For as long as people have known me, I’ve been railing against the rules police in social media. They truly drive me absolutely insane. For ten years, one of the arguments that continues to surface is whether or not you should connect with people you don’t know online.
It surfaced again yesterday when I shared Dan Schawbel’s post, Why I Accept All LinkedIn Contact Requests. Dan lists 5 reasons why he connects with strangers, including referrals, research, awareness, influence and branding.
But there’s a group of naysayers that continue to espouse a belief that it’s terrible social media etiquette or some violation of the time-space continuum when you connect in social media with someone you’ve never met or don’t have a relationship with. Some of the rules listed in the conversation were not to connect unless you’ve met someone face-to-face. Or if you have a meaningful relationship first.
Folks… what the heck is the use of a social network that spans cities, states, countries, time zones and continents if you’re not using it? You really believe the best use of this incredible resource is simply to reproduce your offline network online?
Why don’t you just go pull out your old rolodex and call your high school buddies up to play Dungeons and Dragons?
You know what I call people that I haven’t connected with in social media? I call them potential customers, potential investors, potential employees, potential interns, potential friends, potential partners, potential vendors, potential mentors and potential colleagues.
And yes, I want to connect with them. I want to help them. I want to listen to them. I want to hear what they have to offer. I want to connect to as many as humanly possible! And when I need help, I want to reach out to them and ask for it. Guess what?! I get a lot of help from connections I’ve never met.
Lucky for all of us, the tools also have the ability to disconnect! I may do that if they’re rude, pushy, or wasting my time. There’s also a report spam button if they’re way over the line. I’m not asking anyone for a kidney or to have my children (yet), I’m just asking for a means to connect with people I’m truly interested in meeting.
It’s incredible to me that the same people who criticize folks about connecting to people they don’t know won’t hesitate to walk across a crowded room to shove their business card in your face, or cold call you to try to sell their product. Yet they sit there in utter disgust if you click a button on a web browser.
Here’s an idea… keep your rules to yourself. What I’m doing works for me… and my network.