Friday, July 3, 2009

Deciding who to follow in Twitter (and Friendfeed) and who to friend in Facebook

I received this question this week (and similar ones recently).

If I am twittering and FB as part of work, and someone I don't know wants to follow me or be my friend, what should I do?  What I am thinking is that on Twitter, everyone would be welcome to follow me. and on FB, I could set some different categories up, but only if it is either someone I know or someone with clear farm connections/interests.  Please advise.

Good Question.

On Twitter and Friendfeed, I let almost anyone follow me. Though, there are some who suggest that you should monitor your followers (from professional positioning standpoint), my philosophy is very open on Twitter and Friendfeed followers. Certainly, I block porn and spam.

If others want to follow me on Twitter and Friendfeed, I think that is great. I don't (any more) automatically follow everyone who follows me.

When someone follows me,

  • I look at the ratio of followers and following. If is very lopsided (either way), I probably will not follow them back. But, it depends on the situation. If a news site or announcement site, which will have lopsided followers, I may follow because I am interested in their news.
  • I look at the profile. If the person does not have any information on the profile page, and I can find any reason to follow them, I don't.

NOTE to Twitter newbies: complete your profile, How will I know who you are, if you don't tell me?

  • I look at what they are saying. If they are talking about subjects I am interested in, I will probably follow them back. 
  • I look at their followers. The list of followers is helpful in determining my connection to this person and whether I think their tweets will be helpful. 

I treat Facebook differently. I see Facebook as a professional connection network AND a personal connection network. But, I am not as free with the "friendship" in Facebook as I am in Twitter.

I have to know the person or know of the person or have a connection with the person through someone else.

When I say I know them, I don't necessarily know them by meeting them in a face-to-face setting. I know them because of a work/professional situation (attended the same conference, web conference, exchanged emails, working on the same projects/thrusts).

I have divided my Facebook friends into lists.

  • Colleagues: anyone working with Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Auburn University
  • Professionals: professional connections outside of my colleague list.
  • Friends: family and friends, recent and from college and high school.

By dividing up my friends, I can easily see the professional or colleagues status updates in one click. Many use the division of friends to decide which list sees what.

As far as integrating Facebook and Twitter, I send all Twitter messages to Facebook. However, I think some of my "friends" may get tired of my work related links. So I am considering using the Twitter application that lets me choose which updates go to Facebook.

There are many ways to decide about following and friending people in these networks. You have to choose what you value and what works for you. Also, consider privacy strategies, as well.

Consider your goals are for tools, like Twitter, Facebook, and Friendfeed.

Some of my goals are:

  • Learn as much from others as possible.
  • Engage in "communities" as much as possible to enhance my learning and to share my thoughts and knowledge.
  • Listen from others--not only from others like me, but from others in areas outside of my primary work.
  • Listen to those who I may disagree with.
  • Expand my network of professional friends.
  • Build social capital because I never know 1) when I will be influential and 2) when I may need assistance by others who know more than I.

Thus, I tend to be more open than most in friending and following others in these networks.


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