Social Media is about 3 things — connecting, creating, and engaging. Sounds easy enough, but the value of absolutely everything you do using social media will all go back to who you are engaging with. This is a real case of “garbage-in, garbage-out.” If you “friend” or connect with anyone and everyone without any concern about who or why, you will not get much out of all the time you may invest in your social media strategy. To make your social media strategy productive, efficient and successful, here are tips on creating a strong network.

There are two preliminary steps that are critical: First, have your target audience in mind. Your services/offer/store/business will not appeal to the entire world. Are you focusing on small business, a particular industry, a certain demographic, or a geographic region? Keep this on top of mind whenever you decide to seek out or accept connections. Second, have your objectives in mind. Are you creating visibility for your brand, driving traffic to your website, selling product? These questions may be harder to fold into your decision-making process, but keep them in the back of your mind as you proceed.

-Start out with a group of people/clients/prospects that you KNOW are the right audience for you, and connect with these folks first. Upload from your Outlook, ACT, GMail, AOL databases and invite all that make sense.
-Search your connection’s connections. Who are they connected to? If it’s a good business contact, chances are their connections/friends will work for you as well.
-Are there industry thought-leaders who talk about your topic? Connect with them. Who are THEY connected to?
-LinkedIn and Facebook make suggestions — examine these daily for more possible additions.
-Search for your old contacts, school-mates, work-mates, soccer-team buddies, church friends. These may be great direct sources for business (or they might not?) or may be great for referrals. Peruse membership of relevant groups — connect with members
-If you have been ReTweeted on Twitter, connect with that person.
-Ask a carefully- and strategically-chosen question on LinkedIn. Connect with the responders.
-Has anyone commented on your status post in Facebook or LinkedIn? Would they be a good connection?
-Use strategic hashtags in your Tweets to have people interested in your topic find and connect with you, then connect back
-Use the search function for Twitter http://www.search.twitter.com and use the advanced mode. Target well and you will find many great potential connections. Save it as a feed and you can revisit daily to find more good connections.
My own Point of View: beware of the applications that promise to connect you to hundreds and thousands of people. They will. But so what? Quality and relevance trumps quantity.

It’s important to keep expanding your connections in social media. But always be sure there is a well-thought-out strategy every time you go through the exercise. The quality of your network, and the payback it will give you, will be worth the extra time.