Let’s say you are presented with a unique and unexpected opportunity. One that would require a several-month commitment, that would mean significantly shaking your life up, but could ultimately be the best thing that ever happened to you.
You need to ask some friends for advice. People that know you completely, your life situation, and that you trust to give you good and sound advice.
Now if you needed to make a list of 5 people from your Twitter network to email (not including friends you know outside of Twitter or before you used Twitter), how long would it take you? I ask because I often find myself in such a situation. And every time I struggle to find more than 2-3 people that I would really trust to reach out to. And every time I hear this tiny voice in my head saying ‘why is it that you are following these people?’
Which is a silly question to ask, because I am following everyone on Twitter and Facebook and wherever because I value the connections. But do we reach a point at which adding more connections stops adding value? Or worse, can we reach a point where adding more connections lessens the value of our existing connections?
Which becomes an interesting question to ask, when you consider that most social media sites and tools are built around making it easier to connect with more people. But lately when I am on Twitter, for example, I’m often in Twitter chats. I’m finding that I’m getting more enjoyment from Twitter chats, because even if the chat is huge like #Blogchat, I can zero in on a small discussion with just a few people, and really connect with them. It becomes more like having dinner at a conference versus being with 500 people in a session. I am seeing far more value in these discussions with smaller groups, and I’m finding that I am then starting to connect with them more outside of the chat.
So I have a couple of questions for you:
1 – Do you think in the next couple of years that we will see people begin to become more aggressive about ‘pruning’ their social networks, so that they have a deeper connection with the people they friend/follow versus just following them based on who they are?
And this is the far more interesting question to me…..
2 – If #1 holds true, will we begin to see a shift in the functionality of social media tools so that they encourage and facilitate smaller networks with deeper connections? And what would that look like? Simply limiting the number of connections you can have? Maybe the ability to expand your network has to go through your existing network via an introduction or something similar? Not sure, but I think the possibilities are endless.
What do you think? Are you facing social media burnout? Would you rather be loosely connected to 5,000 people, or closely connected with 50?
Well I’m not burning out because I only keep about 30 people close to me and just spoon feed the rest. So my time is always used accordingly..
“Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”
I trek well with your sentiment. Today marks 3 weeks without Facebook for precisely the reasons you cite early in this piece. Twitter means very little to me. The cool thing about leaving Facebook is that I’m connecting with a small select group of people apart from that network, usually in real life, and the conversations are so much more meaningful.
One thing I am still part of on Facebook via email is a closed group for my house church. It’s where we started off coordinating the next time together (whose house, meal, sitter for kids), but we are starting to share some deeper stuf that is usually continued in person. It’s that small social network at play, and even my interactions strictly through email hold oodles of value to me.
Thanks for writing this post.
I think that even when we have a lot of contacts-we gravitate towards certain ones.
In addition, I also think we every so often gravitate towards a different group. (Kind of same as in real life. You always keep certain people in your life, yet your secondary circle changes up every so often.)
How many people from your twitter network, that you don’t know in real life really know all about your life like you wrote about above?
And btw-I am good at giving advice or better yet reflecting back. I love people and I am honest with my comments.
So….what advice do you need. 🙂
Hey Mack, thanks for the brain rev. Immediately, I think of 5 people with whom, through Twitter, I have formed friendships (and I use the term neither lightly nor frivolously); folks I otherwise would never have had the opportunity to meet. These are people to whom I would readily reach out for help and with whom I feel I can be completely myself. If Twitter were to go dodo right now, I know that these people would remain in my life. (here’s hoping they feel the same way lol). All thanks to Twitter. I know, right?
I completely agree that chats are the bomb – they give me the chance to sit at a corner table and connect with a few people at a time while still hanging out with a very cool crowd. Interesting that you mention ‘burnout’; social media networks are great for introverts but sometimes, if I’ve had some ‘rapid-fire’ twitter exchanges I often feel as though I HAVE been at a large gathering and need to ‘go hide in my room’ 😉
Here’s that ‘introvert’ thing again; for me, building and maintaining relationships with few versus many has always been my MO and I’m happy with quality over quantity. I would add that even the quantity of ‘loose’ connections I’m making have quality.
Great post, Mack – thanks for this 🙂
This is thought provoking for the people who have tons of followers. I choose to follow people so they can reach out to me via direct messages. The people with a community of thousands are the exception instead of the rule according to twittercounter. 82% of Twitter users have less than 350 followers (http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2010/09/30/twitter-statistics-82-of-twitter-users-have-less-than-350-followers/).
It has been said that no one can maintain relationships with more than 150 people. I don’t know if this is true, but I find that my Twitter relationships are cyclical. A few people chat with me almost every day. Most are friend in real life. Our conversations are multichannel, switching between email and Twitter. (Which always generates DM’s and emails asking what we are talking about.)
There are others who chat with me about a specific topic, then disappear for a while. Our conversations are good and often insightful, but they are not ongoing. I like seeing them in my stream so I can see what they are saying. For now, I’ll keep following and hope that people continue to follow me. If there is a snapback (and there very well may be), I’ll rethink my strategy.
