Open Networking vs. Strategic Networking – Which Is More Effective?

 In Business Building Strategies, Facebook for Business, Professional Networking, Relationship Marketing

women_handshake Do you accept all friend requests on Facebook? And all contact requests on LinkedIn? Do you follow anyone on Twitter?

Or, are you more strategic in who you befriend?

Those people who tend to accept everyone into their network are typically referred to as “wide-open networkers.” Those who are more particular about who they let into their circle of friends may be called “strategic networkers.” (Then, there are those who use LinkedIn for professional purposes and Facebook for close personal friends and family, for example.)

Whether you’re a wide-open networker, like Viveka, or a strategic networker, like Peggy, or a bit of both like me, you’ve probably had to spend a little time deciding who to befriend and who to ignore on your various social networks.

[Blog jointly written by Viveka Von Rosen, Mari Smith and Peggy Dolane.]

image Viveka Von Rosen, @linkedinexpert:

Viveka Von Rosen is the CSMO (Chief Social Media Officer) of Integrated Alliances, and the Social Media and Marketing Director for The Executive Center.  A victim of expensive and ineffective traditional marketing, Viveka was able to double TEC’s business through social and F2F (face to face) networking.  It is now her passion in life to help others build their businesses through social media strategies.

I am what you might call a promiscuous networker.  In fact, I never say no to anyone (on LinkedIn that is!)  Folks like me are known in LinkedIn as LIONS (LinkedIn Open Networkers).  And to be completely transparent, LinkedIn doesn’t like us much.

Since I am in the field of social media strategy and marketing, I feel I need a giant network as a service to my clients.  In numbers this means I have 4200+ direct connections and 17+ million in my LinkedIn Network (and growing).  Both my Twitter and Facebook networks are significantly smaller only because I am a late-comer to both.

In my experience, the larger the network the bigger the portal into the LinkedIn world, and the more likely I am to find the diamond amongst the gravel that my clients are looking for.  It’s true I might not be able to give the warmest introduction to someone I don’t know well, (unless I do) but I am at least able to give an introduction.  A large network is most useful for Job Seekers and people in Sales and Recruiting where it is a numbers game.

“C” level folks will probably want to remain “LaMBs” (“Look at My Buds”) LaMBs (like Peggy) know everyone in their network, and if you are lucky enough to connect with one, you will find their network much more useful than a LION network.  LIONs love LaMBs. I can contact Peggy and I know she knows everyone in her network and could – should she choose – give me a very warm written, perhaps even verbal recommendation.

image Peggy Dolane, @freerangemom:

Peggy Dolane,  principal at Provient Marketing, designs  affordable marketing programs and writes engaging copy that turns your audience into customers.

My strategic network isn’t huge – it’s somewhere around 300 people.  That includes about 100 people I follow closely on Twitter, about 100 LinkedIn contacts (all of whom I have worked with or know personally), about 100 Outlook contacts, and perhaps 50 friends on Facebook.  I’m not counting the hundreds of families I know through my kid’s school, church or community service projects I’ve been involved in – but I probably should!

What it doesn’t have in numbers, it makes up in relationships.  I define my strategic network as my community – people I know well enough to ask for a favor.  My goal is to build relationships, not numbers of contacts.  I don’t accept every invitation I get on LinkedIn, for example, because every one of my LinkedIn contacts are people I’d feel confident in recommending their work and having it reflect back on me.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t actively mine LinkedIn via participating in groups and answering questions as opportunities to connect to new people.

I’m an open networker on StumbleUpon, Digg, and BizNik.  I use these networks to reach out to new and broader audiences.  Frankly, I’m still growing into my open network strategy.  I believe open networking has great value, but I’m still cautiously opening my network doors.  I’m fairly open on Twitter – following back nearly anyone who looks like I have something in common with and who isn’t just amassing followers.

image Mari Smith, @marismith:


Mari Smith is a Relationship Marketing Specialist and Social Media Business Coach.  Dubbed the Pied Piper of Facebook by Fast Company, Mari helps entrepreneurs grow their business profits using an integrated social marketing strategy with particular focus on Facebook and Twitter.

For Facebook, I would call myself a strategic networker more than an open networker. Unlike LinkedIn or Twitter where there are no limitations to the size of your network, Facebook caps your friends at 5,000. (Which is why I strongly recommend setting up a Facebook Fan Page – where you can have unlimited fans). I reached the 5,000 friend limit after about 16 months of strategic networking on Facebook.

My strategy from the beginning of my Facebook journey (July 2007) was to reach out to many well-known influential people in my industry: authors, speakers, trainers, internet marketers, even celebrity actors. (Leonardo Di Caprio was one of my first Facebook friends!)

If certain people were not yet on Facebook, I would find a way to contact them and help them understand the power of Facebook (which is why Fast Company calls me “The Pied Piper of Facebook!”)

