Networking: To Add Or Not To Add
While at a party last night in Manhattan, I was involved in an interesting group conversation about social networking. I was thinking on my own thoughts on the subject. We were discussing where to draw the line for adding new “friends” on social networks.
Like most people who actively participate in social networking, I have come across quite a few different philosophies on friend-adding.
“This Network Is Too Small.”
Starting on one end, there is the type that only adds close friends to their networks. They have a valid point about the definition of the word “friend” and keeping that definition consistent both online and off. However, the main problem I have with this is that it prevents many benefits of social networking. One of the most important aspects of social networking is creating potential business connections with people you otherwise would not have met.
“This Network Is Too Big.”
On the other end of the spectrum, there is the type of networker who seems to be out for nothing more than being popular. This means adding anyone and everyone, with no intention of ever communicating with them. With this perspective, social contacts are treated much like a currency that cannot be spent. They fight to get to the top for no other reason than to be so wealthy with this currency that they can swim in it. This strategy, much like the previous one, renders social networking nearly useless.
It is important for one to find a sweet spot in the middle, to harness the power of social networks. Within the last year, I have made very visible changes to my social networking strategy. A lot of people will disagree and have disagreed with my approach as of late, but I think my current position is well-justified.
I have found that two key principles of social networking can open the door for a lot of (mutually) beneficial business relationships. As you should notice, these are derived from the two extremes above, and must be implemented together.
Principle 1: Think Outside The Circle
You must reach out beyond your circle of friends when using social networking tools. If you constraint yourself to only connecting with people you know well, you will not be able to use this platform for meeting new people. If you are not meeting new people, you might as well stay off social network sites. Email, instant message, and the phone are much more efficient tools for communicating with your circle of trusted friends.
Principle 2: The Law Of Probability
If you connect with more people on social networks, you improve your chances of making very valuable contacts. This could come in the form of a skilled professional that you can work with, the CEO of a large company in your industry, or a Connector that knows those types of people and can match you up. If you do not put yourself out there, you are stifling the chances of meeting these people.
Based on these principles, I have taken a fairly unmoderated approach of connecting with people on social networks. At least 95% of my Twitter network consists of people I have never met or directly communicated with. Thanks to that large pool of individuals, I have been able to connect with quite a few relevant people in my industry, both online and in person.
“This Network Is Just Right.”
The vast majority of my social network contacts will never benefit me in any way. But for the few, highly beneficial connections I have gained because of the large, open-invitation network, it is well worth it. What makes my approach different from the popularity-seeking networker described earlier? I am not building a network to be popular. I am trying to start conversations, connect with new people, and build relationships — albeit with a shotgun approach.
My strategy might not work for everyone, but for me, it has been more successful than I expected.