I have been noticing a trend in the social media networks that I monitor and participate in, and I want to share it with you.
I think people have a different standards for those people that they know well and “accept as friends” or “add to network” (or whatever term a specific website uses) and when there is a request to connect from someone they do not know, have not communicated with, and in many cases have not actually met in person.
This makes a lot of sense to me and I imagine many of us have developed at least a “gut-based” policy on this as our online network experiences have evolved. I recently taught a social media workshop at my office and one of the most often questions was “How do I decide who I should let into my network?” Like everything in life, “That depends”
Most of us don't feel comfortable making our whole lives an open book. And those who do, sometimes regret it later. But those who don't offer real and authentic comments that reflect their opinions and personality never do well in ANY network, especially online social networks. So where do you draw the line? “That depends”
For me,each network has it's own style and flavor and that helps me dictate how I interact, and who I interact with. Here's some of my thoughts and “gut-based-policies” that I use:
Facebook – The explosion of people using Facebook is phenomenal. People form your distant past, childhood friends school buddies, and sometimes people you hoped you'd forget, show up wanting to connect with you. Yes, you have to confirm them. But do you really want to? I'd say no if you would avoid them in real life. Your virtual relationship is not likely to be any better. And you will always be thinking about them reading your posts and filtering what you say because of it. And pictures – Pictures say a thousand words. People on Facebook share very personal pics and videos of friends and family. You should be comfortable sharing them with all the friends you connect with. If not, DON'T upload them!
Twitter – Unless your profile is set to private, anyone can follow you and you have to proactively block them if you don't want them to. This is an open invitation to stalkers, and you should treat it as such. People tweet the most personal of things. So personal most people wouldn't be interested. “I'm getting my mail now” or “My dog just sneezed” are not uncommon comments – and who cares! I usually don't worry if someone is not very local. But if someone creepy that lives down the street starts following me, I'm going to block them. Be careful not to post confidential or business information. As real estate agents we have a duty of confidentiality. And you may not want to have your competition knowing your every move either.
LinkedIn – This network actually helps filter people for you. If someone hasn't worked with you, done business with you, or can't produce your email, they can't even solicit a connection with you. This has helped keep the network very professional and executives comfortable that not just everyone can get their information and start spamming them. Because of this I have a strict code of only linking with people I know well and respect. Some people infer your recommendation if you linked with someone, and that's a reflection of you and your business when they do.
Biznik – This network is designed to facilitate actual face-to-face meetings with people for the purpose of business networking. Therefore, at least some level of previous communication seems appropriate before bringing them into your network. For example, once you've attended an event, you may want to add several of the people you met there.
There are many more. But these popular sites easily illustrate how real estate agents need to moderate and filter what we communicate and who we communicate it with.
In the end, your business networks are a representation of who you are, and therefore a precious commodity you should protect. Inviting you to join my network is not something I do lightly. Anyone in business and participating in social networks should give this some thought. Do you accept connections from just anyone? What are your “gut-policies”?