I’ve had to reconsider how I use social networks lately, because I think some of the people who are connecting with me are doing it wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, I love making connections. I’ve met some very interesting people mostly through Twitter and blogs. In some instances, this is clearly fanboy level connection – I’ve subscribed, commented without expectation of a response, followed them on twitter and so on. In other instances, I’ve made new contacts through Facebook and even instant message – which are, or at least have been, my favoured “personal” connection methods.
But some of this needs to change. I need a real sense of home base. I need to shore up the connections I’ve made with meaningful contact.
I’ve also been using Foursquare lately. I check in daily at my workplace, in my mall, at the coffee shops I frequent when I go there. I’m mayor of a couple of places, but I’m by no means prolific. I’ve got a few friends – for some reason, Robert Scoble and Julien Smith even clicked the “accept friend” button, which is cool because I like putting a diverse range of information (not just a volume of information) to the people who intrigue me. I’ve also got a number of local friends on there. But then there are the strangers.
I got a request from a former colleague. Which was neat. But when he checked into my store, I popped my head up and said hello… And he didn’t have any idea who I was. Didn’t have as sharp a memory for people as I do, it turns out.cHow useful is this service, really, if you don’t have ducks in a row enough to recognise someone you used to work with, when you had the presense of spam enough to request they add you on a social network?
Even better was getting a request from Egor Lavrov, an apparent entrepreneur (who I had never hard of before) out of Florida and the Dominican Republic. I hit accept, because I still haven’t decided how I’m using the service, then checked out Egor’s profile, and promptly gagged. The guy has easily a hundred friends. How, in a location-based game/network, are you supposed to keep up with that many people? Especially with people jockeying for points and cluttering the streams? He’s forever checking in and is ALWAYS off the grid! What’s the point of doing this, convincing that many people to track you, and then never giving them any information to work with?
Now note, I’ve got Scoble and Julien, and Dave Peck was actually my first friend on Foursquare (even though I’ve never connected with him anywhere else), so I can’t really speak to diversity of location. But I do have to wonder if people are paying attention to the reasons WHY you friend someone on Foursquare?
Who might you want to follow on 4sq or Gowalla? If you’re on a location-based service, you likely should be friending people you have a chance of meeting, or at least want to keep track of at least a little. Scoble travels, Julien speaks. I track them because I may miss an announcement of where they’re doing their public work – which I’m interested in. My friends, I like to track for obvious reasons. But seriously, why am I going to friend a thousand people there? Friending metrics are useless on location networks. Try again.
How do you filter on LinkedIn? I don’t use LinkedIn thoroughly yet because I’m not that active doing events and outside client work for my job yet. I have it, it’s a semi-static living resume. But I sort of agree with Chris Brogan here, that it’s not a get-more-contacts game. The more accurately you can make your contact list reflect your working life, the better off you’re likely to be. If you want to find me on LinkedIn, go ahead – but it would help your case if you want me to guest post or contribute to your efforts somehow. I will trust me. I love to help. It’s what I do for a living.
Who should you friend on Facebook? Whoever you want. Friending metrics are useless on Facebook, it’s not a collector’s game, but thankfully the platform is flexible enough that whether you’re going for a collection of loose friends, or a tight-knit group of really core buds, it will work for you. I like Facebook. Actually, a lot, much as I prefer Twitter for daily entertainment value lately. If you’d like to connect on Facebook, be my guest – but be warned, it’s filled mostly with useless trivia and the flack that I don’t push out in a more professional demeanour.
Which leaves the biggest contender: Twitter. Praise Be The Tweet. There are a lot of theories on what’s effective on Twitter, but the simple truth is that it’s a very popular, and thus powerful, engine for putting yourself in front of whoever you want in a really simple, expressed way. It’s great for linking, initial contact, on the fly public conversation, and big self-promotional pushes. Collect people, keep it small, follow no one but track a bunch of lists – the possibilities are so flexible that, as much as the followers number still matters to some people, it has no attachment to how you follow, who you follow, or how you interact. If you’re not following me on Twitter already, you’re not one of the cool kids – but it’s not hard to get in, because I have no say in it. Say hello!
So how do you do it totally wrong?
Lots of people will argue with me about it even being possible to use a service wrong, but let me explain.
When I see someone on Foursquare behaving in a way that works better on Twitter, that’s broken. It’s not about behaviour, so much as it is about approach. The language of location networks is locality. The language of LinkedIn is reference and relevance. The language of Twitter and, to an extent Facebook, is conversation. You can’t have a conversation with me on Foursquare – so that fails. You can’t assume relevance on Twitter without digging far further than the profile page, so the LinkedIn approach is of limited use.
At the end of the day if you really want to break a social network, just treat it like the other networks you’re already on.
Photo by Nesster.