Is it Time to Cull Your Social Networks?

Social Overload Word CloudFriends. Followers. Contacts. Circles. Social networks can be fun and productive for work or pleasure.

But social networks are also time consuming – more than most of us probably care to admit. With the average person reported to have 130 friends and growing on Facebook alone, the continuous flow of updates from individuals and organizations is overwhelming. From that page you liked on Facebook, to that industry pundit you follow on Twitter, and many others in between, everybody is updating, tweeting, posting, liking, checking in, sharing, +1ing…

Here's the thing. It's too much. Admit it. You're overwhelmed.

I've declared a few times on Facebook and Twitter my plans to carry out a cull. A few people or pages get dropped. But...what if that person notices? What if that ex-colleague goes to work somewhere interesting? What if I miss that industry announcement or insider tip? Better not be too harsh, better stay connected.

I’m now on five social networks – four public ones and one closed network for work (Yammer). This week I’ve faced the truth: it's too much. Time for a cull. But where to start?

Facebook

I know instinctively that Facebook is my personal space – it's where friends and family share photos and post personal updates. It's where I go to get away from work – not to blend the personal and professional.

Step one: un-friend work-only contacts and pages. Step two: move them to LinkedIn or Twitter depending on their social media activity; do I want to only want to keep in contact with them (LinkedIn) or read what they have to say (Twitter)?

Twitter

I maintain several accounts for myself and work, and the work accounts have clear objectives and strategies. My own, I freely admit, doesn't. It's a collection of personal and work interests, and I'm a generous follower.

Time for a change. This is the worrying bit – do I follow my instinct, and cull anybody I don't regularly find useful? Will I miss out? What will happen to my follower volume? Should I care?

I’ve decide to not rush in here – analyzing hundreds of followers and then making bulk changes, whether un-following or adding them to lists, isn’t particularly easy and I’ve yet to find a tool with all the functionality I want to speed this up. Instead, I’m removing accounts I don’t find useful when I see messages from them – cleaning up my Twitter stream as I go.

LinkedIn & Yammer

LinkedIn is the easiest to keep under control – I’m cautious of adding anybody who approaches me (especially recruiters). Yammer, as a B2B network, is even easier to keep relevant - I have 100 percent control over groups and who I follow (OK, so I’m an admin, which helps.)

Google Plus

Now that's a blank canvas. So how will I avoid repeating the mistakes I've drifted into on Facebook and Twitter?

Circles. I’ve immediately setup three – Work, Family & Friends and Acquaintances. I know I’ll add a further one for “Hobbies & Sports” when businesses and organizations have official pages. I might split my work circle up in future – but I'm keeping them small, and have already started consciously ignoring some followers who I don’t want in my circles.

Social Media Relevancy

If I used to be your friend on Facebook, or I no longer mutually follow you on Twitter, sorry. Relevancy has been one of the underpinning characteristics of the biggest success story of digital – search – and the same applies to social media.

Life’s too short, too busy, and too rushed for the irrelevant. For that attitude, I won’t apologize.

About the author

Duncan Parry, COO of STEAK, began his career in search in 1999 at Lycos, during the early days of the industry.  

In 2002 he joined PPC engine Espotting and rose to the position of Agency Editorial Manager, working on campaigns for some of Europe's leading brands. He left Espotting in 2004 to work as a consultant in both paid and natural search, during which time his clients included publisher VNU's portfolio of UK IT, finance and recruitment websites.  

In 2005 he reunited with ex-Espotting colleagues to found STEAK. His roles at the agency have spanned PPC, SEO and Insight, as well commenting and writing in trade press for the agency, and contributing to STEAK’s social presence.