Reciprocal Behavior in Social Networks

Deleting Circles in Google Plus

I realize that I’ve been talking nonstop about Google+ lately. The thing is, when you’re at the BEGINNING of a new social network, you can learn some things that you’ve forgotten from your experiences with other networks. Google Plus is shiny and new, and it’s Google, so there are lots of things to consider ( as you saw in my Google+ 50). We’ll talk about non-Google-Plus stuff shortly, I promise.

Follow Me and I’ll Follow You?

I asked a question in Google+ that you might also consider:

Several people are mentioning they think reciprocal follows (if you follow me, I should follow you) SHOULDN’T be the norm on Google+ . What do YOU think?

Should You Reciprocate Following Behavior on a Social Network?

On Twitter, I follow everyone back who follows me, and I delete the spammers. I do this because I think of it as a courtesy. But the truth is, I don’t READ your posts all that often. How could I? I follow almost 200,000 people. If I followed one post from each person, and it took me a few seconds to read, each, that would be over 6700 HOURS of reading right there. My choice to follow back was a choice of courtesy. It also allows you to send me a direct message, which I think of as a nice courtesy (do you?)

But here’s what people said to the above question inside of Google+ (just a sampling of the almost 100 comments I got in the first few hours of posting it):

  • C.C. Chapman – I agree. Circles allow you to filter what you see. The power of Google+ lies in ME being in control of what I see.
  • Blake Sabatinelli – They shouldn’t be the norm. This will cut down on the noise…
  • Josh Fisher – I think, sure. Fresh chance to build your stream based solely on the CONTENT you find worthwhile, not based on expected social behavior.
  • Steven Hodson – I agree .. we have a chance to build a network of people that actually mean something to us.
  • Sthitaprajna Jena – It shouldn’t be reciprocal at all. If they like what you post, they follow you. Doesn’t have to mean you need to follow them
  • Christiaan Conover – Agreed. We need to stop thinking of it as a parallel to Facebook. The automatic two-way connection on Facebook is part of the problem.
  • Zack Hanebrink – That’s the beauty of circles, you can filter it how you like, so really doesn’t matter at the end of the day.
  • Ryan Speed – I think it’s a personal preference and just like other social networking sites, it’s not really something that a “best practices/expected use” policy should apply to.
  • Jen Reeves – I’m torn with this. I started out with reciprocal follows with Twitter an met so many new people that way. I haven’t been as reciprocal in G+ land.
  • Pedro Dias – If you want to make the most of any social service you follow people that interest you the most, not based on reciprocity.
  • Melissa Reyes – It should NOT be the norm. Follow people who will inspire you, teach you or make you laugh. Follow people you like!
  • Alana Joy – Initially, that was my strategy, however as more and more people began to follow it became more of a chore than anything and diluted even the “Following” circles stream. For brands, the circles will be ideal and the ability to show that kind of reciprocity will do well, but for individuals… keep it simple.
  • Shannon Clark – I’m not going to reciprocate. My circles will be limited to folks whom I want to send content out to (with the small exception of my “following” circle where I’ll add folks I want to be able to monitor easily w/o reciprocation expected. I’ll leave the 100’s of folks who follow me whom I don’t know in the “incoming” stream for now
  • Daniel Foster – Reciprocation is unsustainable. But it was cool to see that +Chris Brogan added me to a circle even though I’m a nobody. I’ll just imagine the name of that circle to be something nicer than “Nobodies Who Followed Me”
  • Jay Baer – Agreed. The notion of reciprocity is what killed Twitter as a true conversation venue.

It’s Obviously Your Choice

You can do what you want, obviously. Do what makes you feel comfortable. It’s your network.

The reason I reciprocated on Twitter was exactly related to what Daniel Foster said above:

Daniel Foster – Reciprocation is unsustainable. But it was cool to see that +Chris Brogan added me to a circle even though I’m a nobody. I’ll just imagine the name of that circle to be something nicer than “Nobodies Who Followed Me”

I never wanted to be perceived to be some kind of jerk who thinks he’s amazing and who doesn’t relate to other people well. Daniel represents the minds/moods of a LOT of people I come across in the social media world, and you might be ready to tell me that “that’s their problem” and that if their self-esteem hinges on whether you follow them back or not, then they’re maladjusted, but it’s just not true. We ALL like to feel like we’re on the inside of something. I dare you to disagree with that.

The other reason to reciprocate is that it builds a longer/larger broadcasting network capability. You can reach more people because their reciprocity puts your words in front of their eyes, in the pure marketing sense of things. That’s up to you how you use that power, and people who spam with it get unfollowed pretty quickly. But in my mind, that’s something to consider as well.

How Do You Build Your Social Networks?

How have YOU built your social networks? What value do you get from them? And how has that worked for you in the social networks where you play right now?

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