Social Media – Open Networker or Selective Connector?

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Update Notice: Here’s a more recent post about Open Networker vs Selective Connectors on LinkedIn that you may also enjoy.

There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to social media networking. Whether you’re using LinkedIn, Facebook or other social media sites, most people are either an open networker or a selective connector.

Open networker is a term from the LinkedIn community. It refers to people who believe in building as wide a network as possible, regardless of how well you know this person, if at all. Selective connectors are, well, more selective. Some only connect with people they know in the real world first. Others have various levels of criteria when deciding whether to connect with someone online.

Other people’s criteria

I know one person who only connects with people on LinkedIn whose products or services he would be willing to recommend. I know another who waits to develop a relationship outside of social media first, before he decides if he trusts the person enough to connect on LinkedIn.

Amrita Chandra, owner of tinku gallery has some useful ways to measure how she connects with people depending on the social media platform. On Facebook she only adds people she knows in real life or “people I would invite into my home”. On LinkedIn she invites people she knows or would like to know on a professional basis or “people I would invite into my office”. On Twitter she connects with anyone who seems interesting or “anyone I would be interested in speaking to at a social event or cocktail party”. Clearly Amrita uses each social media site differently and her connection policy reflects those uses.

Facebook expert Mari Smith has a well thought-out policy for accepting or sending friend requests on Facebook that is worth checking out.

What are the pros and cons of each style?

If you’re an open networker, you will have a larger social media network. Having a larger network means you have a bigger pool of people to draw on if you are looking for an expert, a product or service, or help of some kind.

The downside: you won’t personally know anyone on your list. On sites like Facebook you may get spam type messages (zombie requests or invitations to events you have no interest in). Since both Facebook and LinkedIn limit – thankfully – the number of people you can send messages to in bulk, if you’re sending a message to your tribe, it will take longer to search your list of connections for people who should receive your message. (You’d never just send a message to everyone on your list right?)

The biggest downside to being an open networker is also its biggest upside in disguise. When you connect to people you don’t know, you don’t know anything about them – who they are, what they do, how you can help them, how they can help you.

However, if you take the time to read people’s profiles and use the social media to interact with them appropriately, you may get to know them. And you never know who might turn into a valuable resource.

If you’re a selective connector and know people before you link to them in social media you won’t have as much spam. You’ll know exactly who in your network should receive certain messages and exactly who can help you. You’ll know exactly who you can help and how. The downside is you won’t be expanding your network. You won’t get unexpected support.

What does Andrea do?

I guess I could be considered a Slightly Selective Open Networker. As a general rule, I accept all invitations I receive. On LinkedIn this has never been a problem. Yes, occasionally I get requests from my network that I can’t help with, but they are always respectful and appropriate. I’ve never felt spammed.

Facebook is a slightly different matter and I may start changing my policy. If you’ve read my previous blog post on the subject, you know I hate those stupid request apps (zombies, are you hot? etc). I’ve started blocking the apps, but I may start unfriending people who keep sending them.

I’m also getting tired of group invitations. I particularly dislike ones that have nothing to do with my business. Yes I love chocolate but it doesn’t say it on my profile and I’m not joining a group about it unless you’re giving me free stuff.

So far I’ve only unfriended one person. When she first invited me to connect I thought her photo was a little unprofessional – too sexy. But then I thought I’m a middle aged woman with a kid. She’s young and beautiful, so what.

But then one day I logged into Facebook and on my newsfeed saw she had added some new photos of herself. I wouldn’t call it pornography per se … she did have the “naughty bits” mostly covered, but suffice it to say I couldn’t find the unfriend button fast enough!

The biggest upside to being an open networker is I’ve met some really great people as a result. Yes, most of my Facebook “friends” and a large percentage of my LinkedIn connections are strangers and I’ve never even sent them an email other than the initial “glad to connect online” message I send. However, some of these strangers have turned into valuable resources and business friends.

Almost all the teleseminars I’ve conducted in the past year were with people I met on LinkedIn. I didn’t know them before connecting and had no idea we would joint venture in this way. I met one of my Facebook friends while on vacation in Montreal. Not only did I have a lovely chat and a couple of drinks in a pub I would never have gone to on my own, but we developed a rapport that will continue.

Basically, I treat my online networking the way I treat my real life networking. When I go to a networking meeting I don’t refuse to give my card to someone because I don’t know them yet. It’s standard practice to introduce yourselves and exchange business cards.

I may collect ten or fifteen business cards at a particular event but only really connect with one or two people. True, those other cards may sit in my card file unused. At some point I may even look at the card and forget why I kept it and toss it. On the other hand, I may run into this person again some day. Over time, we may develop a relationship.

The key is, I never know who will become a valued part of my network whether on or offline. I use my online networking to connect with people who might be of help to me down the road or who might need my help. Yes it takes more work to manage an open network, but in the long run I think the benefits outweigh the costs.

Andrea J. Stenberg

Are you an open networker, a selective connector or some combination of the two? Tell us about your experiences by leaving a comment.

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