We’re Not Friends
I got a nasty Facebook message the other day from someone who requested to be my friend and I intentionally said no. “But you have so many friends,” he said with the assertion that I must spend my day arbitrarily adding friends in order to stroke my own ego. I wrote him back and began a conversation about how being Facebook friends could or could not benefit either of us and come to find out a gentleman working in the semiconductor industry in Bangalore with no intentions of moving to America (or learning about real estate or blogging) isn’t a fit for me but he still thought we should add each other. Le sigh. Le eyeroll.
Here, Eat This Card
Many people sit down each morning and search their friends’ friends on Facebook and Twitter and click “add” in the name of building their network. This resembles the jerk who goes to happy hour and before you get to say hi or ask him what he does for a living, he’s already literally shoved his card down your throat along with the four people your standing with, giving an insincere handshake and saying “call me” as he walks away to cram cards down others’ throats. That’s not network building, that’s friend collecting. The problem is that they’re not your friends, no matter what Facebook calls them.
To build your network, do the following:
Foster your network. Drop notes to people saying hey, asking about how their dog’s broken arm is or whatever. Be sincere. If you don’t care, don’t engage because it will be apparent. Spend time on Twitter being silly and having conversation with others.
Be a connector. Make a habit of asking people if they need anything. Do they have any side projects they’re working on they need help with or are they looking for any kind of referral like a plumber, social media advisor or just a pointer on which photo editor to use. Introduce your new friends to your old friends- when someone adds you as a Twitter friend and you see they’re in Miami, introduce them to Miami’s hottest Realtor, Ines.
Have criteria when accepting or adding friends. I don’t seek out friends anymore because my network is as big as I can handle right now. On Facebook, if someone is between age 20-30, I know them personally because I’m in the Internet generation, we’re all online. If someone is over 30, they are my friend because our professions are complimentary to each other or they have mentioned relocating to Austin. Other than that, I typically click ignore which is more common than accept. On Twitter, I find more success being a connector, so I follow most people unless they have a disproportionate amount of followers versus those they follow. For example, if someone follows 6,500 people but only has 200 followers, they’re either spam or friend collecting.
The bottom line is that there is no value in friend collecting but there is a massive value in building your network by having criteria for your network, being a connector and fostering that network. We all make friends online, but the end goal is to put green in your pocket, so don’t friend collect, build a network.
Originally published June 7, 2008