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Cautious Friending

by Lena West, Chief of Social Media Strategy at Influence Expansion

A while back I joined an organization that I believed in whole-heartedly. I liked their ideals, mission and leadership. When I met people whom I thought were a fit, I would let them know about the organization and gave them my personal guarantee that they would enjoy themselves and learn a lot in the process.

Recently, that same organization created a special program to which I invited a dear friend – actually, I insisted that he attend so that he could experience what I had experienced.

The time spent was great, but not remarkable. Something was off…and halfway through the program, we both realized what it was. It was the person they hired to lead the program. He was hard to follow, confusing and in general didn’t “fit” with the flavor of this organization that I had come to appreciate. I was duly embarrassed.

Here I had insisted that my friend attend this event with me and it turned out to be almost a total bust. Wow.

Now, I still like the organization, but I’m less engaged and less likely to refer people to them. I’m also less inclined to attend events myself. A big shift.

So, what the heck does any of this have to do with social media?

It has to do with the people with whom you connect, the people whom you allow to comment on your blog, the people whom you retweet on Twitter.

I’m sure you take take and care in building your brand. You make sure your company uses the right colors in your logo, oozes sure-fire customer service and gives off exactly the right “vibe”. As a result, your market loves the feeling they get when they read blog and they genuinely care about what you have to say. So much so, they tell other people!

All of this can be undone in an instant if you allow spam comments to pile up on your blog or if you retweet or “friend” the wrong person – someone who writes or spreads objectionable content. Some people have a policy of “friending” anyone who sends them a request. Be careful of this.

If you’ve taken my advice about managing your time with social media, you’ll have time set aside to review profiles of people who want to connect with you to make sure they’re not social polluters. (And, if you have an assistant, they can do this for you).

Bottomline: Don’t be lazy, do whatever it takes to preserve your positive brand experience by making sure you connect with the right people.

2011 PA Conference for Women speaker Lena L. West is an award-winning social media consultant, blogger, speaker, journalist, technologist and the founder of, the only social media training program created exclusively for women business owners and leaders. Forbes says West is one of the 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter.