Do you have a policy for connecting online?
Do you accept every link request that is sent to you on LinkedIn and Facebook?
Do you follow back everyone who follows you on Twitter?
For as many people who have accounts on social media / online networking sites there are equally as many ways that people view how to get the best value out of these tools.
I find it interesting when people get mad that others do not "friend" them, or "follow" them. I think it is a personal choice on how you use these tools, and we should respect others personal space - just as we should in the face-to-face environments.
While I participate in other communities, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are the main ones for me at this point in time.
My Social Media Policies:
LinkedIn and Facebook-
I see LinkedIn as the business / professional world, and Facebook as my personal / social world. However, in both cases I do not accept connections from people whom I have never met before.
I get a lot of requests from people who have read my books or have seen me give a speech. While I am honored that these folks want to get to know me and reach out via the online communities, I cannot accept links from anyone I do not know.
In my opinion having links to strangers dilutes the power of my network. I want everyone that I am connected to to be the type of contact who would take my telephone call should I ring them up.
Thus I have the "Beer, Coffee or Lunch Rule". I will not accept a connection request from anyone whom I have not sat down with face-to-face for an hour. After we spend an hour together I believe that we can both decide if there is a reason to build a friendship. It gives us a foundation.
Now, that is easy for people who live in my hometown of Austin, Texas. I realize that our world is not longer just centered on the local, and thus I have what I call "The Digital Equivilent". There comes a point when you get to know someone via email, blogging, Twitter, phone, etc... where you feel you know them as well as you might if you had breakfast together.
Old names from high school and college tend to pop up a lot on Facebook. I love reconnecting with those who were my friends, but my policy holds true. We had to really have spent time together way back when. If we did not really hang out or have classes together (or mutual close friends), then I will most likely not link to them now.
Former co-workers who show up on LinkedIn are subject to the same rule. Just having been employed by the same company does not make someone a contact. We had to have really worked together (would we know each one another if we saw each other in the airport? - would we care?)
Twitter is a different animal. People can follow each other on Twitter without mutual permission. But Twitter can also become unmanageable. While there are lots of Twitter Tools that can help you categorize and sort out the noise, I find it easier to simply only follow those whom I have a reason to follow.
This is controversial and some people get offended quickly if they follow you and you do not follow them. Umm, get over it. I only want followers who are interested in what I might have to say. If I am their "noise", for the love of God, I hope they un-follow me.
Twitter is not about the numbers. Many really worry if they do not have enough followers, but it is really about creating a community.
I follow back most everyone who lives in Austin, as the odds of meeting them around town (we do lots of Tweet Ups in Austin) are very high.
I also follow back business authors and professional speakers - or anyone whose description or website captivates me.
Those who regularly communicate with me directly via Twitter will most likely be added to my list too. And for sure those I meet in person at conferences, etc... I will follow back for sure.
There are billions of people in the world and we are not capable of having connections to everyone. Creating too many online connections takes away from the power of the real relationships you have developed.
My advice to others is that you need to have your own policies (I wont judge you as "right" or "wrong" if you wont judge others!). Having such policies makes it easy for you to decide with whom to have connections and how to communicate with others. Sure, there are those with whom you will link that do not meet your criteria - but you want to anyway - that is okay, as it is your rule, you can bend it when you see fit!
Have A Great Day