B2B Social Media: To Connect or Not to Connect
Friends and colleagues occasionally ask me if they should accept the various connection requests from social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. This usually leads to a lively discussion since most business people are faced with this issue on a regular basis.
On one end of the continuum are those that are of the opinion that all social media connection requests should be honored. An example of this type of person is a LinkedIn LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) who basically says that they will accept a connection from anyone, anywhere, regardless of whether that person has had any prior contact. Likewise, a person who encourages you to friend them on Facebook just because they follow you on Twitter fits this open networking mold. Think of these people as highly responsive networkers.
At the other end of the continuum are those who believe they should not connect with anyone they don’t know personally and with whom they have not had a prior relationship (business or personal). These are the individuals who seldom send their own connection requests and who ponder long and hard before accepting your request. Think of these people as reluctant networkers.
So who is right, the responsive or reluctant networking crowd? For most of us, the answer is usually somewhere in between and depends on the answers to these questions:
- Are you in a business that depends on networking? The model for our business, Fusion Marketing Partners, is pull marketing. We don’t spend money on advertising and we don’t pursue prospects with a sales strategy. Rather, we publish lots of content about B2B marketing and spread the word through social media. Obviously, this strategy is predicated on connecting with lots of individuals and companies. By contrast, my wife is in a profession where networking is not particularly helpful, so she chooses not to spend her time on social media.
- Do you mind having a public persona? Lots of connections means that your public profile is spread far and wide. Are you okay with lots of people knowing about your business activities or would you prefer to keep a low profile (pun intended)?
- Are you responsible? Reputations are made and broken online and the more followers and connections you have, the more difficult it can be to hide any negative aspects of your business life. For example, if you and I are both connected to John Smith, it is very easy for me to call John and get the confidential scoop on your business competence and personal ethics.
- Are you active in social media? The point of social media networking is to support the rest of your marketing and sales by driving awareness, leads, and revenue. Your contacts need to see what you are up to on a regular basis, and this is difficult to do unless you commit to some level of reasonable social media activity.
My decision process for LinkedIn is that I will accept invitations from quality individuals even if I have had no prior contact with that person. On Twitter, I let anyone follow me but will ban those who prove to be shady or overly promotional. On Facebook, I only accept requests from friends or close business colleagues.
Having a larger network exposes you to more potential prospects, partners, employees, friends, etc. To put this another way, the size of your social media network can definitely go a long way towards shaping the size of your net worth.