Filtering the Social Networks: Social Acceptance, Relevance and Trimming the Fat

Does it feel like a slap in the face when you request to be someone’s friend on a social network and they ignore, reject or ‘diss you? Should your feelings get hurt?

Gone are the 2006’s “happy days” of MySpace when everyone and his cousin was refreshing their screens every 30 minutes, happily adding some smiling bikini-clad female to their network of “friends”. It didn’t seem to matter that you didn’t know who 90% of these people were, or if they were even real.

The Hottie and the Nottie

Enter 2009 and the era of social relevance. It’s no longer how many you know, or even who knows you, but who you know.

Social networks are not in bestselling author Michael Lewis’ words, who penned the book The New New Thing, just another “new new thing”. In his book, Michael wrote about the then-booming Silicon Valley technological scene, and discussed its obsession with innovation (also known as the “bright shiny object syndrome”).

Still the shininess of social networks is not so enamoring that having 200 people waiting in the “pending requests” queue of Facebook is an appealing thought. Especially when the logic for their request is: “We have a few friends in common, so we should be friends”.

Huh? I have been thinking over that one for some time, and I still don’t get it.

Sure, there are a couple of Twitterati floating about fast replacing the Bloggeratti in collecting legions of fans, many of whom they don’t know. But isn’t the mere act of collecting followers missing the point of social networking?

Granted, all of us have differing goals when we join Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Friendster, or any social network.  Some social network members might be looking to make new friends. Others could be in the business of collecting cheap or free leads they hope to convert via a CPA offer. And of course there might be a lonely guy or lonely girl who, tired of the slim pickings at dating sites like PlentyOfFish, is trolling the social scene.

Like the saying goes, different strokes for different folks.

It takes guts and integrity to follow the path that some marketers have taken. Revenews blogger Peter Figueredo recently explained why he has no qualms saying “No” to uninvited guests. Not because he gets a kick out of the rejection process, but because he wants to keep his network socially relevant.

That’s one of the reasons why I’ve largely given up on MySpace – way too many strangers I haven’t a clue about. It was fun to “collect” and play with the “Top 16” friends, rotating them around like an all-star lineup in a baseball card collection. Unfortunately, the thrill wore off about three days later.

Taking Control of Your Social Network

How can you continue to keep a relevant community on your preferred social network?

  1. Realize you’re in charge. It’s your community and your account.  More importantly it’s your personal brand. While it may be a public network, it’s still your personal turf, your personal space on that network.
  2. You are known by the company you keep. Go beyond pure numbers to look at the quality of company you keep. Are these people you’d hang around with in real life? If not, why are you keeping them as virtual companions?
  3. Invest the time. The talk about social networks providing “free traffic”, “free leads” and “free networking” only makes sense if your time doesn’t have any value. On one hand, you can’t spend all day reading twitter updates or responding to direct messages on the social networks. But on the other hand, you can’t go off the radar for weeks at a time and think you can pop back in with a “Hi! I’m back. Miss me?” That gets old, pretty fast.

Instead, working the social networking route means identifying one or two key networks and specializing in them. Build social goodwill, have genuine conversations and good things, business or personal, will come.-

Trimming the Fat

The fact is that relationships are dynamic – they form, sometimes people fight, grow distant, move to a different continent, and maybe are even recruited into top secret, covert organizations never to be heard from again.

Likewise, relationships in the digital world are similarly dynamic – you talk to someone every day over IM and then suddenly all communication stops. It’s the end of the honeymoon period.

You could insert a suitable bonsai analogy here, but the point is the same: if you cull your network, you can refocus your attention on strengthening relationships within your existing contacts.  Trying to maintain and cultivate an ever expanding social network as it bloats beyond any manageable proportion can be a hopeless endeavor.

If you consciously clean up your email inbox and your blogroll, why not your social networks too?  A good practice might be to “un-friend” 5-10% of your community that is no longer relevant to your goals.

At the end of the day, social network quality trumps social network quantity any day of the week.

Andrew Wee blogs about blogging, affiliate marketing and social traffic at Who is Andrew Wee.

About Andrew Wee

You can find Andrew Wee on Twitter @andrewwee

5 Responses to Filtering the Social Networks: Social Acceptance, Relevance and Trimming the Fat

  1. Guillaume says:

    2009 is going to be the year of "Getting rid of this people I do not even know". Social media are all about communities, so the point is not having the biggest one, is to have the most skillful, eager to help and reactive one.

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  3. I agree it is about who you know, so I'm glad I meet that Andrew Wee he knows his stuff.

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