Value of a Digital Relationships

Trying to determine the value of a friend in social media can be challenging, almost as much as it in real face to face life. Thinking about our digital relationships is quite interesting in terms of understanding value. In determining this we need to understand the different forms of relationships and why we have them.

Facebook’s purpose is social interaction with our extended network. Overlapping the use of your Facebook profile that is connected to your college buddies and nephews is not the same profile that should be connected to your business peers. If a user is too focused on one side or the other with a blended profile, their “friends” will lose interest and turn down the volume or cut them off completely. It’s like being stuck next to the old friend at a dinner party that talks about their work. Even worse, a business dinner that you are stuck next to the new parent who is struggling with potty training. Real friends provide context by understanding their audience and therefore have far greater impact (and greater value). To obtain the highest value from your friends in Facebook, make sure they are the friends you do want to be “social” with, and create a separate fanpage for your business. If your real friends are interested in your business they will be a fan of your business too.

When you want to boost your ego or build your brand, then tweet away. Yes, I am actually writing something positive about Twitter. I admit it, I have converted. But, and I mean a very strong “but”, when used effectively. There are a lot of tools to build your followers (twitter’s version of friends). I am happy that others are interested in the links and things that I share and appreciate their insight. Like many professionals, I use twitter to find other interesting links and things that others are sharing. The value of me following all of my “followers” would be merely to increase the noise in the feeds that I get. I have never been a fan of scrolling endlessly. Sharing my daily grind of how many shots of espresso I have consumed or my favourite chocolate is best left to my friends on Facebook, as I do not wish to create anymore noise for my followers. Besides, who I am following is also a resource to my followers. If there are interested in what I am saying, they are probably also interested in who I am listening to. It should therefore have context. They can see that I am real in the variation of my shared links as they vary from my personal reads like “Anatomy of Peace” to reports from the Skoll Forum on Social Entrepreneurship to new media tools or articles like Business Week’s Byrne and Baker’s podcast on the value of our digital relationships for advertising.

Let’s not forget LinkedIn which is a great business networking tool. I am not going to hang out on it all day making small talk with my connections. I visit when I am looking for someone or something specific or adding a new connection. The groups and connections that I have in LinkedIn are based on real interactions. We worked together, participated in face to face networks together, studied together, met at conferences around the world and shared a conversation, had meaningful conversations from which we can refer back to and/or share mutual professional interests. All of which provide a basis for me being able to refer them to someone or them to me. I make a point of placing a high value on the connections and therefore not connecting with the ones to whom I come home with card in hand. So, I may not have thousands of contacts in LinkedIn, but in each of them there is something we mutually offer in terms of a reference.

Amassing a huge contact/friend/follower base has never been a high value in itself. Unless you are one of those unusual people who never forgets a face or a conversation, but that is mostly the exception. What it comes down to is authenticity and the value and integrity of those connections. Their value to an advertiser is not the same as what they are worth to you. Your value does come down to your influence and that can only be created by your own integrity.

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Professional Network Used Wisely

“Thank you for the invitation, but who are you?” Unfortunately this is becoming more common. Now, the tools to help us connect with the people we do know are great. Thank goodness they are there, they help us keep up to date, as well as to learn more about potential partners and associates. A credible network based on real relationships is of far greater value than one that is purely numbers.

In the past month I have been asked to write a recommendation for someone that I am in the same network (of 6000+ members), but have not met personally. I have been asked to connect to individuals that like my profile, but have no direct relationship with. Today I got invited to attend a seminar on how to maximise presence on social networks by someone boasting 2000+ LinkedIn contacts. Now, some people are social butterflies and maybe this person has an incredible memory for the people he speaks with at conferences. But if someone was to ask him for a reference about each of those people, could he honestly provide an accurate account of what they are like as a professional peer, potential employee or partner?

Maintain a quality network. Do not degrade the value of your network simply for looking connected. Instead, Link when you meet people and feel that you have made a connection. Link while the connection is fresh. Nurture that connection by building it into a relationship beyond the link. E-mail to follow-up your conversation, and keep them in mind as you continue your paths. Something that you discussed in that first interaction might come up along the way and be worth sharing. Take the two minutes to pass it on. When someone contacts them down the line asking about you, they will certainly have a better recall than digging for your LinkedIn page to see who you are. You never know, they might even become both a friend and business partner in the process.

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LinkedIn disaster apology

I would like to publicly apologize to all those who have received an invitation from me on LinkedIn recently that I was not directly connected with. I made the mistake of uploading my contacts to extend invitations to my network. What I did not expect was that the system trawled through all the cc:s and Bcc:s on all the emails that I have sent and received and invited them as well. It was not until I started receiving acceptances on LinkedIn from people that I did not know (but that had attended the same business school, or shared contacts with mostly) that I realised this had occurred.

I did not catch this when it went out. I am sincerely sorry. I am quite annoyed when I receive invitations to link with people that I do not know and have no reason to connect with. I value my network greatly and I work hard to maintain the quality of the relationships in it. I, therefore, apologise to those of you who are in my network as well. I appreciate you and respect you professionally and personally. I assure you, I will be far more careful in the future.

I wish you all the best. Please let this be a warning to all of you who use simple tools (or build them) for uploading contacts and inviting to networks. It has certainly been an eye opener for me. Now I know what to avoid when building this feature into 2BalanceU.

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