Social Media Pruning: Is It About Time That You Trimmed `Deadwood’?

At first, it seemed strange. Then, it happened so often that it started to seem, if not normal, at least not so out of whack. And eventually it became almost commonplace.

I’m referring to the experience of someone I’ve never met asking to connect with me on social media sites, specifically LinkedIn and Facebook.

Usually, I’ve declined the invitations. But not always—and as a result, more than a dozen names have crept onto my accounts without my really understanding why.

So I recently went through the process of pruning these tenuous connections. I call it “pruning” because it’s not about subtracting names (and the individuals and their spheres of influence that flow from those names). More importantly, it’s about elevating the value of those with whom I choose to remain connected.

As the Wikipedia definition states, in part, “pruning is a horticultural practice involving the selective removal of parts of a plant…Reasons to prune plants include deadwood removal, shaping (by controlling or directing growth), improving or maintaining health (and) reducing risk.”

A little reflection on some of those keywords is instructive in thinking about the “how” and “why” of our social media activities:

Selective: When we say “yes” to too many, including people whom we don’t know (or at least couldn’t pick out of a crowd), we are diluting the quality of affirmations we’ve given to people we trust, respect and, in some cases, actually love.

Especially on LinkedIn, it’s important to have your connectedness mean something beyond a list of names or glorified business cards.

Deadwood removal: How many of our contacts and connections resemble “deadwood,” insofar as our social (think Facebook) and professional (think LinkedIn) lives are concerned?

Now, I don’t doubt that, for the most part, these are good people who play a vital and positive role in the lives of any number of people. But to me, they are like “deadwood.” Lest I seem harsh, I should add that I have no illusions about my own speck-on-the-map status with these very same individuals.

Yes, I am sure that I too must resemble deadwood in some circles.

But until and unless they (and I) take the time to alter matters, then I’ll be the proactive one and say it’s time for me to let them go (and vice versa).

This can be a bit scary—I’ve played out vague scenarios in which, at some magical future juncture, Joe Linkedin suddenly emerges as a significant connection to have, and now I’m kicking myself for cutting him or her loose.

Then, after reflecting on the years of my own personal and professional history on LinkedIn and Facebook, I’ve come to a conclusion: such a scenario simply hasn’t played out yet.

Besides, if and when an opportunity arises with Joe Linkedin (or Jane Facebook), then that’s a great reason to kick-start a re-connection with him or her.

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Time to De-Link A Non-Responsive Contact?
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Candidly Drawing the Social Networking Line

I recently asked someone to be my “friend” on Facebook.

He declined. My immediate, gut response: pleased and impressed.

On the surface, my reaction may seem odd. But let’s consider some background:

I’ve spoken with this particular individual, a newspaper reporter, about five times over the past few years, as he worked on stories with which I had some public-relations connection. We’ve never met, and we’ve never built any kind of tie beyond our respective jobs.

He works alongside some others that have made Facebook Friend requests of me, which I’ve approved. Their outreach to me is really what prompted me to reach out to him.

With that as a backdrop, here was his written response, which he sent via e-mail:

“Thanks for the friend request, but I just wanted to let you know that I keep my Facebook account to friends and family only. I like to keep business contacts separate. No offense intended of course, I just prefer to keep my job and my personal life in separate worlds, so to speak.”

I respect his stance. And I respect even more that he articulated it.

In the four years that I’ve been social-networking on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, he is the first to take the time to broach the potentially awkward situation and explain, in his thoughtful way, why he was declining my request.

In this burgeoning social-media realm, it is so much easier to simply ignore requests that place us in an uncomfortable spot. And there certainly remain scenarios in which I am stumped about how to navigate someone’s interest in getting into my cyber-world. In the future, I fully expect to continue ignoring some requests–and to be ignored.

But whenever we have an opportunity to convey our (often-evolving) criteria as to whom to let in to our SM world, we simultaneously have an opportunity to improve at least our little corner of this growing sphere’s universe.

Indeed, inspired by my own fond memory of being diplomatically stiff-armed, I recently crafted a long-overdue reply. I created it for those seeking to connect with me on LinkedIn but with whom I have had little, if any, contact:

“Hello,

Thank you for inviting me to Link-In with you!

