By this point, everyone has seen the donut analogy regarding what social networks are used for what.
Facebook – I like donuts
Twitter – I am eating a donut
LinkedIn – My skills include: donut eating
Pinterest – Here is a recipe for a donut
Foursquare – This is where I eat donuts
The creators and the audience of this analogy find it witty and interesting because there is a difference between social networks, and there is a difference in how you conduct yourself on each network. For an example, we can use what I do personally:
Facebook – I “friend” my friends, classmates, family and co-workers who I talk about things other than work with
Twitter – I “follow” friends, comedians, colleagues, industry experts, companies, news outlets, and anyone or anything else that interests me with no expectation they will follow me back
LinkedIn – I “connect” with friends, classmates, family, co-workers, clients and anyone I can personally or professionally vouch for – good or bad
Pinterest – I “follow” friends from Facebook with interesting pins, cooking magazines, DIY-ers
Foursquare – I “friend” people who are local, and people I’m uncomfortable turning down, but people I know
The faux verbs: to “friend”, to “follow” and to “connect,” all carry weight. But there is even more weight in the verbs, the actions you can take, once you’ve looped someone into your network on these sites.
So why bring this up now? The other day I had turned down four LinkedIn connection requests, all from people I didn’t know. One was even someone from Gartner who I just haven’t ever worked with. Anyway, I took to Twitter, as I tend to do when this sort of thing happens, and I said something along the lines of “if I don’t know you, don’t bother requesting to connect with me on LinkedIn. The answer is no.” Nice and obnoxious, but you can see the frustration, me having repeated this time and time again. Last night I got a tweet back asking, “don’t you see the value in connecting with people and broadening your network?”
OF COURSE I DO! But LinkedIn isn’t the place for that: it’s all in the verbs.
On LinkedIn you’re asked to “introduce” connections to one another, “recommend” connections, and “endorse” connections. How can I possibly introduce one person to another if I haven’t met either of them myself? How can I recommend someone for a position when I have no idea who they are? How can I endorse a person when the only thing I know about them is they have the search skills to find me on LinkedIn? If you were hiring someone and came to me asking about one of these people and I made this face…
…who looks stupid?
If I were to “connect” with every stranger (because even an introductory message via InMail still makes us strangers,) then it would ruin the integrity of my word as it pertains to my entire LinkedIn connections network, which then benefits no one. Each social network needs to be recognized what it is, and businesses aren’t the only ones guilty of social media faux pas. It’s important that we as individual mind social cues and network verbs to keep the integrity of the sites many of us have grown to rely on intact.
Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management. Readers may copy and redistribute blog postings on other blogs, or otherwise for private, non-commercial or journalistic purposes, with attribution to Gartner. This content may not be used for any other purposes in any other formats or media. The content on this blog is provided on an "as-is" basis. Gartner shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of the content or use of this blog.