Today is National UnFriend Day. That's not what this post is really about, but hearing my local morning show radio jocks chit chat with listeners about who they would unfriend on Facebook today got me thinking.
In the past, I've pondered how social computing is changing the way we think about relationships. I've blogged before about my belief that building and maintaining meaningful relationships with the right few is more powerful than amassing the many. I expound on that concept in microMARKETING - in fact there's a whole chapter devoted to it and the idea of "being everything to the right someone rather than offering something for everyone" is a recurring theme throughout the book.
Yet I'd be willing to go out on a limb and say that when it comes to social media, most of us aren't building relationships so much as collecting headcount. We count our Facebook friends, Twitter followers and blog subscribers. We count hits, clicks, listens and views. I'm not excluding myself - my heart jumps when I pass some arbitrary follower or subscriber milestone; I might notice when my counts surpass those of a friend of colleague. It's all petty BS, isn't it?
If the conversations I have with clients and prospects are any indication, marketers are the biggest offenders of all. Ask most (not all, but let's be honest with ourselves - it is most) how they define social media success and they're likely to prattle on about fan and follower count, pine for "likes" in the seven figure range, gun for millions of video views - essentially anything they can point to that let's them "prove" their brand is bigger and badder than their competition's. Anything that helps them believe in the illusion that social media can (and should) look a whole lot like traditional mass media. 250 million people log onto Facebook each and every day? Wow! That's just like running ads on the Super Bowl every day of the year.
Except it's not.
A network like Facebook isn't one community with half a billion members. It's half a billion personal communities, each one is unique and different and defined by the people who belong; most are inherently micro: not only small - much smaller than half a billion - but also focused, united by common interests and grounded in real relationships. Social is all about the company you keep.
Right? Well, kinda.
This brings us back to National UnFriend Day. Today is the day people all around the web will be weeding out the random strangers they've accumulated in their Facebook network - the people you don't really know, have never actually met, used to hang with 100 years ago but haven't spoken with in years. And maybe even a few of those brand you don't really "like" so much after all. The idea is simple: social networking shouldn't be about the mindless hunt for numbers; it is about the quest for connections. Real connections among individuals that mean something to one another.
Now look at the people that comprise your network of Facebook friends (or likers for the business people among us), the faces that adorn your Twitter stream, the names of your blog commenters, you get the pticture -- can you honestly say you are looking at a solid core of people united by a common set of interests? Do you know what these people mean for you (or your company) and why you (or your company) matter to them?
Or has your hunt for headcount given you nothing more than a rag tag disconnected collection of folks you'd just as soon unfriend? Or who might as well unfriend you? That's "old marketing" thinking: let's get in front of lots and lots and lots of people - odds are a percentage point's worth of the herd just might poke their heads up and make eye contact now and then. When what we really want - and need - is to surround ourselves with a small set of real people that we can count on to make eye contact each and every time.
I'm not necessarily saying that getting to scale doesn't matter - sure, having a million true fans, truly engaged, holds more potential for a marketer than having just a few thousand. But just a few thousand truly engaged fans is worth a heck of a lot more than a million unengaged strangers. How would you describe the company your company keeps?
Just something to ponder (and react to - comment away, friends) for your business while you're picking and choosing the fake friends you'll be bidding adieu today.