Whenever possible, I like to have more than a cursory personal connection with / knowledge of someone before Linking In. Since we are both so local, would you be interested in meeting in person sometime and establishing that face-to-face connection?

In these few words, I hope that I’ve reasonably and effectively explained my rationale and that you don’t take offense to this proposed intermediate step. I genuinely hope we can create a stronger connection that can benefit us both in the future.

Best regards,
Matt”

So far, I have sent that message to two individuals. I am sure it will come in handy often in the future. Already, my newfound mission to improve the quality of my connections–and not merely strive for quantity–has borne fruit: one recipient responded by essentially stating “whoops…I intended to Link-In with someone else whose last name is Baron.”

So there’s one MisLinked-In Misadventure averted.

What do you think? Do you have another way of handling this potentially delicate and awkward topic? I welcome your ideas. And who knows–even if we don’t know each other yet, we may just build enough rapport for us both to want to join one another’s social network.

Just don’t take offense if I suggest we meet in person first.

You might also be interested in reading some previous Inside Edge PR commentaries about LinkedIn.

Social Media: No Need To Get Blogged Down

“Social Media & Your Business: A Phase or the Future?” enjoyed a solid and receptive turnout on Thursday night at the Oak Park Public Library. About 30 people, mostly business owners, attended and learned a ton from Sherri Lasko of Sunspot Marketing and, I hope, at least a few pounds’ worth from me.

I learned a bunch myself, including this reminder: people are at a loss when it comes to blogging–and it need not be so. We polled the audience and found:

13 were on LinkedIn,
10 were on Facebook,
And four were on Twitter.

The grand tally of folks who blog: zero, zilch, nada, one big, fat goose egg.

As much as I have seen the collective reluctance to blog, I was somewhat astonished that not even one soul raised a hand to claim themselves as being an active citizen of the blogosphere.

Below is a 55-second excerpt of my blog-encouragement, which was a riff off of a tongue-in-cheek hand-out I provided on Blog Schmog: Why You Absolutely, Positively Don’t Have to Blog.

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LinkedIn Survey Feature Shows Promise

With each passing day, it seems, something new emerges in the social-media realm. Or, to be more accurate, a new tweak comes to my attention for the first time.

Two weeks ago, it was my discovery that you can create surveys on LinkedIn, the professional-networking site.

Immediately, I did what I suggest anyone do when they want to see if any given application is worthwhile: I gave the new discovery a test drive by setting up a survey.

Of all things, I created a poll about folks’ use of LinkedIn: “What do you primarily seek from your LinkedIn experience?”

The four choices I offered: Biz/employment opportunities, Receive Recommendations, A Social Outlet, and Innovative Ideas. (LinkedIn rotates the order in which those choices appear, by the way, to ensure I’m not steering people in any overwhelming fashion.)

So far, here are the results. As of this morning, 78 people had replied–certainly almost, if not, all from my own network, though you can enable, as I did, anyone on LinkedIn to answer your survey.

LinkedIn does all the work of categorizing the responses by gender, age, job title, job function and company size. In addition, 14 people have chimed in with supplemental comments.

As embryonic as the process has been for me, already I can see a variety of benefits flowing out of these surveys. Among them:

1. The collection of original data, tailored to your needs, for business or personal purposes.

2. Opening up a dialogue revolving around common interests.

3. Establishing your expertise, via the content contained in the questions as well as via your interpretation and commentary of the data flowing from the questions.

4. Expanding your network. Over the past two weeks, I have experienced a rise in the number of people seeking to LinkIn with me. Part of that increase, I suspect, is attributable to my survey question.

Want to take the survey? Get on LinkedIn, then click on the survey results link.

Time To `De-Link’ a Non-Responsive Contact?

Last week, I recommended three people who had recently LinkedIn with me, bringing the tally of folks I’ve endorsed to nearly 50. For me, the quality of my contacts is much more important than the quantity.

In fact, I’m mulling whether to drop one individual from my LinkedIn roster after he did not respond to an introduction–as well as a follow-up e-mail–that I made on behalf of another one of my LinkedIn contacts.

What gives? What would you do?

In an Inside Edge PR post from last year, I outlined my philosophy of why I write recommendations for as many of my LinkedIn contacts as possible. In another post, I shared some of the how.

Lastly, for a look at the recommendations I’ve made on LinkedIn, go here.