Social networking should not be about adding people to your network willy nilly to get the highest number of connections. All too often I get a LinkedIn request from someone whose name just doesn’t ring a bell. There I sit, agonizing over who this could be and wondering why I don’t remember them. Then I write back and say: “I am sorry, can you remind me how we know each other?” Sometimes I get no reply, other times I get a reply that says: “We don’t know each other directly but we both worked for ABC Company.” It all depends on where you draw the line.
However, I do believe there are other reasons to connect even when you don’t know the person previously. In fact, isn’t that what social media is about? Making new connections you didn’t have before? I don’t look at it as just a tool to put my address book online, I look at it also as a tool to find new contacts, for various reasons. The benefit of the social web is that I can see into my friend’s contact list and connect with people who I would not have connected with otherwise. For example, I interview people for PDG’s Strategy Consulting team and often after the interview, they send me a LinkedIn request—and I accept. Especially if I spoke to them, I liked them, and I feel we had a connection. I have sometimes received requests to connect with people who have read my blog, sent me theirs, are in the same industry and want to be connected—and I accept. And despite all the examples I just gave you, I still don’t consider myself an Open Networker, who, according to Wikipedia, is a member of a business-oriented social networking site such as LinkedIn who positively encourages connections from any other member, whether or not they have had a previous business relationship.
I don’t think having people in your network means you have to contact them once a month or at any other interval. I know people with whom I only speak once a year and there is nothing wrong with that in my eyes. Based on the examples above, I have contacts I may never reconnect with—and I am okay with that too. I might even eventually remove them—once I no longer remember them. The goal of my network is not necessarily to have “relationships” with every single person, it is to have connections that can help me and who I can help when needed. Isn’t that the goal of networking to begin with? Social media allows me to do something I could not do before and that is to see my connections’ connections’ connections and so on. It is, therefore, about connections—therein lies the power.