I was told recently that the point of social networks was to have the biggest list of contacts or followers possible, so that (and I’m now quoting directly) “you can ask people for things when you need something.”
First of all, volume isn’t important. Quality is far more relevant. On Twitter, for example, I follow people I want to learn from, people I care about, businesses that have something interesting to say. I don’t follow someone simply because they’ll follow me back and inflate both of our numbers.
If your tweet stream hasn’t made me click on something, retweet something, respond to something or otherwise think about something in a new/different way, you’re just cluttering my information superhighway. We should all have such filters on the information we allow to reach us on a regular basis.
In LinkedIn, I only follow people I can personally vouch for. My sniff test is simple – if someone asked me for a recommendation for someone in my LinkedIn network, I’d better have a good answer. Even if it’s just a first impression from a conference, I can form and communicate an opinion.
Thom Singer told me last month he has a simple test for accepting social network invitations. If he’s shared a coffee, meal or beer with you, you’re in. If he doesn’t know you that well, you’re not yet in. I like the clarity and simplicity of that definition.
And what about those who invite you to join their network and you don’t know them? You can ignore the request, or you could have a pre-written but polite response telling them you only accept invitations from those you know, and that you’d like to hear more about them and their business/interests before moving forward. Spammers will ignore this (which is good), and legitimate invitations will follow-up on your request (also good).
Your network, like it or not, is a direct reflection on you. Your brand will continue to be impacted by those you associate with. People will assume that your connections are a part of you, who you are, what you believe.
So what rules will you choose to follow? Who will you let in?