I’m struggling a bit with what to do when contacted by someone I don’t know — say on LinkedIn or Melcrum’s Communicators’ Network — asking to add me as a contact.
On LinkedIn, you can edit the note sent to include some context (such as “we have this contact in common” or “this contact suggested you and I should connect”), which is helpful. Communicators’ Network just sends the request, so you are left puzzling out who the person is and why they have your name. The trigger seems to be having a contact in common, which you find out by visiting the person’s profile.
Now all you early adopters, is the point to add all your contact’s contacts to your own network, so yours grows ever larger (and presumably more impressive)? Or is your network generally made up of people you already know or have met (in person or online)?
It really comes down to personal taste and how you intend to use that network.
Anyone and Everyone:
Anyone who shows an interest in you is worth reciprocating the interest back. This helps to spread your personal brand, tap into networks and circles you’d otherwise never have found, and get your name out there – but it does increase the noise to signal ratio on these networks.
Friends and people with something to say:
This is the approach I personally take on most of the networks I’m on. I’ll allow anyone to ‘follow me’ but I only reciprocate if I either personally have met them, or they in-turn are saying something I want to pay attention to. I’ve met some interesting new people this way, but manage to keep the noise to a dull roar and the signal crisp and clear.
I gotta really know ya:
If you don’t know them and they don’t know you, they don’t end up on the friends list. The signal is high with little noise, but it limit any spreading of your personal brand and ideas.
Personally, I don’t add someone as a ‘friend’ unless I have a reason to. That reason, more oft than not being ‘I’m interested in what you have to say’.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong, from an etiquette standpoint, with asking someone why they wish to ‘friend’ you, and declining if their motives don’t mesh with your own.
Thanks for the detailed comments, Rob! I’m with you on not accepting a “friend” without a reason but you do have a point about spreading your personal brand. Melcrum’s network is a little different, though, in that you don’t designate someone “friend” or not; people are just “contacts.”
In answer to your question, Sue, my LinkedIn network is definitely people I’ve had some sort of relationship/affiliation with, either in the past or present. This includes work or volunteer work, shared interests (for example, a few gym pals, film buff friends, etc.), and I definitely have an existing relationship with them, either in-person or online.
For the most part my list of contacts on The Communicators’ Network follows the same criteria (except definitely more business related–i.e., public relations or strategic communication management colleagues and friends), but I have made a few exceptions and accepted an invitation to be a contact, either because I know the person by reputation, they know people I know, or their work and interests align with mine, as per their profile and/or comments in the forums and joint groups, etc.
Interesting story to share: I had one fellow ask to be my contact on CommsNetwork in its early days. As I didn’t know him at all, I simply declined (with no note). A few weeks later he’s asking me again to be his contact. So I sent him a message via the e-mail platform (on CommsNetwork), basically saying, “I don’t know you or anything about what you do…why do you want to be my contact and what exactly do you think we have in common?”
He sent me back a really detailed message (through the platform), showing how our work and interests lined up (e.g., he teaches PR at “several top MassComm institutes,” he works with corporate, government and social sector organizations, particularly in regards to CSR and development communications, etc.) Basically he “sold me” on his worthiness to be my contact. So I agreed. 😉
And don’t feel you need to continue to be Contacts with every individual in your network(s). I’ve removed contacts on both LinkedIn and The Communicators’ Network, if they were outdated or no longer applicable (in one case the person had retired), if they did something to me as a contact of which I did not approve, etc.
Agreeing to be a contact (or asking someone to be a contact) is a stamp of approval in terms of your reputation and credibility. Ergo, I think piling up a list of contact names actually serves to dilute your brand when it comes to saying, “These are the relationships I consider worthwhile.”
Thanks, Judy! Good point about coming right out and asking, “Why do you want to be my contact?” I will be sure to use this in the future!