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Yesterday during the Social Media Plus LinkedIn session, this bit of advice was shared by the speaker and retweeted by the audience:

Koka Sexton (kokasexton) on Twitter

When I poked back at this chain of thought:

Christopher Penn (cspenn) on Twitter

…a couple of the folks clarified a bit:

Koka Sexton (kokasexton) on Twitter

If LinkedIn or other social networks imposed an actual cost on the number of connections you were permitted to have, then I think this viewpoint might have some validity, but unless your connections are flat out spammers, then there’s no harm in keeping people in your network who aren’t exactly on target for your audience.

Allow me to illustrate some of the riff-raff in my network. Knowing me, knowing who I am and what I do, these people would probably have been culled years ago if I took the above advice.

Here we have this guy:


And this guy:


Remove them from my LinkedIn network right away, right? After all, an applications engineer and an assistant athletic director should be worthless to me as a marketing professional, yes? Not so fast. The applications engineer in 2005? That’s now Chris Brogan.

Chris Brogan | LinkedIn

And the assistant athletic director and freelance writer? That’s now the Social Media Plus conference keynote speaker, Jason Falls.

Jason Falls | LinkedIn

My counter-advice to the idea of culling the riff-raff from your network is this: look at your social network like a nearly risk-free investment. You can place wild bets on all of the people asking to connect with you, and if you build relationships with them over time, some of them are not going to pan out and some of them are going to be superstars. Some, like the gentlemen above, will completely transcend what their original base of expertise was entirely – but you won’t know that today.

Here’s an analogy to close this topic out: if you planted a field full of corn seeds today, you would be a fool to immediately declare the field a loss tomorrow if none of it had turned into fully grown crops overnight. Likewise, just because your LinkedIn network isn’t full of superstars today, don’t declare it a loss and start culling the riff-raff. Have time, have patience, and work on building the relationships today that will turn into powerful friendships and business partnerships in the weeks and months to come.

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8 responses to “Social media riff-raff”

  1. Hey Chris,

    You mean we have to play for the long game?

    Well that sucks 😉

    I thought Linked In was a bat with which to beat CEOs, CMOs, CFO,s MDs VPs and other “important” people over the head.

    (Sorry must be feeling cynical today)

  2. Good points Chris. Seriously, it is not a cost to have connections on social networks. So, why cut people unless they are spamming you and your connections? Tim Sanders said years ago that your net worth will be equal to your network. Literally? Maybe, maybe not. Bigger is not always better, but if I need help someday I’d rather have a wide network. 

  3. Excellent advice. I particularly like your analogy:  if you planted a field full of corn seeds today, you would be a fool to immediately declare the field a loss tomorrow if none of it had turned into fully grown crops overnight.  

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    Loved this, Christopher! Are we just “collecting” CEOs or are we building relationships? Relationships take time. And, I might add, you really never know when you might need the expertise of someone whose not what some would consider “SUPERSTARS!” (and who’s to say, really, that they aren’t — in their own right). As you said, it’s truly a risk-free investment. 

  5. I got involved in social media because I love to write and because I like people. I enjoy the learning and interacting with others who I might not have otherwise met.

    Steve Jobs wasn’t always “Steve Jobs.” He was a guy who got fired from the company he helped found. Clearly the board didn’t think that he would go on to become a “legend.” 

    Never hurts to keep an open mind.

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  7. Well said, Chris. As I recall, you invite your readers to join your network. I thought this was quite forward thinking of you and I did just that. There is a human failing where people can get caught up in making themselves feel superior to others. You described it as elitist behavior. It could also be one of the seven deadly sins at play; pride.

  8. I’ve got to give you a high five on this one! 

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