@newdaynewlesson Susie I should probably clarify that I am pretty slow to share a lot of myself with people anyway. But there are many people I have known for social media for years, but only a few I would feel comfortable sharing a huge personal decision with.
And maybe that makes me different from most post. In a way, I hope it does.
Hey Mack, Great food for thought. When I read your post I was reminded of the age-old discussion about churches. People in large churches will say I wish we had the intimacy of a small church. Small church people wish they had more people to work with and grow.
I easily have about 25 people from Twitter that I regularly think about wanting to get to know better. Relationships take time and effort and when you develop those relationships it makes it all worth it.
Some social sites have started specifying layers of connection where your “inner circle” is disinguished from the rest of your connections. I expect that to continue. I also expect to see a return to niche forums and corporate forums with specific criteria for entry. That’s two or three years away.
I would like to make an effort to grow closer to some of my connections. I think it can be done without specific impetus from the social tools.
The people I feel closest to from Twitter are people I’ve met in #BlogChat.
Thanks for starting this conversation. I look forward to hearing from the rest of the community.
@Debra_Ellis Debra that’s an interesting point about DMs and how the functionality of Twitter is built around MORE connections, not fewer. Private, 2-way communication on Twitter only happens if you follow someone back.
And that’s a good reminder that we are mostly the early adopters and don’t represent the average Twitter user. In fact that’s what I’m wondering, if our usage will eventually trend back closer to how the casual user already uses Twitter and other social media? Be that, smaller networks with friends and family versus casual acquittances.
I think we are moving to understand that large numbers aren’t where the magic happens. It’s true that we can only truly connect with 150 people and it’s funny because I have about 50 folks on Twitter I touch base with on a regular basis. The rest just sort of stream by. When I get close to someone, it’s typically because we took it off social media to email, skype or face-to-face. Social media is a good place to find people who are interesting, but not where we find ‘friends.’
rhonda hurwitz says
Social media burnout … yes. Some days the daily responsibility of staying connected feels like “silicon handcuffs”.
I always felt that continuing to connect with new people offers the POSSIBILITY of forming new and deep connections, and that’s why I do it. Some days, I do question the overall strategy., however.
I have a “twitter friend” who I debated this with early on, and she has opted to keeps her twitter following to under 200, and her conversations/connections are consistently of a more intimate nature, and for her business, more productive. May be the better way to go. She is also very selective as to who she reaches out to …
In my case, (yours too!) the horse is out of the barn… so the challenge then becomes keeping track of particular people via lists, social media pruning/spring cleaning. which In my case is long overdue…
From where I sit, the average business owner … “Joe or Jane entrepreneur” … cannot afford the time commitment to keep up this deluge and make sense of it; perhaps you are right, a new technology is around the corner and will throw us all a life preserver:)
I prefer the middle ground with a screened group of peers, the Marketing Executives Networking Group. MENG expands my network with quality people who have similar general business interests. Thanks for helping us launch blog.mengonline.com, which has great content by/for marketing executives.
@rhonda hurwitz Interesting thoughts, Rhonda! On the flipside, your network can become so big that you don’t realize who you are connected with. I was going through my list of people I follow on Twitter one night and found dozens that had corporate social media and community manager positions that I had no idea about!
Of course, I have only changed the way I manage my Twitter network about a dozen times since 2007 😉 Have a great weekend!
@sellers Hey Richard, thanks for commenting here! You’re right, I did write for Meng Blend blog last fall, as I was brought on with several other top marketing and social media writers by Lisa Petrilli when she worked for MENG. Although to be clear, I haven’t written there since late 2010.
And Richard while I appreciate your comment here, I do believe you should have fully disclosed your relationship to MENG. Richard is the Chairman of the MENG board, and while I do think MENG can be a valuable resource for its audience, I do think readers deserve to know that you have an existing relationship with MENG. So I’d advise you in the future when you mention or promote MENG in comments such as this, that you fully disclose your relationship to MENG and your role as Chairman of its Board.
Here is a link to Richard’s bio on the MENG site – http://www.mengonline.com/visitors/about/board_list/richard_sellers/
At minimum, I would disclose that you are the Chairman of the MENG board when you comment. Just wanted to point that out, I know you weren’t trying to intentionally deceive anyone here, but I just want to remove the possibility that someone else jumps to the wrong conclusion about your intentions. Have a great weekend!
Now that I’m following more than 1,000 people, I no longer seek out new people to follow. I do follow if I “meet” someone through my blog or via a recommendation. But I always review their bio and tweet stream to make sure the connection could add value for both of us. My philosophy is that the next person I follow could become an important contact.
I do love chats, especially #blogchat. I have to admit, the last one was pretty overwhelming. Even with my great scanning skills, I kept having to pause and go back just to understand where the discussion was going. I didn’t have time to connect with any of the other bloggers. 🙁
Even before social media came about I have practiced the level system. There are some people that you can count on one hand who will be there for you anytime anywhere and there are the numerous other folks who we meet during our careers that hold their own special place for us for the right scenario. If we are going to speak from a personal level I agree Mack that the numbers game is over for most of us.
