Social media has forever changed the way that business people meet and form relationships. It has essentially replaced the activity of cold calling and has become the key ingredient of online networking. We are constantly asked to pass along introductions for other people to our connections on LinkedIn. We are encouraged to “friend” people based on the fact that they know our friends on Facebook. It is not uncommon to have a person on Twitter follow everyone on a list of a well known web celebrities to get closer to them.
With public lists of “who is friends with whom,” social networks can become a "target-rich hunting ground," wrote Mary H.K. Choi in Wired. The feature, titled "Mary H.K. Choi on the Art of Sidling," talks about when social media goes awry.
Choi believes that “social climbers are made, not born. You have to learn to be okay with people watching you claw and strive…You need the unshakable faith that multiple ignores, blocks, and unheeded friend requests can be overcome with one more retweet or smiley emoticon.”
She has seen social media create “sidling" monsters. Choi defines this as a person that has “sidled their way into the social group online” by friending all the friends of a target individual. While this behavior alone is not inherently bad, it can be viewed negatively by those you are trying to connect with. Here are some best practices to follow when you're trying to network online:
1. Don't be too overbearing. Don't spend time figuring out who is friends with whom and proceed to befriend an entire social circle in one week. Go slow when forming online relationships. Remember, just like in person, trust builds up over a long period of time.
2. Don't try to follow or interact with famous people and web celebrities. You're not going to reap rewards from a celebrity Facebook friendship. Have a real reason to talk to anyone on a social media platform. Choi suggests “targeting people that are just once and twice removed from you with whom you have legitimate sort of professional interests.”
3. Don't go after just the numbers. Don’t be impressed by your follower counts. Those are really meaningless since for a few dollars, tens of thousands can actually be purchased. Be selective. Choi suggests to friend the people “you met a couple of times, had a wonderful conversation with and feel like it would be worthwhile to know.”
4. Don't get out of balance. Choi believes there is little value added if you only retweet and share other people’s posts. Have a mind of your own and be original! Have meaningful conversations to bridge the gap if you don’t see people in person.
5. Don't infiltrate people too hard. This is when you’re becoming a "sidling monster." Choi says that “the second that you try to suck in an entire group of people, those people start asking who is this person who loves every picture of your dog?” It makes those people feel a little paranoid in terms of what you want. Post one comment at a time and be respectful of the privacy.
6. Don't spam them. Don't invite hundreds of friends to a Facebook event when you know only a few dozen will show. Stop contributing to the noise hoping someone will notice. Since social media makes it easy to get to thousands of people, make sure all communication is purposeful.
7. Don't ignore your real friends and business connections. Don't ignore your real friends just because "you’re too busy kissing up to 3 million other strangers,” Choi said. Use social media to connect to real people and build real relationships. In the end, this is where social media is most effective.
Photo credit: newdawn.com