About Friends, Facebook & Curfews

John Battelle, CEO of FederatedMedia and a long list of pioneering publications and books on new media and Search, posted about how he “blew it on Facebook” by exceeding the platform’s Friend limit of 5000. He goes on to comment about how his use of the platform has changed and a little about what the nature of friends are. In this post I’ll share some thoughts on these issues and about how I use Facebook.

First, I thought FB was considering lifting the 5000 friend curfew. If anyone knows differently please comment below. I call it a curfew because these kind of restrictions share the same thinking behind time limts: “nothing good can ever happen after…”

Regardless, it’s an ongoing debate about the nature of friends and how many one can have that are “real friends” or even that whether you’ve really got a legitimate connection. There’s an old memory axiom that says you can’t keep more than 100 friends names in your head at anyone time. I’ve heard that’s why entrepreneurs need to exit and start their next thing after they reach 100 employees. 🙂 In reality, your memory and databases can store a lot more than 100 people and 100 connections. If you’ve started-up, worked or partnered with, employed or sold to people for 25 years with any success as John and I have in various companies, you will exceed 500 friends and their extended network will exceed 5000. If you have 8-12 passions as most people I know in digital and each passion has 10 friends with which you connect, you will easily exceed 100 friends of substance.

Based on how John has been using Facebook, creating a fan page isn’t a bad migration option, especially considering how he describes use–his flock act more like tribes, fans or followers. They watch his thought leadership, pass along his advice, buy his books and patronize his innovative publishing endeavors. For the most part, this is great fan-activity and is largely characterized as syndication or publishing. The benefit brands get from doing this within a SocialNetwork is that all actions and reactions are seen by a growing second-generation network via the first-generation socialgraph.

Everyone uses different SocialMedia tools with different rules. I’ve shared a Social Spectrum that illustrates this dynamic and how I use it. I know people who maintain two accounts and kindly ask me to friend the other profile in the event I friend their “college buddy” account. FWIW, I don’t take offense to someone declining to accept a friending or not following me on twitter. It’s more the failure of the tools and platforms–they haven’t evolved enough for robust filtering and dynamic privacy and personalization, but they will–than a failure of etiquette on either side.

Steve Patrizi of LinkedIn offered this analogy for friends & content considerations: MySpace is the bar (kinda same activity, levels of commitment, positioning, etc.); Facebook is the backyard bbq; LinkedIn is the Office (a little gratuitous, but hey, he can wish). To which others added “Friendfeed is the buddy who hit the lotto,” and “Twitter is the open-mic.” Personally, I use Facebook as a publishing network platform and have a notice on my LinkedIn account to meet me in Facebook for active contact.

I’ve also adopted the policy to accept most friends on Facebook. As I accept them I put each new friend into one or more categories: agency, clients, media, developers, start-up, motorcycle, beer, pta, real friends, college, san francisco, etc. With one click I can watch the socialgraph of any of these streams. These dynamic filters will be the way you get back to what’s real and what’s fan-based.

How are you using Facebook and do you think it’s possible to have too many friends in any socialnetworking platform? Discuss below.

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