How Many Friends Can you Have?

No matter how hard I try I keep coming back to the thought that marketers are over relying on Facebook and Twitter. Yes it’s great that we can put their widgets on our sites and it makes us feel good that we have all these friends on our fan pages. Questions keep popping into my head.

How much influence does one person have over their 500 facebook friends?

Years ago, way before facebook we had endless discussions on the virtual community of forums (bulletin boards back then) and how they attracted folks of like mind and how these virtual communities would change everything. Well they did. Now Facebook comes along and folks connect to several hundred “friends” from their present and past, most of which they have a fleeting acquaintance with. In essence, They don’t know much about them and in come cases have little in common with them. Will they influence each other? 

How many friends can you really have?

There is the famous Dunbar number of “theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships”, is generally accepted to be about 150. In an interesting post from last year on Inside Facebook  they talk about an article in the Economist showing that people with 500 friends. In essence they discovered that Facebook users comment on stuff from only about 5-10% of their Facebook friends.

Back to the Virtual Friends

The problem is that none of my friends are not experts on most of the decisions I need to make in my life, let alone the other 90% I barely know or knew 20 years ago.  Yes these folks might be OK to ask about a restaurant or other small purchase of life decision, but do I or anyone else really want to rely on what these folks “like” on Facebook? On the other hand there are 100’s of thousand forums out there with real people who maybe really are experts. What we need is a better way to tap into the mind-meld of virtual communities.

Get back to communicating with Customers

  • Put a Forum on your site and link it OUT to the social networks
  • Let customers review your products on your site
  • Participate in online forums
  • Encourage evangelists and promote their posts and comments
  • Use facebook to start discussions not just build fan lists

Have more ideas? Comments? Let me know

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