What is a social network? In general terms, Facebook is a network of friends and family. Twitter is a network of people/things you find interesting. And LinkedIn is a network of colleagues – to cover off a few of the big ones. (I'm still trying to figure out a neat description for Google+ — feel free to add yours in the comments.) But those neat descriptions are simplifications of more complex and changeable realities.
The rules of social networking are mutable. Necessarily so. As the services shift and evolve – to encourage more people to join and do more interacting – your individual use healthcare solution video has to change to keep up (or drop off entirely as you abandon the service). And as the size of your network grows it can also demand new rules of interaction that work with a larger audience.
Plus, the more you use a social network, the more it can change you – the more personal info you share on Facebook, say, the more normal sharing that info becomes, maybe encouraging you to share even more. Even if you start out with hard and fast rules a careless click or two can soon reconfigure all that.
With all that in mind I'm curious to know how people approach LinkedIn. What are your rules for connecting with people on LinkedIn? And how have they changed?
I ask because I feel I'm at a juncture where my current rules need updating. When I started using LinkedIn (in 2008) the service put a lot of emphasis on only connecting with people you had indubitably 'done business with'. Which made it pretty straightforward to decide when to click 'accept' and when to pass by on the other side. In any case, the vast majority of LinkedIn requests came from direct or indirect workmates.
But in recent years – and even more so since joining TechCrunch – I've been getting increasing numbers of LinkedIn requests from people I haven't worked with, even tangentially. Sometimes these people are in a similar line of work or in the same industry. And sometimes requests appear entirely random – with no apparent connection at all — and not all look like mistakes/spam. (Being a journalist complicates the picture, of course, since it's a line of work that necessitates getting in contact with people you don't know yet.)