I’m not talking about stalking here but rather Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites along with blogs. There are several reasons to connect with people online. These fall into several categories and that’s what today’s post is about. Personally I use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn along with a couple of the aggregators and a couple of the music and photo sites such as blip.fm, twitpic, etc . Other people use many more sites than I do and I raise my glass to them.
First you have your true friends. These are friends that you know in real life and who you are in touch with in a multitude of ways. Online connections are just an additional way to keep up with them and possibly feel closer as you read about their day-to-day adventures. You get to see more photos of their families and yes, sometimes even see what they are eating for dinner. Remember – these true friends can be people you have met over the years through social functions, business events or other ways. You may have only met them recently and yet have struck such a bond with them that you feel like you have known them forever or don’t know what your life would be without them.
Next you might have “those people.” These are the people you used to know or had some other potential connection with. As an example, I am the co-administrator of my high school online alumni group. As such I try to not only connect with people who went to the school via the alumni group but also directly as friends. In my case it works because the school was a small school with an average class size of 12 people from grades 1 through 12 and the school was only around for less than 20 years. This might not work with a larger school or other organization but there are people that you never met, that will still try to connect with you because you must have passed each other in the hallway for their last year there. “Those people” and whether or not to connect with them are a judgment call.
Going on from there, you have what I refer to as “affinity friends.” These are people that you have a loose tenuous relationship with. It may be that you share a common interest such as stamp collecting or esoteric politics or chain mail making. You connect through a fan page on Facebook or another site and again, you may or may not interact. In fact you may never ever meet other than that one time you pushed the “confirm” button.
Then there are friends of friends – people that you begin to have a conversation with on a mutual friends page due to a comment your mutual friend made or people you have met via an introduction (online or via email) through another friend. These folks can be extremely interesting and actually become friends over time.
Add to that people who are open networkers. When I first started on Facebook that is what I was. I accepted any and all friend requests. I quickly shot up to almost 5000 friends and had no room left for people I actually knew. Most of these people were connections from LinkedIn where I was also an open networker. I rapidly realized that I had to make a decision and I did. I posted on my Facebook page that I was going to start weaning out people I did not know.
Now prior to doing cut-down process I actually had some great interactions with some of my LinkedIn connections via Facebook. I kept them as friends. But everyone else went and I am down to a “manageable” 626 friends now. What’s scary – but in a good way - is that I actually know most of them in person. There are probably about 40 or so that I only know from online or through an affinity connection.
Facebook does have a cap of approximately 5000 people that you can friend. To get around that limitation you will need either a fan page or a group page. But while those pages will certainly let you communicate with more people it isn’t the same as a true friend page.
Until someone spams me or if they spew vitriolic garbage that shoots my blood pressure through the roof, I will let anyone follow me on Twitter. I figure that if you are really that interested in what I have to say then go ahead. Listen. Unfortunately Twitter does have a 1999 follower limit of sorts. You can only follow 1999 people until more than 2000 people are following you. Once you go past that magic 2000 number you can follow as many people as you want – with a caveat. You cannot just jump in and follow 500 people at once. Twitter has a couple of algorithms designed to try and thwart spammers. If you follow to many people on the same day you will find your account blocked. (By the way – I’m about 500 short so feel free to follow me on Twitter where I’m known as @PAWeissenstein. Just be aware I won’t be able to follow you back so no offense intended.)
Now how do you choose who to follow on Twitter. For some people the rules for Facebook that I stated above apply. Others, once they have reached the 2000 people following them mark, will follow everyone back. While following everyone back may mean that you will find something worthwhile, and you will also, in theory, expand your influence, you will probably need to develop your own rules on how to handle that. Many people will use a client such as TweetDeck, Seismic or HootSuite in order to manage their Twitter account(s). These tools will let you create columns which will then sort your incoming tweets by people, category, etc. The true Power Users have no choice but to utilize these and the other programs out there in order to maintain their feeds and interactions. But then again, this can become almost a full time job and one has to make the decision on how much time do you wish to put in to your social media life?
LinkedIn is a great job searching tool. You can find things out on LinkedIn and garner leads that you just can’t do anywhere else. Unfortunately the spammers have also discovered that over the last couple of years as well. Whether to keep your network open – meaning you accept all invites or closed – meaning you only accept invites from people you know or have actually met is a personal decision and also a debate that has raged on since LinkedIn was started. There are pluses and minuses to both sides of the story. The one thing I strongly suggest is that you do get as many of your friends and family connected to you on LinkedIn as possible. Then you can make the best decision for yourself.
Blogs – while I will take the time to read a lot of blogs they won’t all make it on to my blogroll. This is not intended to offend anyone. I could easily create a blogroll that would take so much time to read that one wouldn’t have time to read the blogs! So I use a double edge sword there. First I list the blogs of a few of my friends that I really think the world should get to know. Then I list blogs where friends of mine and I all think are worth sharing. It is impossible to read each and every blog I would like to read every single day but I will do my best. I may not comment on each blog I read either. I don’t expect comments every day on my posts either because of that. I just hope people are reading it.
Other social media sites – there are many other sites out there such as NING, MySpace, etc. It is always your decision as to where and what you will participate. I have, over the years, signed up for several other sites but tend not to use them at all. Why? It’s simple. The internet is really like a cavern filled with pirate’s treasure filled with real jewels and gold as well as lots of fool’s gold. In my opinion, unless one is running a business which relies on internet feedback one needs to choose how much time and how many places they will participate in before it overwhelms oneself.
Certainly there are programs out there that can help you manage everything but at what point do you give your own personality up to a program? This requires a lot of thought.
So that’s it in a nutshell from one individual person . What’s your take on this?