Why You Should Add This Person

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The most common question you get about online social networks like Facebook is: why should I add this person?

Maybe you hardly know them, maybe it’s somebody you used to work with, maybe it’s someone from high school that you have not seen in over a decade, or maybe it’s someone you know, but are not all that interested in connecting with.

The bigger question you need to ask yourself is about what you’re using these online social networks for in the first place. If it’s purely a way to stay in touch with family and friends, then it has to stay pure and real for you. If it has the slightest whiff of self-promotion, to network, grow your business, etc… then ask yourself a bigger question:

What do I want to get out of this experience, and how does being a part of this online social network add value and help me accomplish this goal?

Let’s run with the notion that you’re a member of spaces like Facebook and MySpace to nurture your personal brand, connect and grow your business.

Maybe the question isn’t, "why should I add this person?" but rather, "who is their network and can it add value to my experience online?"

No doubt we tend to look out for number one and our egos get in the way, but before you hit the "ignore" button on that friend request, don’t worry so much about what they’ll see about you or why they want to connect, and focus (for just a second) on who they are connected to, what their network is like and if there is any value-add for you there.

Being connected for the simple sake of being connected might have little value (unless you use these channels as a media platform to "get the word out there"), so you do need to scrutinize (to some degree) what you want your network to be. Like everyone else, different online social networks call for different levels of engagement, but more often than not, we tend to ask "why should I?" instead of "why wouldn’t I?"

The good news is that if you add someone and they abuse that privilege, you can always boot them from your network.

And, they can do the same to you.

Any chance that this changes your attitude on how you conduct yourself online?


  1. I look at a few things. First I check for mutual friends. Then, if I’m intrigued, and I can, I click through to their info and wall tabs. I like to look at their friends overall, as well to see if I know anyone whom I have not yet friended, as well. Apropos of your question, I had a real “on the fence” experience last night when I had a decision to make: a former co-worker for whom I’d had ambivalent feeling requested an add. In the end, I fell off the fence in the yes direction because we already shared two mutual friends and ignoring the request (and the resulting alienation) wasn’t worth it. I gave the person the benefit of the doubt for the sake of civility and possible networking opportunities in the future.
    Its worth mentioning as well that since I feel I still have a deficit of “identity capital” (my made-up phrase) that I wasn’t in a position to be unreasonably choosy.

  2. I find I’m getting more and more conscious of who I add to my network, and I’m unlikely to add people who I have no link with, or are adding me randomly.
    Reason is I have many interests and I have too many people messaging me on Facebook so that I will check out their band or website or service, but the truth is even if I wanted to, elbowing their way into my social network isn’t the best way to get me interested.

  3. “If it’s purely a way to stay in touch with family and friends, then it has to stay pure and real for you. ”
    That sums it all up for me right there…I just think that an internet place where I can send songs and virtual gifts is more about fun than brass tacks networking…
    Twitter and other SNS are more about actual networking for me…and even then, I do not think of the people I add strategically…I add based on my interest in what they have to say or have said…

  4. I have two Facebook accounts, one for my professional network and one for my personal network. I find this works best for me and allows me to filter and route appropriate content to the appropriate network. Most important to me is a true personal connect, secondly, I look at common Facebook friends. If neither of these exist, I expect a personalized message. If there is no personalized message and no commonality, I assume it’s purely spam and promptly ignore!

  5. Excellent suggestion, Mitch. I discovered that when I started opening my thinking a bit, I could expand my networks.
    I have a tiered approach to the main 3 that I focus on:
    1. LinkedIn is the most pure of my networks: we need to have met or had some sort of meaningful interaction (or you need to be recommended by someone I know);
    2. Facebook is a little less stringent: I’ll add anyone, as long as they introduce themselves;
    3. Twitter: I’m all ears. I’ll follow anyone.
    In particular, I’ve found the most value in Twitter, where I’ve suddenly expanded my worldview beyond the 100 or so “usual suspects” that I started with. Over time, I’ve been able to build relationships with people I wouldn’t have normally interacted with, or I’ve been able to solicit advice from a wider swath of society, or I’ve been able to share tips with students or people new to social media.
    Ultimately, what you get out of these socnets depends on what you put into it – but you need to be clear what you’re using each for and you need to respect the social norms in each.

  6. That’s funny Scott, I follow your model but with #1 and #2 reversed. Facebook is personal for me, and everything else is professional. But with LinkedIn, I feel like it has to be people I’ve worked with at least somehow, even if it’s virtually.

  7. Facebook is for friends & family that i know and interact with in the ‘real world’
    Linked is generally (about 85%) those who i have worked with. i do have some connections with people who i have only met online, but those are slim.
    Twitter — this is where i ‘talk’ the most to be honest. i don’t add everyone who adds me, but i try my best to check folks out, look at their tweets, review their blogs … that generally helps me decide if i want to ‘follow’ someone. I’ve tried to purposefully connect with specific people and then get to know others in those folks networks. This has lead to me reading more blogs than i have in the past and slowly but surely
    Stumbleupon … i’m pretty new to this place so i’m just trying to connect with people who enjoy similar things as i … no strategy other than that.


  8. Facebook can become for me almost combination communications channel and market research. That is, I can see what a large group of my peers are interested in and reach out to them. I haven’t done so, but I can see it developing into that for those creating personal brands.

  9. I manage my Facebook account in the manner in which I only add people I know (online and in real life). If I want Facebook to be a true representation of my social graph — this has to happen.
    Otherwise, if I add whomever requests to be a friend, the value of logging into Facebook is lost significantly.
    Social networking on Facebook has it’s greatest value when it augments a relationship that exists (online or offline).

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