How to Extend Your Social Networks with Ease

I'm a social person—I fully admit it. As I've mentioned in my blog posts before: I love social—the connections, the collaboration, the exposure to new ideas. I'm transparent about my social savvy—my email auto-signature includes links to my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, plus a link to my blog.

When I was coaching colleagues on using social media, I found that many people were unsure about who to connect with on the big three social engagement networks: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, so here are my top tips and tricks for making it easy and effective.

Twitter is Best For: Trends, News, and Solutions

Twitter has the lowest barrier to entry, is the most open social media platform, and has the easiest-to-make connections. I don't follow everyone who follows me, but I do follow those who have educational or thought-provoking content, and I engage with their followers. To find interesting people to follow:
  • Review the "Who to Follow" recommendations Twitter shares on the right side of your Twitter web client and follow the ones that look interesting. Twitter will continue to personalize and add to that list over time.
  • Look for experts in your field.
  • Add people you meet face to face.
  • Follow journalists and bloggers whose writing you admire.
  • Take advantage of the top 100 lists of influencers publications compile and add them to a list.
  • Keep an eye on trending hashtags for relevant Twitter voices.
You don't want to be one of those people who only has 25 followers but is following 5000. Follow slowly and thoughtfully. Your followers will grow as you share relevant content and engage with other Twitter handles.

If you have strong political, religious or controversial views on particular topics you intend to share on Twitter I recommend that you consider two handles: One for your professional life and one for your personal life.

Facebook: Personal Connections,  Storytelling, and Targeted Advertising

Facebook, while ever expanding and morphing, it is still the most personal of the big three social networks. Not registering as yourself violates the TOS (Terms of Service), which filters out many of the spammers and trolls you find on Twitter.

Facebook makes suggestions of people you might know. It warms my heart when my friends find themselves interacting with each other about my posts and friend each other.

Because you have the opportunity to openly share your thoughts, opinions, and life events here with your friends, I recommend being discriminating about who you accept as friends. You can customize the "Who can see my posts" settings, but it's best to err on the side of under sharing.

Facebook's powerful ad platform enables advertisers to target with amazing accuracy, so you'll see ads customized to your interests.

LinkedIn: Powerful Professional Connection Tool

LinkedIn is the largest professional social networking site with 467 million members. When you populate your professional profile, there's an added layer of comfort and identification when connecting with others.

 There are two schools of thought about LinkedIn connections. LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers) accept connection requests from all. On the opposite spectrum are those who only connect with people they've met face to face.

I'm right in the middle of those extremes. I've created guidelines for myself that are not set in stone, but help me quickly scroll through and act on the 30+ connection requests I receive each week.
  • If I've met someone face to face at a networking, professional or social event, I always accept those connection requests.
  • I always accept connection requests from One Brick volunteers or TEDxSanJoseCA volunteers/attendees/vendors. Volunteering is a passion of mine, and I love making virtual connections that complement the real world ones.
  • Because I've managed different LinkedIn groups for years, many group members request to connect. I rarely accept those. Group members can request to connect with fellow group members. Before you accept, review both their profile and their contributions to the group. If their only contributions are shameless self promotion, feel free to decline. 
  • Working for a company as large as IBM means that there are droves of IBMers on LinkedIn and I always accept connection requests from them.
  • LinkedIn is optimized for recruiters. If you're open to discussion, accept them.
Ultimately you need to be comfortable with the connections you've made on social networks. If you find someone offensive, delete the connection. If you enjoy their posts, let them know. Virtual or real-life, connecting with people and adding them to your network can expand your world. Give it a try.