Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
September 26, 2008 2:41 PM

6 Reasons Why We Can't Be Friends

It's getting harder and harder to define the friends from the foes in these social circles. People are starting to choose wisely instead of widely.

It's getting beyond information overload. The slew of invites from the myriad of social spaces increases as the days and new applications wane on. If you've been following this Six Pixels of Separation Blog, you might remember a Blog posting titled, Mass Media or Mass Content - What's Worse? We're quickly getting to the point where even adding more individual people to our social spaces is not so cut and dry.

Sure, there are those who will either add anybody and everybody, and then there's the other side where people do not add anyone unless they have met them in person (or actually like them). In the middle of those extremes are probably people more like you and I. We love connecting with those we know, but are equally excited to meet and explore the possibilities of making a new connection.

Some people are using these channels for the sole purpose of personal gain. And while there's nothing wrong with that, they probably have no idea how much it is affecting their opportunity to really meet new people and grow their business and personal brand even more effectively.

In the spirit of this thought, here are:

6 Reasons Why We Can't Be Friends:

1. Trying too hard to sell something - "buy now" or "special offer". Realize that whenever someone checks out an invite from you and those are the primary messages they see (be it on Twitter, on your Blog or the website where your Blog is linked to), they're usually going to be suspicious and think that they're not connecting to an individual but rather some MLM pyramid scene (multi-level marketing). You invited someone to connect on a personal level, the first impression should not come off like an Amway meeting.

2. Usernames, bio, photos and links - choose a username, add your bio and include photos and links that make it personal. Keep in mind that most people have never met you, so when they get an invite from "b_gord_76", odds are they have no idea who you are. Choose a real username (like your real name), make sure to fill out the full profile and include a picture. Also include links to your personal Blog/online spaces, so the invitee can do a quick hop-around and see if the connection makes sense. No one likes connecting to someone with a username like, "AcmeMarketing" with no personal information or external links. They are trying to connect to a person... not the company.

3. Too many inside jokes with people I don't know - this is a huge one. Be it on Twitter, a Blog or even flickr, if the main crux of the conversation is inside jokes between friends, why should anyone new connect? It's already strange enough because you don't know the person. No one wants to be the kid in the playground alone by the fence when everyone else is huddled around one another telling jokes. Make your content welcoming and warm... and open.

4. You're more of a shill for a company than an individual - we're all trying to grow our businesses and make more connections, but the power of these social channels is how the individuals connect. If your username is your company name and most of your content says "we" instead of "I", there may be problem. I don't follow Dell. I'm not interested. However, I do follow Richard Binhammer (Richard@Dell), because he's real, interesting and adds value. The fact that he works for Dell is the bonus... not the main reason to connect.

5. Expecting people to come to you, versus you being a part other communities - One of the main criteria in connecting is not what value someone can bring to your personal space, but rather what value you have added in other communities and the additional great content that can be received to connecting to you directly. All too often, Marketers think that by having a Blog or joining Twitter, they are enabling their consumers to connect to them. The fact is, consumers probably don't want to connect, but would rather see those brands being a part of the myriad of existing online conversations. Then, having a space of their own to add even more value makes sense.

6. I don't feel special - it is immediately clear by one glance at your content where the value in our connection is for me. W.I.I.F.M (What's In It For Me)? More often than not, the reason someone does not connect is because whatever it is you are putting out there is more about you than it is about the person connecting. Make your community feel special.

On top of that have some original thoughts and perspectives. Most people are not connecting because the content is random riffing of regurgitated thoughts on news items that have already been beaten to death.

What are some of your main reasons for not adding people to your digital social circle?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Mitch Joel

    Couldn't agree more Mitch. It need not be a popularity contest. My vote is for connecting within community and gaining an audience organically.

    :)

    Reply
  • Posted by Sean Power
    Mitch Joel

    The ghost factor. If you haven't done any updates (twitter, facebook, etc) and I don't know you .. what's the point?

    or if i've tried to add you a couple of times on other social networks and never received a reply / accept from you, chances are that I won't add you on new ones.

    Reply
  • Posted by Aaron deMello
    Mitch Joel

    How about a common one: you secretly hate them and are frenemies.

    Reply
  • Great article Mitch! I tend to be pretty lenient with who I add/accept on social networks, however I'm quick to click 'Remove' if someone begins to flood me with spam, invites, etc.

    On Twitter, I appreciate reciprocal links, but if they have very useful information that I find useful, I will add them anyways.

    Since Twitter has a different setup than other social networks, I use it more as an informational resource and opportunity to interact, as opposed to just send out my messages.

