The whole relationship spectrum in social networks is something that bugs me more than a little.
I live with it, as I’ve no choice if I want to use these tools, but most networks don’t adequately express the range of associations we have with people. The nuances of relationship that we express on a daily basis with people we work, play and live with aren’t nearly adequately expressed online. Something like the XFN microformat has more nuance, although not nearly enough. There needs to be more.
So, on Facebook, which is a pretty complex social network, you’re either my friend, or not. Nowhere near enough. I need (and want) to be able to express whether we’ve met, worked together, share interests, or are real-life friends and probably a bunch of other variants. I can sort of do this with groups, but it still feels inadequate.
LinkedIn is a slightly different story. The focus there is very different, and they have come a long way in terms of helping you to understand your own linkages, but not in helping others understand your linkages. So, for example, if someone wants to know how I know Andrew and Matthew, they need to do a little trawling. Again, inadequate to my thinking.
I want the expression of my relationships on complex social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to be outward-facing, so that anyone who can see my social graph on these networks can also see adequately expressed nuance in those relationships. Are you a real-life friend, a colleague, a professional peer, my boss, my wife, my daughter, someone I went to school with?
Something like Twitter, on the other hand, is very simple. It’s largely a crowded room full of conversation – either I follow you, or I don’t, and the same goes for you and your crowd. I think for Twitter, that’s enough. YMMV.
So, to the real point of this post, how, when and why I might connect to you on a social network. Others have done similar pieces. I’m a particular fan of Shel Israel’s Twitter and Facebook policies. My policies are loosely based on his. So, here goes.
- If I don’t know who you are, I’m unlikely to connect to you. If we don’t know each other, please accompany your request with a short note explaining why you are trying to connect. If your explanation makes sense, I’ll probably connect. My email address is very public, so this shouldn’t be hard to do.
- If you are a brand, marketing flack, or company, I’m unlikely to connect with you. There are exceptions, but they are few.
- If you know several of my friends or colleagues, I’ll probably connect to you. I’ll check with them first, and I’d still like a note from you, but your chances are pretty good.
- If I know your work, blog or community I’ll probably connect to you. Again, a little explanation goes a long way, as do mutual connections.
Simple enough, I’d say.