Not so long ago, social networks were pretty straightforward: MySpace & Facebook were for friends, Linkedin for business contacts, and a bunch of others for everything in between. If you met somebody (online or off) that you got on with you connected with them on one of the first two, if you met somebody you were doing business with and liked (or wanted to) you connected with them on the latter. They were, in one way or another, qualified contacts. Seems like in the last year or so particularly, the boundries between them all have gotten blurred. I’ve had facebook ‘friend’ requests from people whose name I don’t know, or whose face I don’t recognise. Met them once, was on a conference call or in a meeting… exchanged cards at a conference.
Twitter self-polices in a way, in that if you’re following somebody who drives you crazy, you’ll quickly unfollow or ignore them. Part of the beauty of Twitter is that it’s a great way to connect with folks you didn’t know previously. That’ll be the subject of a different post though…
My point is that connections run the risk of losing value. If you connect with everyone you meet on linkedin, how valuable is that connection to you or your network? If you can’t vouch for that person personally, is the fact that you’re linked of any worth?
Personally I try to only connect only with people I consider to be friends, or folks who I like or liked working with and respect. There’s a good deal of crossover between Facebook and Linkedin for me within those two groups (a different issue), but the same rules apply.