Best Tip For Growing Your Online Social Network

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If you could only choose one great tip that has helped you grow your online social network what would it be?

There has been lots of talk, Blogging and Tweeting lately around what, exactly, constitutes a strong and vibrant online social network. Some still adhere to the quantity over quality debate, some think it’s about how many big named Bloggers you can get to add you as a friend, while others look directly to the ROI and how much business your online activities actually convert into bottom-line sales and business growth.

Once you have determined why it’s important to take part in the online social channels, then you can best figure out what you have to do to accomplish your pre-set goals.

If I had to choose one top tip for building my online social network it would be this:

Send a personal message as to why we should connect.

Everyday, all of us get multiple invites through one of the many channels like Facebook and Twitter, and while most do look at every invitation, it astounds me why people don’t take that one extra second to either shoot off a quick email, message or direct message to let me know who they are and why they want to connect. Even if it’s a simple, "I read your Blog," or "Chris Brogan seems to like you" – that one simple act goes a long way and creates a very human and real connection.

It also makes up for stuff like using a random/weird username (this includes using a company name as your profile name), not having any links to a Blog or something relevant, or simply not taken the time to really personalize your profile so new connections can get a flair for who you are and what you’re all about (filling out your profile as completely as possible and customizing your profile page would be a close second for my own, personal, best tip for growing your online social network). 

If someone is trying to add you, but they themselves have not provided any personal reason to connect, or have not even personalized their own page, don’t you just feel like you’re being asked to connect as one of many (maybe even hundreds) in an online social media cattle call?

What would be your one best tip to grow that you have used to grow your online social networks?


  1. Use a real picture of yourself to build credibility, and some kind of link to something for the same reason.
    Provide some context; a mutual friend, a site you read, common interests, etc.
    And try to look for signs of open networkers (i.e. LIONs on LI). If the privacy settings are cranked, it probably means the door is closed.

  2. Hi Mitch,
    Thanks for asking.
    My Number One Rule:
    My question: Am I providing value to my network?
    “It’s not about me, it’s about them”.
    I may think that describing my headache in full details on Twitter is interesting. But I will provide more value if I share the fool-proof waya to get rid of headaches in 10 minutes flat!

  3. Hi Mitch,
    Good question.
    I look for genuine people who need help with something I am good at, such as Internet Marketing, SEO/SEM, content creation or getting more exposure online, and help them with it if I can – at no charge. This is not a fast way to grow a network, but from my experience it results in a higher quality of connections.
    Looking forward to what others have to say.

  4. To my detriment perhaps, I refuse to monetize my social media engagements. The thoughts, ideas, people, conversations, philosophies, complaints, inspiration, and the like are my only solid reasons to get involved. Any financial offshoot is obviously well received and a bonus–but as in life and the people I choose to do business with and befriend–it stops being real when things *always* turn to business.
    Then again, as an entrepreneur business is seemingly always intertwined with life. hehe

  5. Hey Rob,
    I wasn’t talking about monetizing. As I said, whatever outcome you want – yours is to discover new thoughts, people, conversations, etc.. – what is one best tip for finding out all of that new stuff?

  6. @Omar you are 100% right about the photo.
    If I had to use one application it would be Twitter.
    I can pour my heart into a blog post and only hear crickets.
    But, every time I offer quality content on Twitter I’m rewarded with more followers. Many of whom find their way to my blog.
    When I look for people to follow I generally seek people who may be interested in my blog. Photographers and people interested in photography.

  7. Exchange value.
    Essentially that means enagaging people meaningfully by treating them the way you want to be treated and by adding value to their network. In turn, you will benefit from the positive increase in the goodwill balance in your direction. Social networks are organic ecosystems and rely on this exchange to survive. Play by this rule and you can’t fail.

  8. I use my social network largely as a professional development tool. I’m the only pr/comms guy in my organization so it’s important to stay connected with others in the field.
    So my tip is to go slowly. Don’t worry if you languish at a half-dozen followers on Twitter. Eventually, as you comment on blogs, respond to tweets and attend real-life events (meetups etc), your network grows.
    It’s a slower process but it’s a more rewarding one with more value at the end.

  9. Mitch:
    Right on with your remarks. I so often get invites to connect through Facebook and LinkedIn that come from people that I don’t know — or don’t remember that I know. If there’s no context for why I should accept the invitation or no trigger for my sometimes-poor short-term memory as to who that person is, I’m likely to ignore the invitation.
    My best tip(s)? Point out the good work of others and connect people in your network to each other. Do that, and your own network will continue to flourish.
    Bryan Person | @BryanPerson

  10. I agree with Amod’s point about exchanging value. I’m not focused on growing the numbers of my network, per se. I’m more interested in sharing data with people engaged in similar interests (and learning from them, in turn). I consider relevant retweets as recommendations for good people to follow. And I hope they’ll follow me in turn if I continue to offer helpful and interesting data. So far, that’s resulted in steady growth.

  11. I like your reason Mitcht. . .tell me why we should connect. I get invitations and rarely do I get a quick note. That personal touch is crucial. But so many folks don’t get it.

  12. My best tip (that hasn’t already been said) is to excel at what you love. That way, whatever the purpose of your network, you’ll add passion and value to those who follow and connect to you.

  13. @mitchjoel
    Totally forgot to reply the other day. My best tip at this stage would be to connect with people OUTSIDE of your business sphere in order to get a range of ideologies. If you’re in advertising, follow a marketing guy. If you’re in marketing, follow some politicians. The possibilities and insight are endless online and I find that growing my network “externally” seems to provide most range in terms of filtering/delivering my own content to the world.

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