Most social media websites give you an individual profile page alongside the option of befriending other site users. l The adding of someone as a ‘friend’ on a social media website is not just an empty gesture. Usually when you add someone as a friend, you’re giving them greater access to you through the social media channel. For example, some Digg users set their message inbox as ‘friends only’, so you can only ’shout’ or communicate with other users through the site when they have added you as a friend. Only when someone on Twitter ‘follows’ or adds you, will you have the ability to send them private messages or view his/her updates, if they are protected.
In sites like Facebook, adding someone as a friend allows them to see more of your profile (depending on your settings). Befriending users on Youtube allows you to follow their rating and favoriting on videos, while also allowing you to more easily share content with one another.
In general, when someone adds you as a friend on a social media service, you gain some or all of the following benefits:
Access to more data. You get to view more data on the user, some of which may be intentionally obscured from the public or other non-friend users. This allows you to network with the specific user in a more intimate and personal setting.
Greater communication options. Depending on the social site, when someone adds you as a friend, they open up more avenues of communication. This adds a greater level of interactivity: you can connect with the person who added you through private/direct messages, instead of the highly visible public channel.
Recommended content. When someone adds you as a friend (and vice versa), your activity or actions on the site may be recommended or ‘pushed’ towards the other person in some part of their admin panel or profile. This means that you’ll get greater visibility automatically whenever you use the social website.
Greater Social Proof. An auxiliary advantage of having many fans on social media websites is social proof, especially when the social site itself ranks the users according to the no. of followers/subscribers they have. Popular and visible users tend to accumulate friends more easily than unknown users.
Basically, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain when someone adds you as a friend on any social media website. They are giving you permission to share messages with them while bestowing attention on your recommendations/actions within the social site.
If you’re trying to get maximum visibility for your message, develop a popular social profile that has a large amount of fans in order to take advantage of the innate advantage that comes from communicating with a large number of people at once through a specific action.
You can see this most easily in highly subscribed Youtube channels. A video can easily rack up over 10,000 views in one day if it is released by a highly subscribed channel owner. Similarly, marketers or web personalities enjoy increasing their Twitter fanbase because they benefit from the influence they derive from consistently wielding a large amount of attention. Are There Benefits to Having Mutual Friends on Social Websites?
Depending on their level of particpation, some of these users will become part of your inner circle: the people you interact with the most on the social site. You’ll notice that you’re often talking to the same people on Twitter, Friendfeed or Facebook. More erratic or non-regular users will connect with you less, only when they use the site.
This brings to mind something that is rarely discussed by social media marketers. Are there benefits to mutual friendship on social media websites? Should you only befriend people who befriend you and make sure that you only have mutual friends?
There’s no simple answer for this question because it depends on two things: The infrastructure of the social media site and your goals or how you want to use the site.
Let’s use StumbleUpon as an example. Some have suggested that it’s important to only have mutual friends on StumbleUpon since there’s a friend limit of 200 users. I think that’s just a really limited perspective on how to develop popularity on StumbleUpon.
I don’t recommend this strategy because the only feature-based benefit that you’ll get from a mutual SU friendship is the use of the send-to feature on the toolbar. This option is not used by most active users, does not help to increase traffic significantly and is liable to be abused by spammers who send you multiple pages of content irrelevant to your interests every day.
Who you befriend on Stumbleupon influences what pages you see when you click the stumble button: this means you should try to add users who often stumble content within your field of interest, in order to improve your user-experience, regardless if they are friends or not.
What one needs to understand is that friend networks serve different purposes on each social media site so the value of mutual friendships will differ. This is something you’ll instinctively realize when you spend a lot of time on using each specific social channel.
Next week, I may talk about some friend network building strategies you can use. Feel free to leave a comment and pose any questions you may have!