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?
I was drawn into these networks quite haphazardly. I had been reading around the web for a long time (from people like Guy Kawasaki) that it was a “good thing” to get a profile up on Linkedin and Facebook, so I spent a few minutes slapping together a basic profile. Soon, known acquaintances and business contacts sent requests to be connected, so I accepted.
Recently, I have been getting lots of requests for connections from unknown people. What is particularly confusing are email messages that say:
I would like to add you to my network in Linkedin.
I rack my brain trying to figure out who John Doe is, thinking:
- Do I know him from somewhere?
- Is he a cyber stalker or a genuinely nice guy?
- Is he good at what he does, creative, ethical and hardworking, characteristics of people that would seem logical to link to on a business networking site?
The closest I have come to in-depth John Doe research is looking at his online profile, specifically recommendations and friends. So far, my rigorous criteria for acceptance are:
- Seems like a nice person
- Has some cool friends
- Doesn’t appear to do any harm in the work he performs
- What the heck, press “Accept”
Somehow, I think I am missing the boat on using these tools, and would love to get some guidance from those that are “power users.”
So for those of you more experienced with these environments:
- What criteria do you use for evaluating whether to link to or “friend” someone or not?
- Should you worry excessively about the values, skills and qualifications of those you link to, or is the idea to build bridges with a big, happy diverse online family?
- What are good ways to ASK for a link from someone else? I am totally convinced that the generic “I would like to add you to my network” is a bad idea if you don’t know the person you are requesting the link from. At a minimum, it seems like “I have read your blog for a year,” or “I never forgave you for rejecting me after our first date,” or “I sat next to you in the cafeteria once in grammar school” would at least provide a little bit of context to the person evaluating the connection.
- What are the specific benefits of Linkedin, MySpace and Facebook for small business owners and entrepreneurs?
As for Facebook, I know that it must be a good thing for small business owners, as John Jantsch jumped on recently and invited me to his Duct Tape Marketing group. I am just not sure yet how I should be using it, so in the meantime, I am accepting friend invitations and assuming that I will see the light soon.
The Wall St. Journal Online folks alerted me to this humorous insight on “friending” your boss in a cube environment, created by WSJ Cubicle Culture columnist Jared Sandberg. He says:
“Like email and “buddy lists” before them, social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace provide a definition of the word “friend” so expansive that it includes perfect strangers. They assist existing social relationships, letting people easily plan events, share pictures and keep up-to-date with far-flung friends. Once they penetrate the office, however, such sites can create awkward moments, particularly with colleagues who commit the social felony of attempted hipness.”
I welcome your thoughts on any or all of the questions I posed above.