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Are You Judged By The Company You Keep In The Social Media Age?

We’ve all of us been told at some point in life that we’re judged by the company we keep. This advice however was borne in a pre-internet era, a time when social media couldn’t even have been imagined. So how does this bode in 2012, in a world where we can make connections from across the globe by simply opening up an account on the social media platform of your choice

A relationship is, as defined by Oxford Dictionaries

“the way in which two people or things are connected, or the state of being connected”

Throughout life’s journey we’ll all enjoy a series of them – family, friends, school/college friends, romantic relationships, work colleagues, business associates, customers and others who fleetingly dip in and out of your life as events dictate.

All parties to the relationship know who and why they’re involved, their responsibilities and what ultimately each hopes to achieve from it.  As you become older and wiser, you tend to become more selective with those people you choose to interact or spend time with.

Relationships in the Social Media age

But what about business relationships in the Social Media age however, where according to the Oxford definition a connection through Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter could constitute a “relationship”?  In this case a relationship with an unknown entity, where you may not even know whether the other party is male/female, their first name and little or nothing about them at all?

Think about it for a moment…

  • You receive a Linkedin request from an unknown, rather than simply reject do you view connections and make a decision as to whether it might suit you professionally?
  • You get a new follower on Twitter with a quirky handle and their bio says website not yet ready, do you check out their followers or previous tweets?
  • You get frequent pointless comments on your Facebook page from a company who don’t offer any real value yet aren’t really spamming you either, do you check out their own page before deciding whether to block them or not?
  • You see an update that’s in poor taste, or contains particularly strong opinions or bad language that you’re not comfortable with, do you unfollow or unlike there and then, or do you look in more detail at the context and decide whether it was a one-off or the side effect of an engagement with a third party?

Chances are you make some of the above checks, or others?  I know I certainly do and please feel free to share in the comments if you do do even a little research on a new connection.

Thus, if there’s even the slightest opportunity for another person to make a decision on you based on those you engage with via social media platforms isn’t it perhaps wise to look at those you engage with and decide as to whether they serve a purpose or are likely to impact on you without your knowledge, either positively or negatively?

Here are ten personality types that could affect your popularity or otherwise online, see how many you can identify and whether it’s time for a little spring cleaning?

The Creator

This person creates content and shares information and ideas in a positive way.  They’re happy to share their experience and you can learn from them, or make valuable contacts through them.  These are great people to have in your network as they’re warmly received by others too and tend to create for themselves a virtual community with common interests or ideals.

The Activist

Always ready to fight the cause, no matter how near or far away or how relevant or otherwise it is to their everyday life.  Social media has given them a voice and they intend to use it.  While you may be entertained, or even agree with their sentiments on occasion, do you think you’d like your fans or followers to believe that because you’re friendly online that you share their views?

The Joker

They can be entertaining at first, but a stream of jokes that range from funny to daft to offensive with little of substance in-between will eventually bore or offend you enough to remove yourself.  The trick with this one is to decide if  the occasional giggle is worthy of the more usual humorous updates of their taste.

The Friend

This is the person who makes the effort to get to know those who’ve followed, connected with, circled or liked them – and not just for whatever’s in it for them.  They take an interest in people and are great for building networks.  These people are great connections to have, as undoubtedly they’ll go to great lengths to introduce you to other likeminded souls and they’re quite likely to take the community offline too developing real-world friendships too.

The Spammer

They auto-tweet on the hour and share every single update from their favourite website with you, even if that particular website boasts hundreds of thousands of followers for a reason and they’ve got ten!  They rarely create any original content of their own, but are quite happy to chat about anything and everything in between sharing the work of others.

The Know-All

Think of a topic and they know all about it.  Doesn’t matter that their professional expertise is in one area, they know all about everybody else’s business too – and they make sure that everybody knows just how great they are.

