By now, I think we can all agree that social media is a core component of any marketing plan in 2019.

Enough has been said about abusing social media, but what about leveraging it properly? Are you even maximizing the potential of these platforms in the first place? Do you even understand their potential or are you totally misunderstanding their role in your work flow? There is a reason they are called social networks, but are you really using them to be social and increase your networking?

Let's take LinkedIn as a case study. I think a good way to answer the question of whether you, as a professional, are using these platforms in the optimal way is to ask: What are your criteria for adding or accepting someone on LinkedIn?

Based on my research, most people respond to that question with "I add people on LinkedIn who I have either worked with or who I know personally."

And that is exactly the wrong answer. Here is why:

You don't need an online platform to talk to your neighbor.

To only accept people you have worked with or people you know offline as LinkedIn connections is basically defeating the whole purpose of this platform. The same is true for all social networks. If you only approve Facebook friends who you know in real life, well, that is not very social, now is it? That is basically the equivalent of the guy who goes to the party with his roommate to talk to his roommate only.

You want to speak to your good friend? Send them an email, call them, text them. You don't need a social network for that. 

Now no one is telling you that you need to connect with every single person who sends you an invite, but literally, as I write these words, I just got a friend request from someone with whom I have hundreds of mutual friends, and who works in my field at one of the hottest companies on earth. I would have to be a fool to reject that friend request.

These networks are supposed to facilitate more opportunities.

I cannot tell you how many times I accepted a LinkedIn or Facebook connection because we shared many common friends and interests, and that connection ended up turning into a huge opportunity for me and them.

If you are working with someone or have worked with someone, that ship has sailed and you have already collaborated, not to say you won't work together again in the future, but once again, for that to happen, you don't need an online social network.

By loosening your criteria to connect online, you are enabling connections to people who would otherwise have been inaccessible to you and you to them, which is the point of these platforms in the first place.

The Internet makes the world smaller, and you are missing out on that.

The thing with business in general is that it is all based on trust and relationships. Without that, you can't do marketing, sales, or business development. Before the social web was invented, the only people you could build trust with were people you have met in real life.

The whole beauty of these platforms is that they help you expand your horizons and increase your circles of trust. By only allowing people who you know into those circles, you are basically preaching to the choir and building trust with those with whom you already have it. 

Use these platforms to connect with people you do not know, people with whom you have never worked, people who seem to share interests with you and what you are in essence doing is leveraging the worldwide web to scale the potential of your business.

To be very clear, I am only talking about a business context here, not someone who uses social networks for personal reasons only. If you are an entrepreneur looking to build a successful business, stop thinking of these platforms as sales tools or a get-together of close friends. Start thinking about platforms as a global summit of the world's top professionals who are waiting and eager to work with you.