Stowe Boyd on "The Ethics and Etiquette of Social Networks"

Never mind that I’m a month late blogging this, it’s still something I consider a must-read for anyone exploring the wide wonderful world of online social networks for business purposes: The Ethics and Etiquette of Social Networks.

In particular, I think his comments are spot on about invitations to join…

I have received a lot of responses from people who are politely trying to say “I’m too busy to fiddle around with the [fill in the blank] social networking service you have invited me to join, but thanks for thinking of me” or the equivalent.

To everyone that has ever received or will ever receive an invitation from me to join a social networking service, let me say unequivocally: You have every right to say no, I will understand that you are busy and I won’t be upset if you say “no.” I believe that everyone should operate under this same modus operandi, and that so long as we all do so, the perceived risk and social cost of asking someone to join is lessened for everyone.

and requests for introductions…

Likewise, I operate under a simple principle regarding requests for introduction: If I know neither the requestor nor the target, I pass on the introduction. In a recent instance, this led to a semi-aggrieved e-mail from a pal of mine who had brokered the attempted request. He stated that turning down a request of the sort I did for the reasons I stated undermined the raison d’etre for social networking applications. I argued (and I still hold) that social networkers who hope to beat the nature of social capital will find that such introductions are not worth much: a form of spam, in effect. Many wiser than me have argued that introductions bereft of actual social capital — where the one making the introduction is placing his or her reputation on the line — are no more helpful than randomly meeting someone.

Stowe gets this topic as well as anyone I know. He consistently presents a balanced, yet optimistic view of this space. He’s also one of the few who, as I am, seems more concerned with how businesspeople are going to actually use these tools than whether or not there’s a business model there. If you’re not already reading his blog, Get Real, add it to your list.