Trying to determine the value of a friend in social media can be challenging, almost as much as it in real face to face life. Thinking about our digital relationships is quite interesting in terms of understanding value. In determining this we need to understand the different forms of relationships and why we have them.
Facebook’s purpose is social interaction with our extended network. Overlapping the use of your Facebook profile that is connected to your college buddies and nephews is not the same profile that should be connected to your business peers. If a user is too focused on one side or the other with a blended profile, their “friends” will lose interest and turn down the volume or cut them off completely. It’s like being stuck next to the old friend at a dinner party that talks about their work. Even worse, a business dinner that you are stuck next to the new parent who is struggling with potty training. Real friends provide context by understanding their audience and therefore have far greater impact (and greater value). To obtain the highest value from your friends in Facebook, make sure they are the friends you do want to be “social” with, and create a separate fanpage for your business. If your real friends are interested in your business they will be a fan of your business too.
When you want to boost your ego or build your brand, then tweet away. Yes, I am actually writing something positive about Twitter. I admit it, I have converted. But, and I mean a very strong “but”, when used effectively. There are a lot of tools to build your followers (twitter’s version of friends). I am happy that others are interested in the links and things that I share and appreciate their insight. Like many professionals, I use twitter to find other interesting links and things that others are sharing. The value of me following all of my “followers” would be merely to increase the noise in the feeds that I get. I have never been a fan of scrolling endlessly. Sharing my daily grind of how many shots of espresso I have consumed or my favourite chocolate is best left to my friends on Facebook, as I do not wish to create anymore noise for my followers. Besides, who I am following is also a resource to my followers. If there are interested in what I am saying, they are probably also interested in who I am listening to. It should therefore have context. They can see that I am real in the variation of my shared links as they vary from my personal reads like “Anatomy of Peace” to reports from the Skoll Forum on Social Entrepreneurship to new media tools or articles like Business Week’s Byrne and Baker’s podcast on the value of our digital relationships for advertising.
Let’s not forget LinkedIn which is a great business networking tool. I am not going to hang out on it all day making small talk with my connections. I visit when I am looking for someone or something specific or adding a new connection. The groups and connections that I have in LinkedIn are based on real interactions. We worked together, participated in face to face networks together, studied together, met at conferences around the world and shared a conversation, had meaningful conversations from which we can refer back to and/or share mutual professional interests. All of which provide a basis for me being able to refer them to someone or them to me. I make a point of placing a high value on the connections and therefore not connecting with the ones to whom I come home with card in hand. So, I may not have thousands of contacts in LinkedIn, but in each of them there is something we mutually offer in terms of a reference.
Amassing a huge contact/friend/follower base has never been a high value in itself. Unless you are one of those unusual people who never forgets a face or a conversation, but that is mostly the exception. What it comes down to is authenticity and the value and integrity of those connections. Their value to an advertiser is not the same as what they are worth to you. Your value does come down to your influence and that can only be created by your own integrity.