Then, what I endeavor to do consistently is what I call “Radical Strategic Visibility” – that is, to be seen in all the right places at the right time by the right people.  Because of the News Feed feature of Facebook, by deliberately and strategically choosing all my activities, I can consistently appear in the Feeds of these highly influential friends and – over time – position myself as the industry expert.

I like to say “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know… and, more importantly, *who knows you.*” Facebook provides an unprecedented opportunity to position yourself consistently as THE go-to person in your niche/industry.

I’m also a huge advocate of the micro-blogging site, Twitter and tweet heartily in conjunction with being active on Facebook.

People to Follow

One of the great aspects of networking is meeting new people. With that in mind, here are a few recommended peeps to follow:

See also Twitter follow recommendations by Viveka and Peggy.




  • Mike Witt, — Mike’s passion is helping people grow their at-home businesses.  He has a network of 750+ friends on Digg that he uses judiciously, without spamming.


  • Chris Brogan – President, New Marketing Labs, a social media agency and education company.  Facebook Fan Page.
  • Jeremiah Owyang – Senior Analyst at Forrester Research and popular web strategist. Web Strategy Facebook Group.
  • Ali Brown – Founder & CEO of Alexandria Brown International, leading women worldwide to create amazing lives for themselves via entrepreneurship.  Facebook Profile.
  • Kevin Nations – Specialist in Big Ticket profits. Kevin’s Blog.

image Join Viveka, Peggy and Mari LIVE on Twitter on Wednesday, January 14, 2009, 5pm PT / 8pm ET to explore more about the pros and cons of open vs. strategic networking.

HERE’S HOW: To read and participate in the live networking tweet-in, log in with your Twitter username at and enter the room for #lion.


[Or, watch the tweets at this search string and chip in with your own #lion tweets from your favorite Twitter app.]

What type of networker are you?  Open (“lion”), Strategic (“lamb”), or your own hybrid style? Write your comment below about your networking style.

Mari Smith

Forbes Top Social Media Power Influencer | Facebook Marketing Expert | Globe-trotting Speaker, Author | 'Mari like Ferrari' | Bubbly Scottish-Canadian!

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  • Hi – my first comment ‘errored’ out so let’s try that again. 🙂
    Thank you – as usual very useful and practical information. Your info is rich with insight and information one can apply immediately. Very valuable indeed. Thanks so much.

    Julette Milliens last blog post..Own Your Pain! It’s part of the healing process

  • I love learning from Mari and her pals! As a natural “connector” (of people and ideas), I’m in heaven with all these new networking tools. Although, I am a baby in experience and haven’t even tried some of them yet.

    I’m definitely a hybrid. I am planning ahead for more strategic elements, I know all my peeps on Linked-in, use FB for OPEN networking, for sure (and playing scrabble!)

    Excited to keep learning!


  • Jay Aaron


    Now that you’ve written this marvelous piece regarding the distinctions between “open” and “strategic” networking, anyone who reads it will, by default, now be a “strategic networker.”


    Because when you have the conscious awareness of these distinctions, then (like you and me) you can determine which kind of networker to be on a case-by-case basis, according to the circumstances, your ultimate Purpose, and your particular desired outcome.

    Going to a local “networking” meeting? Will you attempt to meet as many people as possible or focus your time and attention only on meeting potential clients or collaborators? Whichever suits your Purpose best.

    Will you “follow” the vast majority of those who follow you on Twitter (as I do) in order to expand your network and influence, and discover trends? Or will you only follow and focus on your closest friends and colleagues (and not overwhelmed by the number of Tweets that you receive)? Whatever suits your Purpose best.

    Now that you’ve enlightened your readers, Mari, they can’t go back. They’re all “strategic” networkers, determining whether to be “open” or “strategic” in their approach on a case-by-case basis, according to their Purpose and which best serves them to achieve their desired outcome.

    Jay Aaron
    Strategic Visionary / Visionary Strategist
    Creator of the Success Mastery (TM) System

    Jay Aarons last blog post..Creating Success: What’s the “Right” Thing to Do?

  • This is an excellent post and made me think a bit about my networking strategy. I consider myself a hybrid: semi LION and semi LaMB. I tend to feel that the bigger the network the better because you never know who is going to cross your path and become your next client, customer, jv partner, etc. The tools are so user-friendly, that if someone abuses the “relationship” or is offensive or inappropriate (for you), you simple unfriend or block them. I guess for me, it’s innocent until proven guilty!

    And, thank you Mari for including me on your twitter follow list! I’m follow every single person the list and agree 100%

    Denise Wakemans last blog 8 Tips for Creating Video Tips

  • Mari, I’ve been amazed at how many people are struggling with how far open to be on line. It’s easy for those of us who are on-line all the time to remember that a ton of people view open networking as posting their photo on FaceBook so their friends and family can see it.

