Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Which Is It: Quantity Or Quality?

Social media goddess, Charlene Li, recently made some social media predictions for 2009. Here's one of them:
Exclusivity trumps accessibility. Having thousands of friends becomes "so 2008" and defriending becomes the hot new trend, driven by overwhelming rivers of newsfeeds. The movement is rooted in a desire to have quality, not quantity, as people cocoon in the face of the economic crisis. Facebook apps will emulate Twitter Grader, allowing you to prioritize your friends based on their overall social ranking -- and prune safely to ensure the highest quality friends.

So if my Twitter grade is 95 out of 100, do I count as a "highest quality friend"?

As marketers continue to try to figure out ways to monetize the huge success of social media, the success of their campaigns rests on people having as many friends/followers as possible. Not only that, but isn't the whole metric of social media authority and success gauged by number of followers/subscribers/friends? Then of course there's the obvious question: what is the definition of "friend" in the world of social media? Li suggests prioritizing your friends based on their overall social ranking. Does this mean that society is supposed to become all about "who you know" and the only friends worthy of having are the most popular--and therefore most influential or powerful--based solely on how many friends/followers they have?

Is it just me or is the whole notion of authority being based on number of friends but then wanting to pare down friends because having too many is "so 2008"--and thereby theoretically reducing your authority--confusing? In Li's case, and the case of other "Twitter elite", sure, defriending a few thousand social media nobodies wouldn't affect their own clout--but what about the 99.9% of other bloggers/tweeters out there who, for reasons either professional or personal, are trying to claw their way up the ranks? Are those people in the same position to start deleting their hard-earned followers and give up any hope of becoming social media somebodies?

Regardless of what the answers to those questions are, the reality remains that marketers are going to be in for a rude awakening if a defriending movement ever does cause the masses to start severing ties to their new social webs. While Li disparages the notion of having thousands of friends, businesses are banking on these connections. Take TurboTax's "Super Status" contest. TurboTax SuperStatus is the "ridiculously easy, super fun contest where [they] give you a challenge, and you solve it by updating your status on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter with your answer." Their "how to win" tips include "Get more friends/followers — the more friends and followers you have the better your chances are of winning."

Then there's Twitter Image, who offers "free custom Twitter backgrounds to any member with at least 3,000 followers, or for only $100 $75 for everyone else." "Everyone else" of course being the poor slobs who are not part of the Twitter elite. (Apparently this business model isn't really taking off, as evidenced by the $100 $75 bit.)

So which is it going to be--cut your network of friends to improve the quality of your social interactions, or increase it so you can win prizes?

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