It is impossible to really build relationships with people that you spend perhaps 10-15 seconds a day on replying to a tweet. What I hope though is that cliques do not become the path for most. There is still room for growth in our networks. What I find cool is someone who I have not tweeted in some time, when we do we pick up things where we left off and have no issue that time has passed between the conversations. That really feels cool.
Great perspective sir and a thought provoking post. Thank you @MackCollier
I usually go through my followers on all platforms and prune them from time to time.
For Twitter, I have a filter going in: if they aren’t connecting, they don’t get followed, and if they are all broadcast, there is a good chance they are getting blocked. That lessens the noise considerably!
I’ve just started grouping folks into lists, which I did not do before. It’s a handy way of sorting wheat from chaff as well.
I think @susangiurleo is right-there are about 50 people I talk to regularly on Twitter, and that I have their emails, or can contact off line somehow. Other than that, they sort of float on by.
I think you will see more and more niche based social networks. The FB one universe fits all doesn’t necessarily work for all. Spin-offs are already taking shape. Clear evidence on spin offs in the digital space is amazon and eBay versus zappos and Etsy. The social space will see the same happen (and it already is happening). The question remains whether FB can manage such a shift in principles. Five years from now will be very revealing.
@justinmwhitaker @susangiurleo Justin one thing I’ve started doing is following anyone that replies to me or RTs me or mentions me that I’m not already following. And again, I find that Twitter chats are a great place to find interesting people to follow, because it gives you the opportunity to start interacting with them.
@CarmenKrushas It always goes in cycles. 10 years ago AOL looked unbeatable. 5 years ago it was MySpace. But I do think niche-based socnets or small groups will become more popular.
IMO, I don’t think people will be more aggressive in “pruning” their connections as much as investing more time in smaller groups they are focused around the topics they’re most interested in. I think pruning would remove opportunities to meet new people and discover new topics. I may not have ever heard of blogchat had it not been for other connections I have.
For #2, I think smaller networks with deeper connections is going to happen, because that’s just how the cycle works.For example; In the early days of search, you could use a single word search to find relevant information. But as the Internet has expanded and more sites/information is added, more specific words are needed to find the same information, And on the reverse side, websites have needed to become more specifically focused around niche topics so they can be found. I feel the same is true with social media. As the popularity of social networks expands, people have naturally gravitated to chats so they can converse and learn about specific topics without all the noise. Which brings me back to your other post about Twitter chats and transcripts. I think Twitter is a great tool for chats, just not necessarily the best location to get the most value.
Interesting discussion. Besides connecting with people whom we share interests via twitter or I call them hashtag chats, I have seen connections go through cycles. My time of day I spend online has changed and so has my core group I talk with.
I have seriously thought about trimming back facebook to less than 200 and driving the rest of my conversations to fanpages. Instead for now I am seeing value in just practicing what I learned from Keith Ferrazzi-pinging. I make it a point to reach out to my network differently depending on their needs and preferences….so those who prefer phone we talk, those who prefer skype we chat, those who prefer twitter we tweet…
Instead of seeing myself cut connections I see myself communicating in smaller circles of groups in each platform. A group in facebook, a group in linkedin a group on a private networking platform and of course #Speakchat.
So I am seeing those smaller groups just naturally form out of necessity to be in a more intimate conversation without the noise.
Quite frankly, I can be tightly connected to 50 while having a loose connection with 5000. If we follow that reasoning, that’d mean in our life we’d get to know just the 10 closest friends we have, rather than the hundreds of people we frequently relate to (which aren’t close anyway).
While I am moderately selecting when I decide whom to follow – I avoid suspect behaviors and people I really have nothing to share with – I am not SO picky. I let lists do that part of the job.
I do think Social Media is heading this way, or at least Twitter seems to be. I think this is why chats are becoming so common now. Just in the year that I’ve been on Twitter, I’ve seen the number of chats increase dramatically. Why? I think it’s because chats represent a chance to talk about a more specific topic. It helps you hone your community more because you’re talking to people with similar interests, and you meet up at the same time every week to do so.
I also think the #usguys tribe is a good example of where the future of Twitter could be going. People hashing out their own tribes, then those tribes splitting, and so on. The interesting thing is that the trimming may help people have more fun on Social Media sites, but will it really help their business? That I’m not so sure about.
Of course I hate to say it Mark but this is a silly question because the answer is so obvious. If you want to publicize something you need a big network so you can pump info to as many people as possible.
If you want interesting info you have to limit your reading to interesting people. So there are going to be two streams for many people. U can already divide your Twitter followers into groups by relevance. But if you want confidential transmissions a smaller network will be desired.
I think it depends on what you’re actually using social media for. If you’re using it for entertainment and pleasure then it’s likely you’ll want to have a great number and variety of contacts. If a person is using it for business or meaningful relationships, then it would be more desirable to limit connections to quality time. One might use Facebook or Twitter for personal entertainment but use another separate site for business such as LinkedIn. More on networking at: http://www.helpforthenetworkingintrovert.com/