    Reply
  • Posted by Dennis Demori
    Mitch Joel

    I just got a friend request on Facebook from someone who I don't think I've talked to since we were 7 years old--I denied the request because: 1) I was never friends with this person in the first place 2) The "friend" hasn't filled out his profile other than name and profile pic 3) I don't know what his current profession/interests are. Bottom line--I don't get any value from this connection and the only thing we share is that we went to the same school as kids. Even though it's been 20 years since we've had contact, the time that has passed isn't an issue. Not in the least bit. It's the absence of any recognizable benefit.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Hey Mitch. Great post, I think you've covered very well the primary reasons that people don't connect online. As someone who doesn't only "friend" people I've met in person, but is also fairly selective, I thought I'd comment on why I do connect with people online.

    The top three reasons that I add people or begin following others would be:

    1. I'm newer to this space and looking to learn from people I view as experts. People like yourself, Chris Brogan, CC Chapman, etc. I connect with the hope that I can learn and in turn pass on what I learn to others as they connect to me.

    2. Entertainment/Information value - there are many people that I've chosen to connect with because they either provide entertainment for me or consistently deliver content that is valuable to me where I'm at. These people may not be experts, but they are a great source of inspiration and sometimes just fun.

    3. Authenticity - this speaks to many of the points you have above. I love connecting and checking out people online who are truly authentic in what they are doing - whether it is Social Media or Water Skiing (another one of my passions) I love connect with people who are genuine and just passionate about what they do, regardless of whether they are experts.

    Thanks for the great posts in the last couple weeks and spurring some fantastic conversation.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ryan Deschamps
    Mitch Joel

    Sheer volume can matter as well. I am willing to tolerate inside jokes or self-centeredness when it does not detract from the other people I want to connect with. But even useful content will find me tuning out if it is happening with undue frequency.

    Also, I prefer sincere conversations over ones that contrived. I am much more interested in a person's own inquiry about themselves and the world, rather than the standard "what do you think about . . . [insert tech/marketing platitude here]?"

    Reply
  • Hi Mitch,

    Those are all very cogent points. Thank you for sharing.

    I identify with what you are saying, particularly when it comes to people who befriend you on MySpace. The Bulletin feature can become a big advertisement shilling for companies. Whenever I post a bulletin, I make sure that it's only when necessary and that it directly pertains to the people in my community (they're mainly voice actors), adding value at the same time.

    The same goes when using Facebook. I love the fact that we can have our own groups and fan pages. I also love that people want to be part of them. The key is to respect your group members' personal space.

    Thanks again for a great article :)

    Best wishes,

    Stephanie

    Reply
  • Posted by Gordana Mosher
    Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch ...
    great posts and comments. Personally for me it is connecting with different people. There is so much to learn and I find it continually changing on the social network. Not really into too many applications, but then again its a reflection of a persons identity. Limitations are endless as we explore this new platform.
    gordana

    Reply
  • Posted by fendergurl
    Mitch Joel

    Hello Mitch,

    Some very good points raised...looking at the social-network from the W.I.I.F.M. perspective.

    Although, I do have to say that on-line (as in 'real' life,(oh, NO. Did I just equate the on-line environment with being 'unreal'?) I tend to look at everyone as a potential positive connection - and give people a chance to show me what they are all about.

    I may decide it is not a good-fit or perhaps a wonderful new perspective is gained from now knowing this person.

    I realise that business is business, and there are only so many hours in the day to interact with those we communicate with...however, I have learned that EVERYONE has something to offer even if it isn't apparent at the initial meeting.

    (not to sound too 'rose-coloured glass-like' here) but isn't the beauty of communication taking the time to discover and ultimately learn more about someone through interaction and FINDING what we have in common for the better good of all?

    Just something to think about.

    C.

    Reply
  • Posted by Patrick Hopf
    Mitch Joel

    Hey bro,

    One thing left off this discussion is bragging rights on one's social network girth. Your in the game (or not) depending on:
    a) 500 + linkedIN

    b) At least the same amount in Facebook

    c) 1000 twitter followers min.

    Looks like you're in....and I'm out ;-(

    Reply
  • Posted by frank
    Mitch Joel


    I need to know that a person will engage me in some sort of conversation at some point and on some level.

    It's not like i need to talk to everyone and everyone i'm connected to needs to respond to what im saying all the time ... but i do want to feel like the people i'm 'friending' or 'following' or connecting with will talk with me.

    from a pure relational standpoint ... it's that simple.


    ---
    http://twitter.com/franswaa

    Reply
  • Posted by Kate Brodock
    Mitch Joel

    For me, who I connect to depends on the network/tool. For facebook, I need to have met you in person before. I don't have anything scandalous on there at all, but there's a lot of "me" there that I don't want to just flash around.

    For Twitter, I completely agree with Mitch. I generally will look over the 20 or so posts on the profile of someone wanting to connect to me. If it's something interesting (professional or not) and I find most of the posts have substance, I'll probably connect. But if I'm finding out what you ate that day, or that you're trying to sell the Robo-cat to me, I'm not interested. There's far less personal insight into "me" on Twitter, so I don't mind connecting to people I haven't met (in fact I find it quite valuable).

