Care and Feeding: Pruning Your Social Tree

A follow up to last week’s post on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, a note from Andrew Jeavons.

I sometimes try to grow roses in my garden. As a displaced Brit (naturalized US citizen) , it’s something I inherited from my father. I say ‘try’ as this year 3 out of the 6 roses in my
garden appeared to be dead when spring came and I remembered they were there. Roses need care and feeding. Fertilizer (can’t seem to find any horse manure round here), various bug and fungus sprays and pruning are all vital things for roses. My father’s approach to pruning roses was at the “brutal/scorched earth” level. All we had left were small stumps with a few thorns by the time he finished with them, and there was a standing row between my mother and father about this. But every year the roses sprung back with
renewed vigor, I think they saw it as a challenge, one genus pitted against another.

Care, feeding and pruning have another application in a wholly different world however,
social networks. Over the past few years we have all dived into the networking scene,
Facebook, LinkedIn, now Twitter. Everyone connects to everything they can and everyone
they can. The problem is that this is not necessarily the best approach. Stories abound now
of comments on Facebook getting back to employers with dire results. The growthin the
demographics of Facebook has given new impetus to the idea that caution may be the
better approach to social networking.

There is an old sales saying, “What is the value of something free ? Answer: nothing”. The
idea that links to everyone about everything somehow has a value is not necessarily true.
Let’s take LinkedIn.com. This is a focussed social networking site, it is for professional
(work) connections and contacts. It’s good to have friend in business and LinkedIn allows
you to present yourself to a wide range of people easily. The problem is promiscuity. You
start to get all sorts of requests to connect to a wide array of people, and some of them
you may not really know. The question then comes: do you connect ? Do you run after that
goal of “500 connections” as if it imparts some value to you ? Do you connect to that person
you don’t know just because they asked ? I did a few times in the past. And now I have some
“connectors remorse”.

It seemed like a good idea, this guy was in the same business area. Why not connect ? I’d
never heard of him or met him, but I did see he had about 500 connections, which seemed
a bit high, but who am I to criticise ? Maybe he was just an “uber” networker ? Maybe I
should be flattered ? Then came the problems. When you connect in LinkedIn you see
updates on everyones status, and every day this person updated something. But when he
did update something it was clear that this was to push his company product. I’m all for
sales, but LinkedIn is about networking. You can put ads on LinkedIn, I do. This person, he
was using the status updates to constantly push a tag line about his company. After the first
30 days of seeing the same tag line day in day out I took action. For the first time ever. I
deleted his connection.

It felt good. I had control now. My network had value – well at least I think it does. And I
wasn’t seeing that annoying tag line all the time. As I said, I’m not against sales, but I am
against people annoying me.

The value of the networks you are in, either online or off line, is in the quality of the
connections. Twitter is a good example. I see people following thousands of people. How do
you do this ? I confess to cutting out Guy Kawasaki, one of the most prolific Twittee’s, as a
connection because I COULDN”T KEEP UP WITH THE TRAFFIC. I know he’s some sort of
genius, and I’m sure I would be rich if I could absorb all he said, but if I can’t read it , what’s
the point ? Connecting for the sake of it is pointless, with Twitter all you get is endless
mental vomit. I can read fast, but an hour a day on Twitter is not logical.

I’m beginning to get militant about Twitter. If you send more than 5 messages a day to me,
I’m thinking of cutting you off. I want to get value from Twitter, not wade through 2 pages
of inane, obscure, babble on your cat’s mental health. I have cats, I love them, but I do
know what they do it not THAT interesting to the general population.

It’s like we tell our teenage daughters, value you yourself. Value your relationships. Don’t be
promiscuous. Think before you speak, think before you connect. Forester had it wrong
“Only connect” is not the way to see it. There is plenty of horse manure in the social
networking world…..the trick is avoid it.

[Andrew Jeavons works for Nebu USA.
He has been in the MR software business longer than he cares to recall.
He writes regularly on a wide range of subjects and is a regular
contributor to ESOMAR’s “Research World” magazine. And his cats are all REALLY cool…]

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