Anyone remember the Burger King campaign last year — defriend (or unfriend) 10 people on Facebook and we’ll give you a burger? Regardless of what you think of the campaign or Whoppers, their ad agency jumped on the beginning of a trend that is really coming to fruition in 2010. The Oxford English Dictionary even named “unfriend” a 2009 word of the year (along with “tweetup”).
As Facebook and Twitter have become so mainstream, and friending so casual, our rolls of friends and followers have grown extensive. Maybe too extensive. Just at that time when we’re trying to manage our precious time and sort through reams of content to find the gems, it is our own “friends” weighing us down. Dunbar proposed that any individual could really only have 150 stable social relationships at any given time. Others propose that with tools such as Facebook we can manage higher numbers. In a recent update, Facebook set the number of people to show up in your news feed to 250 (which you can change). While it may be true that our maximum number is far over Dunbar’s 150, many people are starting to approach their limit and are pruning their social network gardens.
There are two things you should be thinking about:
- How should I pare my friends and people I’m following to get the most bang for my social-media-hour-buck?
- How are other people making decisions about paring their lists, and how should I position myself to stay on the friends list of those I care about? (note: you may not care about all of them)
How you answer these questions will depend on your business, your brand, your audience, your goals, and how you have been using these tools. People want value (which can be information, insight, humor, etc.). People also want to be talked with, not talked at.
One of the challenges is that when you’ve mixed company in your friend or follower list, there’s not one clear value proposition. For example, family wants pics of your kids, college friends want to know what you’re reading, business colleagues want professional insights, customers/clients/members want meaty information and connection. You cannot please all of the people all of the time.
Some people have dealt with this by creating multiple profiles — in some cases with hard lines (members of the congregation can befriend a staff person here but not there), and in some cases much softer lines (e.g. I tweet about Jewish social media and innovation at @darimonline, and I tweet personally about kids, chickens, music and other things at @lisacolton) where you’re welcome to friend or follow in both places, but at least you know what you’re getting (or as the writer, what you’re giving) with greater specificity.
I predict that the next waves of functionality and privacy updates from Facebook and Twitter will offer greater control over sorting these groups (they’ve already begun), targeting content to this group or that, and being able to hide or categorize friends and followers with greater ease to create customized feeds (how cool would it be to login to Facebook at work and see only updates from professional colleagues, and get home and login to see updates only from friends and family?).
In the meantime, put these on your to-do list:
- Be educated about privacy and friend list categorization opportunities on Facebook. There’s more control there than you probably realize or use.
- Set up friend lists, and each time you accept a new friend, add them to a list. When you use your settings you’ll be able to count on knowing who’s getting what info. See a tutorial here.
- Be aware that the functionality, policies, and culture of these tools will continue to adapt and change, so adopt a nimble stance (modern “sea legs”) and keep educating yourself.
- Think about how you can talk with your community, not just talk at them. Experts suggest a ratio of 1:12 (or even 1:20) — for every one self-promoting post (“come to our young adults event Tues evening…”) you should add value 12 times. What value can you offer? What questions can you ask to tap into your community? What conversations are happening related to your work and how can you participate? And don’t forget to LISTEN.
- Discuss among staff how people are managing these issues. There may be creative ideas, and you may or may not want to have everyone on the same page and taking the same approach. Either way, staff should be aware of expectations as employees if they are engaging with members, prospects, board members or donors. You should consider drafting a social media policy or guidelines, or revisiting to existing policies. See info here from Wild Apricot and info here from Beth Kanter and sample policies here.
How are you identifying what your target audiences want to hear, learn and discuss? How are you thinking about what to post and/or tweet? Where are you adding value and growing your online community? How will you know if people and dropping out and why?