Brian Shaler

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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.

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6 Responses to “Networking: To Add Or Not To Add”

  1. October 5th, 2007 at 11:06 am

    Stephanie Agresta says:

    Hello Brian. Thank you for coming to my party and sharing your good energy and photography skills. I couldn’t agree with you more that you need to find a balance that works for you. On the one extreme, you have what I call the “Must be in my cell phone” crowd. For me, these people tend to have very guarded, closed off personalities. That’s not a bad thing – just my perception. The beauty of social media is that it gets to work for everyone – regardless of your personality type. On the other extreme we have what facebook calls, “The Whales” (I believe Robert Scoble pointed this out – the term FB used for 5000 friends). I think that is the limit at FB. Most people are somewhere in between!

    In addition to the number of contacts, I think it is important to point out that there is difference in how you communicate with your list. For example, Robert provides relevant, good information to his followers. It is your choice to opt out! I too find that there are people on FB that are “less-targeted” shall we say. Robert Scoble and Chris Brogan are channels – like HBO and SHO, they are curators for what their audience finds interesting!

    I am grateful for all those that came to Birthday 2.0 and shared their ideas and positive energy.

    All the best,
    Stephanie
    http://www.internetgeekgirl.com

  2. October 5th, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    Happy 2.0 | Internet Geek Girl says:

    [...] focused on usage patters on Facebook. Brian Shaler did a great job summarizing some key points. Read his blog here. I’ll be expounding on this topic in another post [...]

  3. October 5th, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    Captinherb says:

    I just read a book about this very topic, although not exclusive about web social networks but touches on the same themes. It was “Never eat alone” by Keith Ferrazzi. great book, I highly recommend it.
    The amazon link: http://tinyurl.com/yqrayx

  4. January 14th, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    The Brian Shaler Blog » It’s a Small World, Especially for a Networker says:

    [...] introductions or conversations would have been possible if it weren’t for my relatively open social network friend-adding philosophy. Spread the word: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and [...]

  5. January 14th, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Jim Jeffers says:

    Brian,

    I don’t agree with your point that – “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.” – I think that for your purposes may be true but if you have built a lot of friendships over time you know that it’s difficult to always sustain them. Social Networks fill this void of sustaining contact with friends you haven’t been able to keep in contact with otherwise. It also helps you find old friends and vice versa. So there certainly is a use for those who aren’t utilizing the medium to expand their social circle to new contacts.

    I do agree with your article on a whole though – for what you are doing. I think you’re use of the medium really helps you make the most of it. I like it.

  6. April 14th, 2014 at 6:19 am

    best way to treat plantar fasciitis says:

    Everyone loves it when individuals come together and
    share views. Great website, continue the good work!

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