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From the Vault: Adding Friends vs. Network Building

friends don't let friends friend collect

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

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Chris Lengquist

    June 7, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    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” ……….

    This is a complete waste of time and I’ll tell you why:

    You are at happy hour!!!!!! Have a freaking beer!!!!! Relax. Talk sports. Check out the hot girl (sorry, I know I sound sexist…but I am actually happily married as you know) over in the corner. Do anything but talk shop unless begged to do so.

    Have I gone too far, again?

  2. Tyler, The Wealth Creation Guy

    June 7, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Good Stuff! I’m a big believer is slow, intentional growth. Helping others is the best way to build a network. I like what you’re doing.. I laugh every time you put up a random Twitter update. Keep it up. People are getting to see your personality!

  3. Paula Henry

    June 7, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    As in life, online relationships take time. There’s always the one who has an elevator speech ready where ever they go. Highly intolerable and ineffective.

  4. mariana

    June 7, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    hector hector the friend collector… I also frequently ‘reject’ people who I know are just out collecting people. I need to be careful who I associate with. thi goes right along with online reputation maintenence.

  5. Maureen Francis

    June 7, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Oh so timely. I am actually getting a bit tired of the fb friend requests. If I add people I don’t know, then they start inviting me to all kinds of crazy apps that I think are childish or something. I don’t mind a bit of fun, but most of those apps are written for 18 year olds and the first digit in my age is a 4, so I could be their mother. I also don’t want to get invited to every “real estate investment webinar” that comes along. I guess I am asocial.

    I could go on, but it would get ranty…

  6. Bill Lublin

    June 7, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Lani; You are a connector in a big way – and an incredibly social person whose personality comes through in all of your communication. The funny thing is that you write like you sound on the phone – and I don;t even understand how that works! 🙂

    I get less bothered by my huge following in Bangalore (a place no one wants to move from) then I do by the people that want to make me rich, or show me the path to additional wealth without having a clue if I am a pauper or a millionaire – to your point, don’t try to sell me through social media if you are not part of my social network on some level. If I want to buy something, I can always find someone to sell it to me.)

    In building a social network, I find that I have a hard time randomly emailing people whose email address I have from a “one off” correspondence. I think that there should be some commonality in making the request of anotherm but as far as the acceptance for a time I thought it was “rude” in the on-line world to rebuff an offer of “friendship”. As soon as I started getting invitations to watch new potential friends on their private webcams, I decided that a little discretion in acceptance was way the better part of valor. It was something that was brought home to me by the post Shailesh Ghimire The Facebook Generation.

    Well thought out post with a great message. As I have said elsewhere – You are the Queen of New and SocialMedia.

  7. Robert D. Ashby

    June 7, 2008 at 9:29 pm


  8. Sonny Gill

    June 7, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    This reminds me of someone I know…Oh, you!

    Seriously, you epitomize this profile of a true connector. You’ve reached out to myself as well as others I’ve seen on Twitter in an amazing way. We all can learn from you and this post…all it takes is genuine effort and a lil bit of time.

  9. Chris Shouse

    June 7, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    Its funny this come up now. I spent the better part of yesterday going through my friends on FB and divided them into Network Marketers and Realtors Etc. I did not know you could make lists in your friends but you can and I did.
    Then I went through all of the clubs that came by and I joined and I got rid of all those groups I will never be part of.
    Then I went through my wall and deleted a bunch of stuff and hope no one sends me another chain wall banger. I will disable it.
    Then I got rid of every app. that I want nothing to do with.
    Do you know how freeing all of this was?
    From now one I will be very careful about who I accept and what group comes by.
    I found it very exhilarating to hit IGNORE

  10. Ricardo Bueno

    June 8, 2008 at 12:49 am

    Lately I’ve found myself receiving several LinkedIn invitations (and FB “Friend” invites) from people I haven’t met. On LinkedIn, I look at their profiles and just don’t see a connection…none. So I shoot them an email in kind and ask, “Hi there. How can I help you? Where have we met?” More often then not I get no response; which is fine with me. I hit the [I Don’t Know This Person] button and onward we go. In other instances I get the generic “just looking to network with blah blah blah…” (I’m sorry, but I kinda consider this spam. Call me rude…but hey… Change my mind. Say something compelling why don’t ya!)

    At first I thought I was being a jerk. But come to think of it, adding someone you don’t know and have nothing in common with diminishes your social capital. And that’s not good! The value of a network is that you can trustingly refer people to one another. So if I add a stranger to the list, refer this stranger out and they mess up…it hurts my reputation! (I’ve just diminished my social capital; however big or small it may be).

    So here’s what I say: it’s fair game to have a criteria. I mean no offense.