    We all benefit from defining for ourselves what our internet networking strategy will be. I think this is just the beginning of a long, evolving discussion!

  • I’ve always been a strategic networker.I use Linked in for solely professional contacts… I can say that every one in my Linked in profile I know or have spoken to and can recommend or refer etc. I don’t accept all invites, but at the same time sometimes wonder if I should change that. So far I haven’t. I want to build relationships – I’m not fussed about numbers.

    Until now my Facebook profile has been purely personal. I am much more informal on that network and again tend to add people I know and I have lots of friends and family. I don’t necessarily use it for business, but it doesn’t exclude it because on it I met many entrepreneurs who are now my friends. I suppose you could say it’s entirely social networking, I want to keep my business and personal life separate.

    I am thinking of setting up a fan page though under my business profile… I was quite inspired by your fan page Mari. That way I can possibly get the benefits of the business side of FB.

    Twitter is almost all professional, but with more of my personality than LinkedIn. I also use Stumble Upon however not in terms of networking, so there’s a new idea. I shall, meanwhile, book mark this post.

    Nicky Jamesons last blog post..7 Reasons People Don’t Comment on Your Blog

  • JIll

    Great info on navigating the maze of social networking!

    JIlls last blog post..What Successful Sales People Know

  • Mari,
    Wow you’ve been on FB since July 2007? That awesome what you have done since then. I want to be like you when I grow up! LOL Thanks for sending people to my new Facebook pages. You are definitely a great example of relationship marketing. I have some followers that became of a fan of your pages because I talk about you so much! 🙂

    Naomi Trowers last blog post..What Are You Searching For Most in Your Business?

  • Mari

    thanks for yet another great post on the complexities and sophistications of this new phenomena.

    For my part, I’ve found it really difficult to decide how to balance time with wanting to connect everywhere.

    I’ve also found both Linked In and Facebook to be difficult networking platforms.

    You’re generosity in explaining what you’ve found pioneering for the rest of us is much appreciated and valued.


  • Brenda Heisler


    Thanks for your list of those 17 to follow. I was already following 6 of those because I could see they were key people. Much appreciated.

    Brenda Heislers last blog post..We Come A Long Way, Baby

  • This is a wonderful post, Mari.

    It’s a fine line to tread because some of the people who want to network with me don’t necessarily add anything to my business, but I love contributing to them.

    They say you can tell a lot about someone by how he/she treats a human being they have nothing to gain from.

    From my experience, I also know that cream always rises to the top, so those who don’t find value in networking with me, they’ll unsubscribe or stop following on Twitter, or unfriend on Facebook.

    And then I’ve also discovered that their biggest value wasn’t how WE connected, but who else they connected me to.

    Again, great thought provoking blog. Thanks for posting it.

  • I’m very strategic on Linked In – only people I know personally and can vouch for are linked to me and all are business owners or VP and above. I have just 125 contacts there ! On Facebook I am careful who I invite and who I accept but the game plan was to have a broad field of contacts from amongst the famous and the unkown across the globe. With 2,600 friends I believe I have accomplished that goal. I have had fascinating debates, received (and I hope given) useful advice. I think at the end of the day it’s down to personal strategy. I haven’t mentionned Ecademy where I also am profiled … but… doesn’t thrill me !!

    Gillians last blog post..How not to use social media – day 2

  • Ron Outlaw

    Hi Mari,
    I just wanted you to know that you’re the first person on that twitter site i’ve met, that has given out pertinent information without trying to sale something.
    I wish there were more like you out there.


  • Jan Malloch

    I am definitely an open networker! In my opinion, if you pick and choose too much, then you might be missing some really valuable networking opportunities out there!

    You know the saying – Don’t judge a book by its cover……

  • Mari, I really like your quote …more importantly who knows you. This is a fun post to read and it’s full of great points. Relationships are KEY to success for businesses struggling in this economy. Currently the customer is running things and the economy is tight. The key is to meet the customer on a level, that makes them feel like you (as a business) care. A great example of reaching customers on their level can be found in a post by Walter Pinson called
    Hyundai schools us on Relationship Marketing

    Beth Pinsons last blog post..Hyundai schools us on Relationship Marketing

  • Abdul ghafoor

    Interesting discussion. I am inclined to favor open Networking as compared to Strategic or Institutional networking. How to incorporate adopt Open Networking in F2F and how to channel contacts of Social Media in F2F networking. Asia Business Club – ABC ( is a social network promoting Open Networking Events (ONE). We have started from Kuala Lumpur and intend to take it in cities around the world. We are looking for support of all kind Technology tutorials, Social Media Strategy and promotion, Physical Networking and other areas are all open for accepting support. Cheers.

  • Steven Burda

    Great stuff !!!


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