I’ve been hanging out in Twitter for a couple of weeks now. It’s generally amusing, and in some ways I can see it as useful. In a way, it’s simply the most interesting part of Facebook (status updates) without the lame and cloying attempts at “fun”. But one thing that’s irritating about it is the “social media experts” and the “u 2 cn get rich” crowd. I would go on about this, but Michael Pinto has done a great job already in his post Social Media “Experts” are the Cancer of Twitter (and Must Be Stopped).

Instead I want to focus on a subset of Twitter users, the “Friend Troll”. These people post multiple tweets, encouraging everyone to connect with them on other social media sites, usually LinkedIn. Now the premise of LinkedIn is that people use it to build connections between people that they know and trust. Obviously someone who gets the bulk of his or her connections from random Twitter followers is not adhering to this principle, which debases the entire concept.

I’m pretty sure that LinkedIn introduced the “Recommendations” feature as a way to combat this, but there’s nothing to stop a savvy user from trolling for those, so it’s of limited usefulness.

So what’s required is some way to measure the level of respect that someone has for the sites that they inhabit. I have decided that, at least for sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, that the friend count / number of connections is a good metric. Unfortunately, LinkedIn generalizes the connection count, so “500+” is the best we have to work with. Let’s run with that for a moment. Assume the person is 40 years old, and has been working for 20 years. That’s just over two friends per month, for every single month. Roughly two weeks per person.

Maybe I’m a poor judge of character, but two weeks of accumulated interaction with a person is, in my experience, not enough time to build a stable trust relationship. By contrast if I take as an example a very personable fellow who I have worked with, who I trust, and who is CEO of a publicly traded software company, I see just under 100 connections.

So after surveying my connections profiles, I have developed the “LinkedIn Connection Credibility Metric”.

  • 1-10 Connections: You are either antisocial, or don’t “get” social media.
  • 11-100 Connections: You’re “regular folk” and consider your connections before making them.
  • 101-250 Connections: Difficult. If you have a customer facing job, your connections could be credible. If you don’t, then you probably include anyone you’ve met in business and thus your connections are questionable.
  • 251-500 Connections: If making connections with people is your only full time job, then this is possible, but still your connections are met with scepticism. If there are solid, meaningful recommendations to back up your connections, then maybe.
  • 500+ Connections: Give me a break. If I connected with you, either I knew you before you went over to the dark side, or for some reason I thought you might be useful as a portal to someone I want to work with. Yes, I’m using you. But then again, you probably think that’s what social media is about.