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Monday, December 3, 2007

Friends vs Fans

How can you have over 1000 Friends? If you did, how often would you talk to each and every one of your friends? How often would you see them? Send them a gift? Have dinner with them? What makes someone your friend vs a fan?

I think a little common sense goes a long way here but beyond that think about your brand vs you. Are you your brand or is your brand your brand and you are you?

If you are building a brand online your online "Friends" need to be treated as fans and feel free to get as many of them as possible. If you are building relationships to help grow your brand be careful about mixing your fans and your friends. It can come back to hurt you.

I hate it when someone I know in real life sends me a SPAM email about their project. "It feels very disingenuous and makes me want to "unfriend" them. I'm sure there are things that I've done and continue to do that rub people the wrong way as well but that's not going to stop me from talking about this.

Last night Chris Brogan (who I really enjoy hanging out with and drinking beers with at new media events - especially cause he's the one usually buying) twittered (or tweeted as some of you like to say) that he had posted over 10,000 times on Twitter. That got me thinking about how many of his postings were of any interest to me. The answer was very few and I removed Chris from my list of people that I follow on Twitter. Eric Rice then Twittered that he had Chris beat by a few hundred posts. I then thought about removing Eric but I realized that some of Eric's posts are informative to me because Eric likes to mix things up and create controversy. Eric also interacts with others way more than Chris. From what I see, Chris is usually Twitter Out" not "Twitter back and forth".

This morning I saw Susan Bratton twittered that she "just crested 1,000 FaceBook friends" and that prompted me to write this post.

Ask A Ninja is a Brand, and serves as a good case study for this. Associated with Ask A Ninja is Digital Filmaker, Beatbox Giant and the shows creators Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine.

On Ning, they have their official Fan Page, with 4802 members (at the time of this posting)on Facebook they have a Ask A Ninja Page and Kent has a page and I don't know if Douglas has a page.

They have kept their fans separate from their friends.

Now comes the gray area. Sometimes as a content creator you will have fans within the Internet video community that want to be friends with you. This makes things very confusing. I think the best way to approach this is to set some standards for yourself and think about what works best for you. Don't just click the "accept" button thinking the more friends you have the more money you will make because in the real world, the more "friends" you have the more you will dilute your relationships. However online the more "fans" you have the more money you have the potential to make.

All that said I'm sure Chris Brogan will still buy me beers because he's that nice of guy but my point here isn't really to ridicule anyone it's to have us all focus on the real power of the social networks and how we can best use them to grow our brands and monetize Internet Video not just have the most posts.

Remember, "Fame without fortune turns you into Joey Buttafocco." and you can't pay your rent with Twitter posts.

I think Chris Pirillo explains the "friends thing" pretty well in the above video and he also talks about how sites not sharing revenue "cheeses" him off.

Lower your head, watch your step and enjoy the rest of your day on the Internet.


Mike McAllen said...

"He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare,
And he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Chris Brogan said...

Well damn, because I always figure you've got it all right, and so if you're right then I'm wrong. Crap.

Yes, we should still have beers often, because they're beers, and because I like you as a person.

First, specific to Twitter:

In Twitter, I just looked at my last page of tweets and your last page of tweets. (20 each). (Mind you, this will change by whenever you go to take a look. It's um.. 6:56PM your time right now).

I've @ conversed with 8 out of my 20. You've done 2.

5 more of my tweets also point to other people's posts. Zero of the last 20 tweets on my page point to me (although you could argue the one where I point to someone's facebook group ABOUT me is self-referential).

Your last 20 are mostly answering Twitter's question to the word.


I use Twitter in this way: to share what has my attention. Sometimes, I have my attention. Lots of times, other people's stuff has my attention.

You're right that I don't use Twitter like Eric Rice. He holds full fledged conversations there. I move my conversations into email or onto blogs (like yours) : ), and into other media, because they work better there.


Do I treat the folks on Twitter like fans? Hmm. Hard to say. Some, I do. And friends, I treat like friends. It depends if I've met and hung out with you, or if you're just someone nice who's following me.


But overall, you've given me more to think about. I saw your tweet removing me last night right after I made the "numbers" posts. I can understand and respect that.

So once again, thanks, and I'm forever learning from your perspective.

Bill Cammack said...

