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Summary:

Like anyone using social networks for my work, I struggle with the friend feature. There are a number of theories of how and why to friend other people and when to accept friend requests. Clearly, having more “friends” on your social networks has its benefits, but […]

My Twitter Page

My Twitter Page

Like anyone using social networks for my work, I struggle with the friend feature. There are a number of theories of how and why to friend other people and when to accept friend requests. Clearly, having more “friends” on your social networks has its benefits, but if friending is done randomly, how much value are those very random “friends” for your business goals?

Some of the reasons you might want to friend someone for your work are:

  • facilitating business networking
  • connecting to a potential strategic partner or virtual team member
  • looking for a job opportunity
  • building an audience for the content you publish
  • cultivating potential customers and clients

To Follow or Not To Follow

Accepting friend offers often seems to be much less strategic. On Twitter, for example, I personally don’t follow every single person who follows me. I do go to each Twitter page for every person who does follow me and peruse a few pages of their tweets. I can tell pretty quickly if they are using Twitter in a way that is valuable or meaningful and worth following. I follow less people because I really want to pay attention to the people I do follow.

Some people automatically follow every single person who follows them. To me, the peril of doing this is that some people who follow you are either doing it randomly or are spam-following so you end up following a lot of flotsam and jetsam and unless you have time to weed out the noise, you end up with an untenable Twitter account. But then again, it depends on what you are trying to achieve.

If you are following everyone you can in the hopes of building up your “captive” audience, I think that comes with the risk of having a lot of people following you back who really aren’t interested in what you are doing or what you have to say. I think when you look at someone with 9000 followers on Twitter, it looks impressive, but when they are following 8700 people in return, you begin to wonder how many of those people following them are really paying attention.

That said, there is the theory that if you don’t follow someone back on Twitter, it is an insult. Some people actually send messages to say “I’m no longer going to follow you because you never followed me.” I’m stunned by that attitude but only because when I go out to follow someone, my intention is purely that I see value in what they are doing online and would like to pay attention. If they follow me back, that’s gravy. If they are one of the biggies – the Guy Kawasakis, Chris Brograns, CC Chapmans of the world – then that is icing on the cake (although some of them have their account set up to auto-follow all followers). But if they don’t follow me, I think either they are just being discriminating with who they follow or they are too busy to keep up with all the follows.

Having more followers who are paying attention can be a real boon to business. Just this week, I was making a presentation at a conference and during the break, brought up my blog to show in the second half of my presentation. Suddenly, music began playing on a loop in the background. I couldn’t figure out where in the world it was coming from because I definitely had not intentionally placed a music player on my blog.

I quickly Twittered a plea for help and half a dozen people immediately came to my rescue, literally checking my blog code line by line to help me figure out where the offending music player was located so I could delete it. It turns out the music was playing out of a Slide.com gallery I had posted a few weeks back. I quickly deleted the slideshow and voila! The music was gone, and I was able to demo my Utterli audio podcast from my blog page.

Facebook Friending

Believe it or not, I was a Facebook resistor. You can go back into my Twitter tweet archive and see how strongly I resisted joining Facebook or using it when I joined. When I finally gave in, I was still stymied by how it worked and why everyone seemed obsessed with it. Then I began getting friend invites from friends from high school and college as well as former work colleagues and people who used to work for me at my Internet company back in the 90s. Real connections were being made.

Then I began to get random friend requests from people who I didn’t know. But Facebook has that handy feature to show you what friends you have in common. To this day, I still will not accept totally random friend requests on Facebook unless

a. we have some real friends in common, or

b. their profile is really interesting to me in some way.

Interesting, of course, is subjective. For me, as I try to keep Facebook at least 75% professional and 25% personal, interesting means they are doing interesting work, working at an interesting company or are friends with colleagues who I admire and enjoy working with.

On the flip side, if they are Second Lifers, than I accept their friend invites almost every time because I’m always looking to grow my Second Life network.

Friends Are In The Eye of the Beholder

Ultimately, each person has their own “Friend Meter” and their own “Friending Tolerance.” I am not judging whatever friending methodology anyone chooses for themselves. To me, friending needs to be the right balance of serendipity and strategy. I can’t say I’ve perfected my friending process, but I’m pretty comfortable with how and why I friend others and which friend invites I’ll accept.

How do you determine who to friend on social networks? How do you decide which friend invites to accept?

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  1. Agree with you on Twitter – I follow my real life friends and lots of people that I find either personally or professionally interesting, although my Twitter account is mainly professional. Facebook on the other hand is almost exclusively personal since I started using it while in college. I do have a few professional friends on there, but most are people I’ve connected with elsewhere either online or in real life.

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  2. I think each network has a different method to friending. I am much more likely to friend people on twitter who I think are interesting even if I don’t know who they are. It just comes down to how you want to use each network and then going about friending people appropriately.

    Brian
    http://www.konnects.com

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  3. You have expressed my sentiments exactly and inspired me to be a bit more selective with my “following”.

    I really connected with your thoughts. Thanks for writing them.

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  4. Reading this made me feel a little less crazy. Or a little more. I haven’t decided yet.

    I have 375 friends on FaceBook. I know every single one of them personally. High School, College, Summer Camp… my professional life… the list goes on. And more every day as the 35+ crowd gets on the train.

    It stresses me out. I consider killing the account and starting over.

    But then I don’t… because I just don’t have the discipline to not have it snowball again. And really, I don’t know where the friend or not line should be for me.

    So for now, it’s if I’ve ever met you in person and would greet you by name in a crowd. If not, no dice.

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  5. I do use whether someone is following me on Twitter as criteria for whether to cull them if the list is getting too unwieldy. When I’m checking my list over I’ll see people that I obviously added for a reason at one point, but if a month later I can’t remember who they are and they aren’t following me, you bet I’ll unfollow them. It’s a two way conversation, and if they’re not interested in listening to me, I probably won’t be bothered with them either. However if they’re following me, I’ll generally leave them in, because I feel at least they’re making an effort to get to know me as well.

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  6. People think they’re “safer” online if they don’t add random friends (people they don’t know) but that might not actually be the case because the “truer” your friends list is to your real life friends/acquaintances, the more valuable the information Facebook (& viewers/hackers) can have on you because it’s true…? Maybe? Ahh! Online communities craziness, lololol…

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  7. [...] leave a comment » Building Friend Lists and Influencing People [...]

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  8. [...] at Web Worker Daily, Aliza Sherman confronts just this quandry, and decides (if I’m reading between the lines correctly) that she’s more likely to follow people [...]

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  9. Very well said! As someone who’s dying to get more Twitter followers, I still am as hesitant as you to follow just to be followed back. Let people follow you bc they enjoy what you’ve got to say. Although, my Facebook/Twitter ratio is almost 6 to 1, something I’d like to improve on, I’ll let my tweets speak for itself.

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