Depending on the social network you're in, the number of friends you have may vary - and so will your mileage.
Connections and collaboration, which are the currency of modern times, especially when it comes to relationships with customers, depend on your ability to thrive not just as an individual, but as part of a group or community. In other words, they depend on your friends.
What is the definition of "friend" online?
Does it change depending on the context? Perhaps it's different depending on the tool? You're someone I follow on Twitter, but we're not LinkedIn because we've never met. And we're definitely not connected on Facebook or MySpace, because I'm not there.
Charlene Li gave a thought-provoking talk on the convergence of search and social networks a couple of weeks ago at SxSWi. She predicts that once they come together, they will make everything we do more social, without the need for special places to go.
She highlighted the problem with many of the social network activities today, including
the ads you find on Facebook. They all require you, the user and profile owner,
to do something explicitly. You need to select, or like, or share.
What would happen if the preference or selection were made explicit by your search and navigation behavior?
In that case you might end up seeing information depending on who your friend(s) is(are).
A little less than two years ago, in a discussion we had here, Greg Verdino observed how:
anyone who starts using more than one of multiple social networks, sharing sites, etc. finds herself with multiple circles of friends, constantly updating various profiles/status posts, etc - there isn't any way for a user to bring all of their stuff/friendships/updates together in a single interface -- which can be a real pain if you're in MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Flickr, Photobucket, YouTube and delicious.
With your face everywhere -- are there too many social networks? At the time I did not even include many of the big ones - MySpace, Flickr, SlideShare, Digg, Ning, YouTube and more.
I did ask some questions then - July 2007 - that we're still grappling with answering today, when we have even more social networks.
What about the work it takes to update all these networks? Has anyone thought about integrating? And now that we have social networks are blogs obsolete?
Given that the numbers have changed so much in the last couple of years, I wanted to provide a best guesstimate of where social networks are trending.
In my mind blogs are still very important. They will actually be even more important as the number of publishers thins out. And they will evolve, they already have. Some consider blogs a form of social network or community. A while back we also asked are blogs becoming more like old media? Or are we talking about a whole different ball game altogether?
There are still so many questions, and yet there are many more tools coming to a browser near you. We may be using Ning to create communities like the one spearheaded by Francois Gossieaux at Marketing 2.0, but there are other options for companies. Think open brand managed externally using a Jive [disclosure: they are a customer] or Telligent. [hat tip Bert DuMars]
We do need to determine - is there value to customers?
It does come back to the question of value, which is very subjective.
[from the popular sitcom Friends by Warner Brothers]