Last week, a small (very small, to be honest) brouhaha erupted on a Fort Wayne Facebook page. A friend of mine jokingly referred to a news story that touted his social media prowess (he wasn’t being serious). Someone who apparently didn’t get the joke jumped in and claimed that he was more deserving of those accolades because he had a greater number of LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers and video views (he WAS being serious). In addition to being a sad way to judge self-worth and a commentary on how quickly virtual conversations can fall apart, the logic behind this kind of thinking is incredibly flawed. It presumes that bigger is always better. The truth is, when it comes to making the most of social media as a networking tool, the size of your network doesn’t matter nearly as much as the the quality of your connections.
A similar topic came up yesterday when Chris Sanderson posted a LinkedIn status update about the acronym “LION,” which means “LinkedIn open networker.” If you’re a LION, you will seek and accept connection requests from just about everyone, regardless of whether you’ve worked together or even had so much as one email exchange, mutual trust be damned. The thinking here, again, is that a bigger network is inherently better. You can guess what my opinion is on that matter.
I don’t believe my approach is necessarily right for everyone, but for most of us, quality of connections far outweighs quantity of connections. Not only is quantity overrated, but it can actually inhibit you from building substantive relationships because you’re a. either not interested in anything more than the size of your network, or b. spread so thin in managing relationships that you don’t have time to be a resource to anyone.
The bottom line is this: anyone can be a people collector and amass a large number of so-called “connections.” But what really matters is how you use social media to truly connect with others.