“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving soul over another.”—George Eliot. When it comes to accepting friends and connections for your business through social media, discrimination is critical.
What do you do when people invite you to connect with them on LinkedIn or invite you to become a fan on Facebook? Do you accept any and all invitations that you receive just to gather large numbers of people in your online communities or do you only accept invitations from people with whom you have a genuine and solid connection?
This is a highly controversial issue and one that deserves a great deal of discussion and examination. The viewpoint that is discussed in this article is that of CompuKol Communications. The viewpoints of others will be presented here as well in order to show fair balance.
Many social media channels, including LinkedIn, for example, advise that you only accept invitations when you know the inviter and want them to be a part of your network. You should accept invitations when you
- Want to stay connected to the person inviting you.
- Find the inviter credible and trustworthy.
- Have had some direct connection with the inviter.
- Are very well acquainted with the inviter’s work and feel that there is a potential to work together in some capacity.
If you don’t really know the inviter, you should either ask him or her for more information about why he or she wants to connect with you or ignore the invitation altogether.
Quantity without quality, especially when it comes to your business, does not have a great deal of value. There is no point in gathering people if you will never have any sort of relationship with them on an ongoing basis after the initial connection. You should be connected with people only if those connections bring value to both sides.
Relationships are the foundation of the success of your business. Before anyone will do business with you, they must get to know you as a business person, learn that they can trust you and find your credibility to be rock solid. On your side, if you want a meaningful relationship with others, you must consistently strive to fulfill their needs and provide them with valuable information that will help them to solve their problems.
Your online network is very important to you and your business. You need to make sure that you never do or say anything that will jeopardize the strength of your network and how you treat those people who are a part of that network. You have worked long and hard to build and maintain relationships. The last thing that you want to do is cause them to disappear.
On the other side, there are many people who are willing to accept everyone who requests that they become an online connection. There are many people who feel that merely by the fact that you are connected to social media channels, you have the capability of creating a global network on a scale that wasn’t possible 5 years ago.
Sometimes those people will try to get to know others with whom they have not had any face-to-face interaction through forums, Email and social media channels that they share. The opinion there is that if you don’t connect because you don’t know those people personally, you are defeating the purpose of social media sites in general.
There is a third school of thought that says that people who invite others to connect do so with some caution. One of the driving criteria is that there must be something between the two parties of mutual benefit and value. If accepting invitations from people just to acquire a higher volume of connections, it may not help your credibility and your business.
What Is a Relationship?
A relationship is normally perceived as a connection between two individuals. Individuals can also have relationships with groups of people, such as the relationship between a rabbi and his congregation, and uncle and a family or a mayor and a town. Online relationships coexist simultaneously within many online communities or groups.
Fans vs Friends vs Business Connections
When using social media channels such as Facebook for business, it is important to understand what it means to be a fan as well as understanding the difference between a fan, a friend and a business connection.
According to Wikipedia, a fan is someone with an intense, occasionally overwhelming liking and enthusiasm for something. Fans of a particular thing or person constitute its fan base. Fans often show enthusiasm by starting a fan club, holding fan conventions, creating fanzines, writing fan mail, or promoting the object of their interest and attention. Fans are accepted automatically, without any screening process.
A good analogy here is a celebrity who has no control over who becomes his or her fans. Typical social networks where this model is used are Facebook fans and Twitter followers.
The definition of a friend is more complicated and falls under the category of interpersonal relationships. A friendship or interpersonal relationship is a relationship between two or more people. It may last a very long time or may be brief. Interpersonal relationships take place in many contexts, such as family, friends, marriage, associates, work, clubs, neighborhoods, and churches. They may be regulated by law, custom, or mutual agreement and are the basis of social groups and society as a whole.
A typical social network where this model is used is Facebook friends. In this case, the connection with your friends is personal and you should not accept anyone to be your friend unless you have that personal connection. If someone whom you don’t know invites you to be his or her friend, in order to create the personal connection, which may result in a friendship, both parties need to learn more about each other first.
Business connections are a broad spectrum of inter-business relationships associated with providing and consuming knowledge and services. Online business connections emphasize the emergence of social networks as a primary medium through which business relationships are conducted.
Typical social networks where this model is used are LinkedIn, Biznik, Ryze, etc. You need to have established a mutual knowledge of the person with whom you are creating this business relationship. If someone whom you don’t know invites you to connect with them professionally, you need to establish that both parties are able to fulfill the other’s needs first. Although the needs of both parties may not always be apparent initially, both parties will always have some need that must be fulfilled.
How you value business relationships and how you develop them, whether in-person or online, also extends to referring other vendors to your trusted customers. If your customers need something that you are not able to provide them with, you should feel comfortable referring them to vendors whom you have come to know and trust through business. This will serve to strengthen your credibility further and your customers will want to continue to do business with you.
It will never be enough of a reason to refer a new vendor to one of your customers simply because the vendor has expressed to you a feeling of wanting to increase his or her business. You will have to really get to know that vendor well enough first to be able to trust his or her credibility and integrity. Before you connect the vendor with your valued customers, you need to be absolutely certain that your customers will be satisfied with the products and services that the vendor offers. In other words, the other vendor is an extension of you and your business.
If you treat your online relationships (and in-person relationships) delicately, you will be rewarded for your efforts. The more integrity you display, the stronger your relationships will be. Networking and continuing to build relationships is one of the most effective ways to increase business as long as you do it the proper way.
You have to put a great deal of effort into your relationships, which will usually have a tremendous amount of rewards that go with the hard work. Even though your ultimate goal is to increase business, it is important to concentrate on what is essential along the way. That is building strong, meaningful relationships. The rest will follow. It is, of course, very important to remember that relationships take some time to develop. Nothing meaningful happens overnight.
When approached to connect with people you don’t know on social media channels, it is a good idea to have a scripted Email with which to respond. You should thank them for inviting you to connect with them but, at the same time, you should ask them why they want to connect with you and ask them to tell you a little more about themselves and how you might be able to help each other.
You will see that some will never be heard from again but others will respond to you with more information and that will be the beginning of new and meaningful relationships. This approach really combines all schools of thought on whether to accept new business connections.
We are pleased to provide you with the insightful comments contained herein. Please contact us at CompuKol Communications for further discussion on how we might be able to assist you and your team.
About the Author.
Michael Cohn is the founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of CompuKol Communications LLC. He has over 25 years of experience in IT and web technologies.
Mr. Cohn founded CompuKol Communications to help small businesses and entrepreneurs increase their exposure and reputation on the Internet. CompuKol consults, creates, and implements communication strategies for small businesses to monopolize their markets with a unique business voice, vision, and visibility.
Prior to that, Mr. Cohn spent a significant amount of time at a major telecommunications company, where his main focus was on initiating and leading synergy efforts across all business units by dramatically improving efficiency, online collaboration, and the company’s Intranet capabilities, which accelerated gains in business productivity. His expertise includes social media marketing strategies; internet marketing; web presence design; business analysis; project management; management of global cross-matrix teams; systems engineering and analysis, architecture, prototyping and integration; technology evaluation and assessment; systems development; performance evaluation; and management of off-shore development.
Mr. Cohn earned a Master’s degree in project management from George Washington University in Washington, DC; and a Master’s degree in computer science and a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ.
Mr. Cohn is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).