Andy Bourland makes a great point that social networking sites (such as Facebook, Linked-in, and MySpace) provide the advantage of creating relationships online in a way that one-way correspondence using an autoresponder service to a mailing list cannot.
Yet that’s just part of the picture.
These sites are an essential part of doing your online due diligence before entering into a business deal with someone. For you not only learn about common ground but also fatal character flaws that will prevent you from doing a joint venture (JV) deal, writing a testimonial, etc.
Let me give you two examples. Real names will not be used in order to protect the identities of those involved.
Mr. X has a great software product and he’s looking for JV partners to bankroll and promote it. A review of Mr. X’s Meetup groups shows that this married man has joined several singles groups. Whether or not you agree with adultery, Mr. X has just told you that his home life is unstable. Want to invest your time and money in a business venture that will blow up because of divorce? Just because he plays with fire is no reason for you to get burned. In fact, knowing about his messy personal life, you’re unlikely to recommend him to your friends.
Ms. Y is considered a successful Internet marketer, published author, and public speaker. Imagine your shock upon visiting her MySpace profile (yes, it really is her profile) and discover that the profile is sexually explicit with a swingers theme. Once again, it isn’t a matter of passing moral judgment. It is a matter of questioning her business judgment. Do you want to do a JV deal, or even have your name associated by a testimonial, with Ms. Y? How will your association with Ms. Y affect your business?
In sum, take advantage of what’s available through social networking to avoid the pitfalls of doing business with someone who can hurt your pocketbook or reputation.