How we manage our social networks

Gibbs analyzes the results of his "How do you manage your social networks?" survey

A few weeks ago I asked "How do you manage your social networks?". What prompted this question was that I had, on a whim, allowed LinkedIn to peruse my Gmail contact list and invite some insane number of people to connect with me.

As a result, an acquaintance on a private email list I'm a member of responded with, "Sorry, Mark -- thanks for the invitation, but I generally only connect with people I've actually met in person."

I wasn't offended by this, but it made me wonder whether people do get offended by a request to connect (AKA "friended") being turned down. It also made me wonder whether social media users in general have hard and fast criteria about who they'll connect with.

At the end of that column I asked people to take a short survey, and this week we're going to look at the opinions shared.

These results are interesting not only because of what they indicate how people use social networks, but also because they indicate how people will react to what you do.

First, who responded? A total of 99 surveys were completed, while I discarded 10 more that were unfinished. Surprisingly, the majority (55%) of the respondents were in the 41 to 60 age category, while 31% were 40 or younger.

social media age group

Perhaps, not surprisingly given the maturity of the cohort, LinkedIn was the most used social network, with Facebook coming in second and Twitter and Google+ coming in third and fourth, respectively. There was no significant correlation between age group and which social networks were used.

Which social networks do you use

When it comes to frequency of use, 10% of the Under 30 group were, at the least, online weekly, while 90% of them are using social media daily, hourly, or continuously. In the 31 to 60 bracket hourly was the most common response and it wasn't until the Over 60 bracket that "never" use appeared at 10%.

Frequency of social media use

When asked how the associated the social networks, for personal or business use, Facebook was judged to be predominantly personal while LinkedIn was mainly for business. Twitter, on the other hand, tilted slightly more towards business than personal use, though only by a small margin. Equally surprising, Google+ was the opposite, rated as being slightly more for personal use than business use.

Orientation of each social media

The next question was about who are you willing to connect with on each type of social network. Family and friends were acceptable on personal networks, but also about half as acceptable on business networks, with a surprising 10% not being willing to connect with family and 25 ignoring friends completely!

Some 66% of respondents wouldn't connect with just anyone who asked, and 29% wouldn't connect with people they know indirectly through people they're connected to, which implies that being known may not always be enough of a recommendation for third parties to connect.

Ninety percent of respondents would connect on business networks with coworkers, but that drops to 51% on personal networks. In this cohort, celebrities are of little interest (66% wouldn't bother), but companies, causes and services were all generally acceptable.

Which groups of people will you connect with on social networks

Now this is all very interesting, but what we really wanted to know was how people felt about connecting. It turns out that, on both business and personal networks, people feel much the same: 58% of respondents on personal networks couldn't care less if you don't accept their connection requests, and even more, 67%, don't care on business networks.

On the other hand, roughly 33% of business network users and 42% of personal network users will not be happy to some degree (they will be a "little", "definitely", or "very" offended), but no one will, apparently, be actually "insulted." From this we can conclude that most people are OK with their connection request being rejected ... although if Zuck tries to "friend" you and you turn him down, you may find yourself in one of the outer rings of social hell.

social media friending

But what if someone disconnects from you? It appears that we're slightly less tolerant of being blocked or unfriended than we are of our connection requests being rejected.

social media unfriending

So, you have a load of connections and one of them really annoys you - say they make insane, disjointed, and totally random comments about items you post and they do this so often you can only conclude they or overly medicated -- what do you do?

On business and personal networks 31% and 16% of you, respectively, do nothing, while 61% and 70% rarely do something. It turns out that only 8% and 13% of you on business and personal networks "frequently" take action.

And how do we feel if we're at the receiving end of being de-friended? Fifty-six percent of us on business and 49% on personal networks aren't offended, while 34% and 37% respectively and a mere 9% on both are definitely offended. From our cohort it appears that it's only on personal networks that some 4% of us are very offended, and on both types of network no one gets so upset as to be "insulted".

block or unfriend people on social networks

What we can conclude from all of this is that, in general, our willingness to tolerate doofuses is pretty high, and unless you're a complete nonce, you'll keep your social connections despite your bad behavior.

So, request connection to anyone and everyone because they'll probably accept if they have any idea of who you are, don't get bent out of shape if they don't connect because most people don't care, and if they do connect and then they change their mind, smile and move on. In general, getting connected is easy and once connected, we almost always stay connected. It's just like real life but at arm's length.

Gibbs is connected in Ventura, Calif. Friend him at and follow him on Twitter and (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater) and check out the Tech Predictions blog.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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