    (Of course I’ve been slightly more relaxed in this regard with networks like FB and that’s ok. It’s a different network. I mean heck, people throw sheep over there and hit each other up for drinks! It’s easier to let your guard down and allow yourself to get to know others).

  11. Dale Chumbley

    June 8, 2008 at 1:02 am


    Great post! I like the guidelines you are following! Very well thought out.

    Thom Singer, one of your own Austinites has done a wonderful job of putting pen to paper on this topic. I see he has even co-written a new book specifically speaking along this topic with regard to LinkedIn. I know you know Thom, not sure if all the other readers do. Anyone who is in our business should read his stuff. He can be found at

    Keep up the great job!


  12. Eric Blackwell

    June 8, 2008 at 3:54 am

    I think this applies to much more than just facebook and linked in… MANY of the social networking spaces out there have folks you don’t know, just being a friend without knowing you at all.

  13. Missy Caulk

    June 8, 2008 at 6:12 am

    Ricardo sent me here from his AR post. I so agree and it has been on my mind so much lately, especially FB. Having just returned from traveling, there was (are) so many waiting in my inbox. My kids are on FB and so some of them invite me, but I always ignore. Kids at parties is not the image I want on FB.

    Ditto on twitter, I do follow a number of people from Ann Arbor, good networking.

    Actually it all gets a little out of hand, doesn’t it?
    Very timing for me to read this, as I was just thinking the same thing this AM.

  14. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 8, 2008 at 7:12 am

    Great words. Quality > Quantity. Having a group of persons that will actually watch out for you, want to help you, and be your advocate is what its all about. Having 3253223626 “friends” who don’t give 2 cents about you, is purely for ego and bragging.

  15. Rebecca Levinson

    June 8, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Well put. I follow the same logic when it comes to blog posts as well. Some blogs churn out 2-3 posts a day, sometimes more. If they are of quality, great, but if not, you will lose readership in the end.

    It’s not all about the numbers. Great communication, feedback, solid relationships, that’s where it’s at.

  16. Christina Ethridge

    June 8, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Lani – I totally agree with you. What I find even more ridiculous is the propensity of agents on LinkedIn requesting and giving recommendations to other agents that they’ve never had any sort of working relationship with! I’m starting to get the requests for recommendations fairly regularly. I’m trying my best to be very diplomatic with my responses so as not to tick anyone off – but let’s be real – I’m not going to give a recommendation until I’ve actually worked with or utilized someone’s services myself – nor do I want recommendations from people who have not worked with me in any capacity.

  17. Jim Duncan

    June 8, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    I’ve found that I am (much) more selective on LinkedIn than I am on Facebook, and slightly more selective on Twitter.

    The definition of “friend” has become a bit muddy with all of these social networks using “friend” as their base level of connection – which is a shame.

    Lani – is it safe to assume that you’ve read The Tipping Point?

  18. Faina Sechzer

    June 8, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Lani, you are the ultimate social media connector, so you speak from first hand knowledge. Social media sites differ and my criteria for them is different too. On Twitter I was “bold” enough to reach out and meet people without prior introduction from anyone else -they just happened to live in Princeton. My due diligence was to check out their blogs/sites. Someone who doesn’t have Internet presence outside the social media I would be watching first before “following” or approving as a friend on FB..
    Beyond all, if everyone on these networks was just and peddle and push their stuff, it would get old and tiring very soon. It’s about relationships, isn’t it?

  19. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    June 8, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    It absolutely is all about relationships. Some of this I would do even if it never paid off because I enjoy it. Other parts of engaging in social media I wouldn’t spend time doing if it wasn’t for the overall benefit of the company.

    I’ll be continuing my series on social media successes and hope you guys will chime in. It can be tiring when others abuse it, but as a newbie, I didn’t get it either- I was very formal, required introductions to people I haven’t met in person, I constantly toted the corporate line, etc. Over time, I too, figured out the “SOCIAL” portion of new media and took it down a notch. And it’s worked well because I’m able to be myself which is when I really shine anyhow.

    I’ve read many books on social networking and new media but find that no one is as expert as they claim- my real life experience has surpassed any text I’ve crossed so far and because it’s so new, the true experts are just being born (Chris Brogan, Darren Rowse, etc. but not every Tom Dick and Harry on Twitter calling themselves “experts”).

  20. Vance Shutes

    June 8, 2008 at 5:54 pm


    Both your article, and your recent comment, are summarized in the statement “It absolutely is all about relationships.” While clicking around FB and LinkedIn, I sometimes wonder whether I’m seeing true “relationship”, or just a collection of “friends.” Give me 50 relationships, any day, and together those 50 can change the world through SM. The 1000 in somebody’s “collection” of friends couldn’t change the channel on a TV. What’s really fun to contemplate is how our kids are going to change the world through their use of SM. Yikes!

  21. Matthew Rathbun

    June 8, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    This is a great practical reminder. I have found myself deleting connections on twitter and facebook more readily than I used to. There have been some real estate folks and local folks who are just rude, inappropriate and unfriendly. I want to keep my social media experience fun and enjoyable… maybe even profitable. As much as I say to pick your clients, I am even more faithful to say pick your friends.

  22. Ken Smith

    June 8, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Great information. If you don’t focus on quality of your contacts you will end up spreading yourself to thin. This really is no different then maintaining a quality database.

  23. Natalie Langford

    June 9, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Hey Lani. This is the info I needed. I’ve been fortunate enough not to have my “network” run clear, or shall I say, diluted with strangers who are “friend farming.” However, I ALWAYS feel guilty or mean when I deny or ignore people…I’ll think of you the next time I click those buttons!

    Funny to see so many familiar names above me. Thanks, Zebra, for the stripe that led me here!

  24. Shailesh Ghimire

    June 9, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    What is a friend? It seems like the term is no longer understood. I regularly deny friend requests. The problem got worse when Facebook started presenting “people you may know”. Then with a click of a button you get a friend request. I do have a policy. I must know them in some capacity, either online or offline before I add them. If I’m going to track some element of my online experience on Facebook, I’d like to know who is “watching”.

  25. ines

    June 9, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    and you are the best darn connector I know – no lie.

  26. Genuine Chris Johnson

    June 10, 2008 at 6:27 am

    Now this is a good post. Good work LaniAR.

  27. Sarah Cooper

    June 10, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Lani, you’re the master and I’m glad to be one of your Twitterbuds. 🙂

  28. Jennifer Wilson - Agent Solutions

    June 10, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Hey Lani!

    What a fabulous post. You have got me thinking more about my FB friends and why I usually approve the friend requests I get. I am still fairly new to FB and I guess I am like Natalie Langford, and I feel guilty if I don’t approve them. I am now rethinking my practices in this regard.

    Great post Lani! Thank you. 😉

  29. cindy*staged4more

    June 10, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    seriously! although great friends appreciate through time, friends are not baseball cards. 😀


  30. Bill Lublin

    June 11, 2008 at 8:53 am

    I feel liberated – I turned someone down on linkedIn.
    OK so he was from turkey, and his website was Turkish as was his blog – but still I said no 🙂

  31. john harper

    June 11, 2008 at 10:01 am

    I am still trying to assess the value of Facebook as a business tool. The thing I find most aggravating, besides an endless stream of nameless friends, is when people use a new application and I have to activate it to see what the heck they are sending me.

    Facebook has caused Webster’s to redefine the term promiscuous.

    I had this same discussion with Jason Alba about LinkedIn. I am much more selective to who I will connect with there.

  32. Harold Watts

    June 11, 2008 at 10:56 am


    What a great article!! I just signed up for Facebook for my business, and I have to say your post got me thinking.

    Who do I want to accept in my “inner circle”? Do I want people who want or know people who want to visit or live in Palm Springs, or do I want people who are just looking to add me as a notch to their “growing friends list?

    I want to use Facebook to connect with other professionals across the country to help grow my business. Thanks for your insight!!

  33. Houstonblogger

    March 9, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Dang, Lani. I thought you were FB friends with this 37 year old cuz I am so cool. 🙁 Le Sigh. ? ? ? j/k

  34. Teresa Boardman

    March 9, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    My face book account has been a travesty since day one. I don’t know most of my friends. I read the updates from the people i do know and from family and poke people to let them know that I am paying attention. I have had people ask me why I won’t be their FB friends. I tell them it is because I don’t like people. it seems to work, they accept it and go away.

  35. Elaine Reese

    March 9, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    I have very specific objectives for FB, LinkedIN and Twitter. I tightly control who I friend, network with or follow on each of them. LinkedIN is for my clients, SOI and contacts from my former career. It’s the business suit network. Twitter is primarily for local contacts who are interesting to follow & engage. It’s the preppy/dockers network. FB is for my family, friends, and a few realtors who are friends. It’s the sweatpants network. The people on each of them are a reflection of me, so I guard my reputation carefully, and it doesn’t bother me to ignore new requests if they don’t meet the criteria. Basically, if they’re not someone I would associate with FTF, then I don’t do it online either.

  36. coolsprings

    March 17, 2010 at 11:48 am

    The overwhelming majority of people these days are people huge networks without really qualifying who goes into them.

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