The Nice Guy

They enjoy some light banter but never try to sell you anything or force their opinion on you.  They’re not caught up in growing their numbers, preferring to log on occasionally and have a chat before heading back to their offline world again.  These are nice connections to make, never controversial and enjoyable company online when they appear.

The Guru

The term “guru” in somebody’s bio or info section should send out alarm bells in itself, but if they’re a social media guru with 20,000 tweets and 54 followers there’s something seriously wrong.  Same goes if they’re a “guru” in one given topic yet updates cover almost anything except their area.

The Complainer

Big fans of naming and shaming, they complain openly about customers when a deal falls through or about another business who don’t  want to air their dirty linen in public and have expressed a preference to professionally take the complaint offline.  Then they try and encourage all their social media “friends” to join in the chat too!

The Follower

They follow everybody they come across and when they’re not followed back, they unfollow – even follow a second or third time, in an attempt to make sure that they’ve been noticed.  They also go to the trouble of telling you on your facebook page that they’ve liked you – and just where they can find your page so you can return the favour!

The very nature of social media lends itself to research on businesses and individuals with so much more information available in the public domain than ever before.  If you are therefore going to consider forging a connection with another, is it reasonable to assume that you’ll be judged not just by what you say but by your interactions with others too?  And more so than the mere interactions, will you be judged by the types of people you interact with?

Image: “pressing Social Network/Shutterstock

Debbie McDonnell is the owner of who work with SMEs across a range of sectors in Social Media, Digital Marketing & Traditional Marketing. She has worked with major brands on and offline, is a Graduate of both The Marketing Institute of Ireland and The Digital Marketing Institute and has over 20 years professional experience.

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  • Hi Debbie, welcome to Bloggertone, this is a great first post! I have little doubt that we are now judged by the company you keep online. Where previously people were judged on the number of followers/friends etc, people now consider the types of interactions we make and who we interact with. This is also a large part of the reason while tools like Klout, while not perfect are gaining traction. Also, I’m loving the ten personality types, great fun and I know bumped into them all (online) at this stage.   

  • Thanks Niall 🙂  We’ve all come across a variety of characters online and while it can make for some very interesting conversations, I think the trick is to choose wisely who you engage with and on what topics as you’re never quite alone on social media.  

  • Debi Harper

    Fantastic first post Debbie, really enjoyable,it was a very entertaining read and one many of us can relate to:) Looking forward to your next masterpiece.

  • Hi Debbie,

    Love your first post!
    It’s far too easy to connect online, and even if you regret the choice, you feel guilty severing the contact (and worried about what will be said).
    I’m not convinced that many online check who they are connecting with, which is a shame.
    The worst kind of connections are those that make an effort to build a relationship with you, then disappoint you by spamming or hard selling – grrr

  • Great article Debbie!
    I have only just started my own little business, but I can already see the Social Media takes up so much time and it can be a full time job on its own. I wonder where is the line, specially on Twitter, to separate your offline persona with your online one, specially if you are tweeting on the name of your company.

    Regarding following people, I do look at their BIO and their tweeting activity. I don’t follow inactive accounts, even if their website is a good one.

  • Love it Debbie! I always check my new followers, followers and who they follow! There is one account that I have not followed yet and probably wont as the keep following and un-following me, so very tempted  to block them!!  From now on I will be curious as to which of the ten personality types they fall into ! Wendy

  • Hi Beatriz,

    Thanks for your feedback – I’m with you on the inactive accounts, definitely not worth following and the bio definitely matters too.  

    People often find that social media can take up a lot of time initially, especially twitter.  You will find that you settle into a schedule that suits you and works for you and your business over time.  Alternatively you can allow yourself 30mins in the morning and/or evening or similar so that you have to log off – this works for a lot of people who aren’t sitting at a screen all day.

    Best of luck with the new business, is looking good 🙂

  • Hi Christina,

    Many thanks for the feedback, always great to hear from people in the same business too.  

    I’m totally in agreement with checking who exactly you are connecting with, especially having come across some profiles requesting a connection who on further investigation don’t appear to be visible anywhere else online!  

