Escape from Cubicle Nation asks Are there any rules for social/business networking? We’re talking about Facebook, MySpace and Linkedin here.
Unless you have been hiding under a rock, as a person who deals with the business of networking on the internet, you are aware that Linkedin, Facebook and MySpace are important places to see and be seen. If you are growing a business and want exposure and connection with your target audience, it is critical to explore these online communities.
The question is, how in the world do you know how or where to be seen, and most importantly, with whom?
It’s a good question, and I would add Twitter, MyBlogLog and Flickr to the conundrum. But don’t expect any finished answers, because this is a question you have to keep asking yourself from time to time for each network you are in. I’m just going to list some practices which I’ve adopted or observed for each.
This is the only one which allows for some granularity of the relationship, on three levels. Family, Friends and Contacts. There’s also a strong link to my city, London, in the way I use it so my friends tend to be people I’ve met in person, or might do. Contacts are like bookmarks to people’s photostreams I want to keep track of.
I have a musician’s MySpace so that’s slightly different, but not much. MySpace can turn into a pointless game, and I lost interest after a while. Initially I collected a bunch of links to people, mainly from the past, who influenced my own music. So my Top friends list was like an indication of taste. When new friend requests came in, (mostly from other musicians who are playing the game of “add, add, add”) I would check them out and be a bit discerning. There are some important connections to be made in Myspace, but eventually they get swamped by many extremely loose ties. If you stop adding, the interest in your profile dies. So now you can choose to block add requests from musicians, which shows how silly it has all become as a means of reaching a potential audience.
There are two types of LinkedIn users. Normal sensible people, and “power users”. These are essentially spammers who will link in with anybody in order to leverage their extended network for marketing purposes. They break the terms and conditions by advertising their email address as part of the name field, and thus allow total strangers to become their trusted business contacts.
LinkedIn is great for keeping an online CV, access to contact details and for recruitment. Link to real friends, business colleagues and important contacts. After that, there’s not much to do. With the new Answers function you can get useful suggestions or build a reputation by answering others.
MyBlogLog has crept up on me and I’m starting to find it interesting. When a new face appears in my sidebar widget I usually check. They have a function whereby if you visit another members blog a few times you get automatically added to their circle. So I think the general idea is to be quite free with your adds on this one, and it may help slowly to build readership, by seeding clusters of bloggers with common interests.
I’m getting twitter spam follower notifications already so activating the “Turn all your followers into friends” button seems like a really bad idea.
I saved the hot one for last.
Facebook has a tradition of using real names and reflecting real life friendships from its origins in the colleges. This is now changing a bit, with the wide open membership and platform but it shouldn’t end up like mySpace. Within Facebook there are the new applications, and some of these are linked with external apps which have their own social networking aspects. It’s not yet clear how all of this is going to settle out.
My approach seems to be generally a cautious one, attempting to keep a sense of real value in the connections I make. In some ways I may be missing opportunities to enlarge the circle, and I’m sure I should be doing more to nurture the connections which are already in place. Having a transparent online identity which is prolific and probably important to my longer term strategy engenders a certain reluctance to engage in aggressively direct marketing activities. I’m also having some thoughts about the bidirectional nature of add friend requests.
I’ll come back to this topic again, but now throw the question out to you. What are your own rules for adding friends in the different online networks and how do you see the general territory developing?