally the coveted 500 – you’ve arrived.  And then you aim for 1000.  How many is too many?

As I look at my own LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, it struck me that most people give precious little thought to how, or why, they say yes when asked to connect. Yet this is one of the most important things to do if you are truly hoping to use Social Media productively.  Consider these guidelines:

Set a policy:  For each Social Network, choose an appropriate-for-that-network connection policy – one that ties directly back to your goals for using (or not using) it.  For me, I accept friend requests on Facebook from everyone who asks.  On LinkedIn, however, I only accept connection requests from two groups: those who I have a real-world relationship with, and those who are members of the same professional associations.  Other people may set different connection policies: people they met once, people at their workplace, school, etc.

One approach that is not recommended is the so-called “LION” (Linked In Open Networker) approach; these people seek to be connected to everyone, whether there is a relationship or not.  While acceptable for recruiters who use their connection lists to connect to job candidates, others who use this strategy often use their vast connection lists to send spam status messages.

Communicate politely:  It is flattering – and a credit to you – when someone asks to be your connection.  But if you don’t want to add them, reply to them with thanks, then suggest an alternate way of connecting with  you: perhaps in person or over the phone first, or perhaps via Twitter.

Cleanse your connections:  Spend time going through all of your connections, and prune those who don’t measure up to your current policy standards.  Unlike when you make a connection, disconnects are not broadcast throughout the LinkedIn (or Facebook) systems.

This week’s action item:  It is easier to measure network strength through numbers, but the value of your network is best measured through the quality of your relationships.  Setting a policy, communicating it, and cleansing your connections won’t help you reach your next quantity milestone, but will increase your network quality.  This week, if you don’t have a Social Media connection policy, set one – even if you may need to change it later.

Bonus insight: The act of thinking through your policy will help you clarify how to better use your Social Media time.

PS:  For the record, I have 997 LinkedIn connections…  and 210 invitations from others I am ignoring.  Yes, I probably have too many “friends”.

President of 108 ideaspace, Randall Craig is a leading Social Media & Web Strategist.  We share Randall Craig’s blog here on 108 ideaspace. However, the Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

This post has been written by 108’s Senior advisor and former CEO Randall Craig.

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