Re: Chris Brogan in particular... post-Pulver.com, Chris' twittering style has changed for the better (IMO). While he was still with VON/Network2, I was VERY close to un-following him. I didn't click the button because I consider Chris a personal friend, and I decided to find a different way around his philosophical question posts. Granted, if there had been a way with twitter to remain as a follower of his, yet receive no updates from him to the web site, I might have done *that*. The only thing twitter allows you to remove is notifications to your IM/Phone, which I don't use.

The reason I would have un-followed Chris at that time is *relevance*. Not relevance to the space. Just about EVERYTHING Chris posted was relevant to the space. :) However, it wasn't relevant to *ME*. I found myself looking at another philosophical question, contemplating it for a couple of seconds or less, then moving on. At that time, I would have agreed completely with your percentage-out vs actual communication assessment.

The way I got around the issue was that I started parsing the twitter web page by icon. Being an editor, it's easy for me to memorize patterns, in this case, the pictures that people use to identify themselves on twitter. I can scroll down the list and stop only at the icons that I've determined are usually of value to me. This is why I don't use IM. I have my IM going to google talk, and that doesn't give icons, so I end up having to read at least the name on every twitter before I can skip it. Tremendous waste of time.

Another reason I would have been cool with un-following Chris is that twitter isn't my first instinct for communicating with him. I'll email him directly if I have a question or comment or something to share. I would have been relieving myself of philosophical questions without removing ANY of the efficiency of my communication with Chris.

In general, like I said, the problem for me with people who twitter is *relevance*. When someone floods the channel with links for their site, especially those that appear to be automatic, un-followed. Unless someone's a sporadic poster, if someone's constantly giving the public tidbits of information about their life that have no educational value and that nobody asked them about in the first place, un-followed.

The thing I REALLY can't stand on twitter is chronic whiners. If you stack up their updates, it's a bunch of "woe is me" posts about everything going wrong like as if someone asked them to lay down on the couch for therapy. Not only isn't that RELEVANT to ANYHING, it's consistently depressing. Fortunately, icon-parsing gets me past the whiners too without un-following them.

Excellent point about separation of self from brand. It's important to know whether you're pubbing yourself, your show, your company or your brand. Having the correct understanding for one's self and one's style is the key to knowing whether you should "friend" fans or make a definite distinction between your fans and your actual friends.

Susan B said...

Thanks for including me in your blog post. To my amazement, I found it without my Google Vanity Alert. ;)

I hope all my friends who read your post will come link to me in FaceBook and in Twitter. I just can't get enough of my peeps.

Here's my perspective. I am fans of my friends and I believe, to a great extent, that my friends are fans of me.

I really, truly, honestly like a huge variety of people. I am energized by the creativity and the perspectives and "doings" of my friends and acquaintances. And I believe they also really like being exposed to my trysts with life and work.

Yes, I have 1,000 friends on FB and they are my friends. I have more than 2,500 connections in LinkedIn too.

Having been in sales and marketing for 26 years, I have stayed connected to friends from that many years ago, accumulating history like a snowball made of glue. (That reminds me of a rubber cement booger, now that I think of it. Don't TELL me you don't know what i mean, either.)

I adore Twitter to hear what you are doing and to share my insights, ranting and silliness with abandon.

I adore LinkedIn to help my friends make connections and get connected for biz deals.

I really, really love Facebook because I can learn even more about the people I already know. Incorporating the personal with the professional is my passion.

I don't just want to know you. I want to know all about you. Witness DishyMix, my weekly podcast. What's it been about since 2005, every single week? It's about the unique individuals in my industry. On the show we delve into (hopefully provocative) revelations both personal and professional about famous names in our industry.

I will go on my merry way, expansively collecting connections, making new friends and nuturing old, spreading my love and producing my brand of content. It makes me happy. I hope it brings others some joy, connection, continuity and the opportunity to "be seen."

Jason Van Orden said...

You make a very interesting point, Tim. I would be really interested to know how people go about separating friends and fans in their social network/graph. You can't have two Facebook pages. Is one site more conducive to collecting fans and another to staying in touch with friends.

There is definite value in this advice, I just wonder about how practical it is to follow.

Clintus McGintus said...

I know I'm a bit late, but excellent post. I am one of those fans turned friend in a lot of cases. I love this community and the people in it and I think because I try to be so active in it, friendships form.

In your opinion, where does the line get drawn where a fan becomes a friend? And how do you choose what friends to "follow"?