Charlene Li is an independent thought leader on emerging technologies, with a specific focus on social technologies, interactive media, and marketing. She has a blog, "The Altimeter" that discusses these topics at blog.altimetergroup.com. She is also the co-author of the business bestseller, "Groundswell: Winning In A World Transformed By Social Technologies", published by Harvard Business Press in May 2008.
Her response to the question about "What online tools do you use to help you network?"
As you can expect, I use LinkedIn and Facebook a lot for networking. For the longest time, I've tried to be exclusive about who I accepted as a "friend" but gave up on that given my visibility in the space. So I pretty much accept any invitation. But I use these sites, as well as Twitter and FriendFeed, to stay up on what people are doing. If I have a one on one meeting, I'll check out their online profiles, updates, and blog, so that I'm up to date. And I'm always impressed when someone has done their homework on me, even down to the last tweet that I made before a meeting.
I also use Facebook and sites like Upcoming to find out who is going to an event in advance. I may send a note to someone, letting them know that I'll be there, and hope to connect.
I like how she connects online/offline networking and that we can't loose the importance of connecting face-to-face and at conferences - and how these tools can extend your networking capacity before as well after an event.
Charlene also references another important issue - the issue of your friending policies if you are using these tools to support or enhance a professional network. It made me think that I have slightly different approaches on different spaces. I am also thinking about making my "friending" policies more formal.
Flickr: On flickr, I pretty much friend people who request it. However, I do look at their photos first. And I take a quick look, and scream EWWW. I don't friend them. Many times I can I do see an visual connection or I might know of the person by reading their profile.
Facebook: I will immediately approve a friend request on Facebook if I recognize them or know or have recently met them. But, if someone I don't immediately recognize requests to be friends - then I will ask them why they want to be friends - time permitting. What has been happening lately - because I get so many request s - I end up ignoring them. If someone sends a personal message with some context about why they want to be friends, then I will friend them.
Twitter: My updates are unlocked. This is my "loosest" network.
LinkedIn: I treat LinkedIn as my rolodex and tend to friend people who I know or have met. I tend to use LinkedIn quite to network through my contacts to find people I'm specifically looking for.
What's your friending policy on different sites? How does it support your professional networking strategies? How do you connect your online and offline professional networking tactics?