These questions and concerns come up often:
I just want to be connected to my family and close friends on Facebook.
Should I accept a request from this person I don't really know on LinkedIn?
I have no idea who this person is. Should I Circle him on Google+?
They just keep following me on Twitter. Why would they do that when they have no idea who I am?
The first answer I will give you is that it really is your decision to make. I, nor any other marketing strategist, can tell you exactly what should be done in 100% of the cases. As you use these tools, and yes, they are just tools, you will begin to develop your own methods and philosophies about how they fit into your personal and professional life.
I can offer a few thoughts that might help you wade through your decision-making process.
It's going to be different on different sites. If you feel like you want an intimate atmosphere on Facebook, then keep it that way. I will tell you, however, that some of the people I've "friended" there have become very close friends and contacts. If I hadn't connected with them, I would have missed out on a great deal of information, perspective, personal and business camaraderie.
On LinkedIn, we are all seeing invitations to connect from people we don't know, or who we can't even draw a path to connect how they might have found us. My recommendation here is to wade through each of them individually. If you sense they are after you only for the right to send you InMail but offer no value in terms of what they appear to be sharing, then think twice. If, on the other hand, you find them interesting in terms of your marketing and business development goals, and that also means pure education, not just that they will they become a client, then give them serious consideration.
Take Twitter and Google+ as examples of why connecting with those who are unknown isn't always a bad thing. My Twitter feed is full of people I would never have thought to connect with in the early days. People followed me, I glanced at many of their profiles, and reciprocated. What I have found is that I have formed some interesting and friendly relationships with many of these people, and am happy that I tool the time to do so.
The mere act of connecting with people on any of these social networks means nothing. The act of connecting with them, talking to them, learning from them, asking questions, observing and sharing what they have to say with others, is what makes any of these connections worthwhile.
I wish I could remember who said this recently (if it's you, please tell me below), but this is similar to face-to-face networking. If I walk into a networking event and spend the entire two hours connecting only with people I know, month-after-month, have I really spent my networking time wisely? Wouldn't it be better if I ventured out from my familiar group of contacts and met those I don't know, thus expanding my connections?
Is social/virtual networking really that different?
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