My friend Bill Seaver wrote a post on his blog titled “Why I Don’t Believe LinkedIn Recommendations”. It’s a good post, and while I always enjoy reading Bill’s blog, I don’t always agree with his conclusions. Such was the case with this post. So I left a comment. In the conversation that ensued, Bill laughingly pointed out that “I’m not normal.” His comment was addressing the way I use LinkedIn, but I’ll take it as a general statement of truth.
Bill was right, though. I don’t use social media in the ways that a lot of people do. I have developed very specific rules that I live by for Social Media. I do not claim that these work for you, but they do help me regulate it and keep it form being a timesink. I am sharing them here with you; not to say you should do it this way, but in hopes of sparking an idea. Also, if you have a plan already, please do share it with us so we can all learn.
Twitter is by far my biggest Social Media tool. I use it often and check it more often than I should. However, to keep it in check, I have adopted the following guidelines.
Amuse me, inform me or marry me
I have a hard and fast “I don’t autofollow” rule for twitter. My rule of thumb is that you have to amuse me, inform me, be a close friend, or be my wife for me to follow you on Twitter (technically, @kateva is also a close friend as she is my best friend.) That’s still a very wide group of people, but it’s a question I ask myself before I hit the follow button each time.
I really appreciate everyone who follows me and try to be respectful of what attention they give me. However, for twitter to be useful to me, I have to keep my Following list manageable. In the early days I had a 10% rule: I kept my following at roughly 10% of my follower count. However, at a certain point that too becomes unmanageable. Now I have a cap at a specific number and will routinely cull the list and move people that aren’t tweeting much or tweeting relevant stuff into lists.
It makes me sad when I see someone following 20,000 people on twitter. I know they aren’t reading all of them and engaging with them; their timeline looks more like a fire-hose. They are just collecting people like Pokémon cards. So I try to keep it manageable.
Just because I don’t follow you doesn’t mean I don’t follow you.
If I am interested in you but don’t fit the above criteria, I’ve probably got you in a list. I glance at lists about once a day to see what gems I can pull out. I have one list that routinely gives me 3 new blog posts a day to read. It’s a great list, but I don’t actually engage with these people so they aren’t in my timeline. There are a few exceptions, and those exceptions make the list and my timeline.
Ignore all email
I have a email rule that immediately deletes any email coming form twitter. This means all my follow notices, all of my retweet notices, everything goes into the trash. Since I use Gmail for my mail hosting, this is the same to me as putting it in a folder that it empties every 30 days. I do occasionally refer to the trash to find an email, but the longer this rule is in place the less I do that. Since I don’t use the “Are you following me” criteria for who I follow, the “This person is following you” emails are pretty much useless to me.
I’ll say it right here knowing that, while I have some friends at Facebook, none of them read my blog: I’ve never found Facebook useful. I am a facebook friend-whore. I don’t really care who you are, I’ll friend you. Since I don’t really use Facebook for anything, it doesn’t bother me who follows me.
I don’t often post statuses on Facebook, either. What you see there is just my twitter feed re-purposed. This allows me to keep in touch with those who use Facebook regularly without any actual effort.
The only time I actually bring up Facebook is when I get an email telling me someone has commented on my status. At this point, the conversation has moved off of Twitter, and I’m happy to oblige by responding on Facebook.
I realize I am an outlier in this respect, and it’s not because I don’t like Facebook. I just don’t find it useful (it’s ok, I don’t find G+ particularly useful either). Some people do use it heavily, and I respect that. It’s just not my tool of choice.
LinkedIn is a special case for me. I’ve been on LinkedIn since it’s very early BETA phase. LinkedIn is my professional resume. My LinkedIn profile is my professional persona. So, like Twitter, I have a few rules.
I turned off Twitter integration with LinkedIn. A lot of my tweets aren’t very professional. When I say something on LinkedIn, it’s because I want my professional network to be aware of it, not because I’m excited because I’m going diving.
Currently I have 424 connections on LinkedIn. With the exception of about 5 of them, I have met each one in person and shaken their hand. I can’t say that I am friends with each of them, nor can I say that they will remember me. But at some point I’ve met almost all of them. This is important to me. Since LinkedIn is all about recommending and referring, I want to make sure I know these people.
Many ask, few receive. In my years on LinkedIn, I’ve written glowing recommendations for a handful of people. Everyone I can think of have been people I’ve worked with and known well enough to make a judgement on. I don’t write recommendations on people I don’t know. I also don’t require them to write one back for me, although several have. In short, what you see in a LinkedIn recommendation is what you would here from me if you called me for a reference check on that person.
Yearly culling of the herd
There are people I meet and add to my LinkedIn network that are good business contacts for a while. However, everything in life changes, including my job. Once a year, usually in December, I go through the entire list and make sure they are still valid for me. Some people have life-long value, and I try never to remove those. However, there are some people that, for whatever reason, I just don’t want to associate with anymore or don’t find their relationship of any value. Yes, I’m a bastard. I put a value on business relationships. It has nothing to do with whether I like them or not (usually) and has everything to do with business. I catch a lot of flack for this one, and I am sure a lot of you won’t like it but it is a rule that has served me well over the years.
Final productivity tip for social media: turn off all alerts and notifications. I’ve turned them all off. Email, twitter, Skype, IM/irc, everything. Anything that pops up is interrupting me from what I need to get done.
Social media is a great communications tool. I stay in contact with a lot of friends, new and old, using it. But it can be a serious productivity killer if you aren’t careful. Whether you adopt my rules or come up with your own, thinking through your strategy beforehand makes lite work of decisions later.
Until Next time,