In this ever-changing world of social media, it's important to keep up with what the "cool kids" are doing online. Or are the "cool kids" spelling that with a "k," now, as in "Kool Kids?" I don't think we're supposed to call them "groovy" anymore, but I have noticed a resurgence in the term "hipsters," thanks to the occupy-everything movements.
Well, whatever you want to call them, it's a good idea to keep up with the techniques that work. Back in the good ol' days (circa 2009-2010), it was considered rude or in bad form online to simply use a social networking profile as another one-way broadcast medium. Only huge corporations with established name recognition like Coca-Cola or people who were just impossibly cool like Hollywood stars could get away with having gazillions of followers or friends and not really following anyone back.
However, as people tried to gain name recognition by "mutually following" everyone on the web, they found that their networks became full of people who were doing the exact same thing, and no one was really getting a lot of benefit out of it anymore.
Mashable started a good discussion on this over the weekend, specific to Twitter, but the concept also applies to Facebook or Google Plus or Pinterest, or whatever industry-specific social network you might be using. It's important to remember what the PURPOSE of your social network is.
So what is the purpose of your social network? Is it to drive traffic and links back to your blog? Is it to target your prospective customers, and give them a convenient way to communicate with you? Is it to actually develop a meaningful relationship with old friends from school? Is it to build your online reputation so a Google search for your name returns positive results in your current job search?
As you can imagine, the people you will want to include in your network will be different depending on your primary reason for social networking. If your only goal is blog traffic and links, then probably the old method of gaining as many followers as possible will work for you. If you are trying to build direct communication with your potential customer or client base, you might want to limit your "mutual" following to people in that demographic. If you're social network exists for personal reasons, you might want to increase your privacy settings, and network only with people you know personally. If you're wanting your online profile to look great in a job search, you'll need to maintain a public profile, and be very careful about what photos and comments you let those old friends from high school tag you in ;-)