    Great post, as always.
    Kate

    Reply
  • Posted by Michelle Evans
    Mitch Joel

    I use each network differently, so I try and be clear about what it's for. On my blog you'll see I use LinkedIn for business connections and Facebook for personal connections. Even on LinkedIn, I will only seek to make connections with people where I really think there could be a business benefit. I don't really want to connect there just to have people try and sell me stuff (which can happen when you're in a corporate buying position). If I make a business connection with someone I really like and wouldn't mind knowing on a closer level, I'll add on facebook, but I want some place safe to connect with friends and family, brag about my kid and talk openly. That's where I've chosen to do that and I need to maintain some level of personal safety and privacy.

    Twitter is a free for all, though, and the best place for me to connect with interesting people just for the sake of it. I don't follow back automatically, though. I also like to see that we have something in common. I figure some might follow me because I'm into something that interests them, but if I can't tell from their tweets or their profile, I won't follow back.

    Reply
  • Posted by Digimaven
    Mitch Joel

    I won't pretend like I have high standards for some social networks. On FB, I pretty much accept anyone who asks, but on Linked In, you need to be adding some sort of value to my network. Different networks require different filtering criteria.

    Reply
  • For the record, I am loving the conversation/comments here.

    Sean - spot on. I get that a lot. People add me and they're just starting, so there's nothing to see an no reason to connect... that's what happens when you're a little too late to these social circles.

    Moe - good point. I did notice after I posted that I pretty much accept anybody on Facebook but I am super-critical on Twitter. I guess each channel is a unique and personal experience.

    fendergurl - very true. I always assume people are connecting for the good or connecting. The "other ones" are easily identifiable... and not added. That being said, I'm still critical in certain networks depending on how I use them,

    Patrick - it's the "how" and "why". A lot of places (for me) are about extending the conversation of the Blog and Podcast and connecting to my peers. It's 100% social, but not so much in terms of family and friends... though I guess they do inter-mingle.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    How do you manage what social networking sites you belong to, that will be meaningful and unique and will mark your place for you on the ever demanding-increasing-popularizing, social networking-chain? We are talking about our friends, how can I be sure I'm connecting? I too do get N number of random individuals adding me from X, etc on FB - which I regretfully turn down because I have no idea who they are. Is this not good? Perhaps they're a new reader on my blog that FB me? My blog is me and FB is me too.

    How close do your readers feel to you, when they read your blog? When they see your Twitter or your recent Digg? Do they feel connected in some way, as a follower; that you perhaps don't feel to them? Afterall, YOU are the ink and I'm just trying to part of the paper.

    P.S. Great 6 points, enjoyed the twist.

    Reply
  • Posted by Brett Pohlman
    Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch!

    Thank you so much for writing this post. I really enjoy your blog and podcast. I have been a regular reader and listener for about 10 months now.

    If I may veer from the question slightly: I recently graduated from Auburn University and took a job in Boston to launch my career in social media and public relations.

    Along the way, however, I interviewed at a company that reminded me exactly what your post mentioned, business promotion before making an individual connection online. The principle/owner at this particular firm used the company’s name in social media spaces instead of his own. He wasn’t out to make connections nor was he involved in the spaces he joined. He was in the space to spread the word about his company, and nothing more.

    As we all know there are do’s and don’ts in the social media space. It was great to see the ‘checks and balances’ as he got called out by the members many times. I could talk about transparency, but that’s a whole different blog post and comment.

    He learned a lesson: Listen. Make connections. Invest time and know what the space is all about before you join.

    Thanks again for this post.

    Reply
  • Posted by app
    Mitch Joel

    I don't friend spambots...even human spambots.

    If all you are about is promoting yourself or product, we have nothing to talk about and there is no reason for me to add you.

    On the otherhand, if you appear to be a real person and your twitters look like they were made by a human, I'll friend you.

    On Digg, I do not friend anyone that only submits posts from their own blog, only diggs their own stuff, never makes any comments, and shouts every blog post they make to everyone on their friends list.

    They don't know how to play the game. And even if I like what they write, on a site like Digg, you are judged by the friends you keep, and a mutual friend like that is a liability. It makes you look like a spammer, too.

    On a site like MyBlogLog, I don't add anyone to my contacts list that joins every one of my blogs communities without ever visiting the blogs, rarely makes posts on their own blog and just goes around friending everyone, joining communities, and messaging people with links to their blog, and then repeating the process with everyone on your friends list, and then their friends too.

    If they visited one of my blogs, left a comment, had some substance to their actions that would be an enhancement to "my world", messaged me with something that didn't contain a link to one of their sites, I would probably friend them back.

    Never forget that in Social Marketing, the word "social" appears first for a reason.

    First be social...then you can market. It is easier to sell something to a friend that trusts you than a complete stranger.

    And in any social network, learn the rules and how to play the game first, because I really don't have time to add you to my contacts list and then teach you how to seem human.

    Reply
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