    As for the spamming and hard selling, well that could fill a whole other post 🙂

  • Hi Debi,

    Many thanks for the feedback, glad to hear you enjoyed it.  I imagine most of us have come across at least some of these characters online, the trick is in deciding which are good or bad for you.

  • Hi Wendy,

    Many thanks for the feedback.  You’re not alone in your frustrations with the persistent followers.  I’ve been known to block some who don’t appreciate that you’re not obliged to follow back unless they are likely to be of interest to you, find it easier than getting irritated by the same account following you for the fourth or fifth time!

  • Brilliant first post Debbie.  I think whether we care to admit it or not we’ve been/are all of the above at different stages.  While I know we do it (judging) I tend to look past the initial “blurb” and will friend/follow/accept request from most people.  If they turn out to be someone I don’t like I’ll just as quickly unfriend/unfollow/block if required.

    I know many will argue that that takes too much time, however building up relationships also takes time and people buy from people they build relationships with more often than not. Many people are getting rotten advice and using it, so staying friends with some of these people, even if only for a short time to re-educate them can sometimes (not always) lead them to being clients of yours.

    I’ve often been told by people I’m not what they expected when they met me face to face, both in a good and a bad way. It’s a lot like talking to someone on the phone, we develop an opinion of them which often does not match up when meeting them. It’s very easy to be “more” or “less” you behind a computer screen than it is face to face.

  • Thanks Niall 🙂  We’ve all come across a variety of characters online and while it can make for some very interesting conversations, I think the trick is to choose wisely who you engage with and on what topics as you’re never quite alone on social media.

  • The word SOCIAL is taking on a heightened importance in every aspect online.
    Hi Debbie – great engaging first post, and one that everyone can associate with on one level or another. Having being involved with Social Media and Social Networking for 4 years now, I see shifting patterns constantly. I agree that SN has become more socially focussed and not all about numbers anymore, as is the Internet in general.One thing many people seem to oversee is that whether we communicate online or offline, we are still human beings and have not lost our gut instincts and emotional intelligence.
    It’s time to rely on them again, and accept that we are all complicated creatures, and even online, nothing is black or white :))
    And it’s all ever so interesting 🙂

  • Hi Elaine, 

    Thanks for your comments and totally agree that there have been significant shifts over the years and this will continue to be.  I remember creating my first professional social media accounts and being thrilled to reach 100 and then 1000, but then realising that the less emphasis on the brand the more engaged the conversation and the greater the traffic to our company site.  Since then I’ve always maintained that quality over quantity is the way forward and that flexibility is crucial too.

    People always fascinate, will be interesting to see where our journeys take us in 2012

  • Hi Mairead,

    Many thanks for the feedback.  Certainly lots of people do posses the chameleon-like ability to adapt their persona to suit the situation whether online or offline and for those it’s a trait to be admired if they’re comfortable with it.  I’m a firm believer in going with my gut instinct and to date it’s seldom let me down.  

    Perhaps our two very different approaches to dealing with connections proves the point that we are judged on social media – you give them the opportunity to prove they’re worthy of the relationship by observing their activities after you connect, I on the other hand don’t connect unless I’m happy with what I see. That’s not to say however I would reject all connections without a visible history as there are always new accounts that need a bit of a boost to get started, but if I don’t feel comfortable that they’re sharing accurate information or misleading others I’m off.

  • I think with the whole social media effort in business, it is as important as ever as businesses need to keep closer contact with their customers. This is extra important too as more and more people are now doing their shopping online.

  • Sian and Martin, thanks so much for the great feedback! I know it’s probably pretty obvious, but we often forget that spending time on things which don’t motivate us much = zero productivity = very little progress!

  • Is the hashtag #TYBcommunity a general hashtag or a tag for Twitter chats?

  • It’s a bit of both – can be used when people suggest posts to us as well so we know what it’s for. Thanks for the comment 🙂

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