Two stories recently about how we may be overdoing it when it comes to our social network friends.
One in Wired:
Once a group reaches a certain size, each participant starts to feel anonymous again, and the person they’re following — who once seemed proximal, like a friend — now seems larger than life and remote. “They feel they can’t possibly be the person who’s going to make the useful contribution,” Evans says. So the conversation stops. Evans isn’t alone. I’ve heard this story again and again from those who’ve risen into the lower ranks of microfame. At a few hundred or a few thousand followers, they’re having fun — but any bigger and it falls apart. Social media stops being social. It’s no longer a bantering process of thinking and living out loud. It becomes old-fashioned broadcasting.
Another in The Times:
Dunbar is now studying social networking websites to see if the “Facebook effect” has stretched the size of social groupings. Preliminary results suggest it has not. “The interesting thing is that you can have 1,500 friends but when you actually look at traffic on sites, you see people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 people that we observe in the real world,” said Dunbar. “People obviously like the kudos of having hundreds of friends but the reality is that they’re unlikely to be bigger than anyone else’s.
As my colleague John Ratcliffe-Lee says,
you’ve got thousands of people who follow you on twitter? here’s a sticker.
Whether you have 15 or 15,000 friends, followers or whatever there are two things that are important to keep in mind:
First, it’s not the size of the group, it’s how those people map to the goals you’re reaching for. If you’ve got a huge following on Twitter but your key success metric is pageviews on a website, then that’s what you need to be paying attention to. A huge following that doesn’t result in those goals being met is meaningless and you need to make sure you have a strategy to convert that interest into action.
Second, at any given time a social network user is not interacting with their entire group of followers. We can’t possibly organize location-specific services with state-wide government, so we chunk it into counties, cities and wards in order to more efficiently manage the needs of residents. The same goes on social networks, where we interact with the East Coast people in the morning, the West Coast people in the afternoon. Or we have specific threaded conversations with the other movie blog writers we know or a couple of social media marketing types. No, I’m not going to add value to anyone – including myself – by trying to respond and converse with everyone I follow on Twitter. So I pick and choose.