4 Levels of Social Media Connections

dale-chumbleyI was chatting with Dale Chumbley about Facebook Pages and how we’re both using them to reach out to our respective communities when he touched on an interesting topic… He said about 1/3 of the folks who became “fans” of his page were not his “friends” yet on Facebook.

I’ve had a few conversations on this topic lately and I’ve boiled down the different types of social media relationships into the four most common types and given a bit of an explanation about the implicate meanings behind each type:

1) No connection. This one seems to be obvious… but there could be a number of reasons you don’t connect with folks. Most of the time it’s because you simply don’t know them, but maybe it’s because you don’t like them, don’t think they’ll add value to your network or, even worse, view them as spam.

2) Follow. This is the Twitter model and the connection is probably one of the “weakest” ones out there.   You could have any number of reason to follow someone and it’s completely one-way.  There’s no reason to expect that just because you follow someone that they’re going to follow you back, be interested in you, or even take time to learn anything about you.

3) Fan. This is the model used by Facebook Pages.   While functionally it is identical to a “follow” connection (i.e. a one-way connection with no reverse interest implied whatsoever), there’s a value judgement implied when you become a fan of someone.  Whereas it often only takes one interesting tweet to get me to “follow” someone, it takes a bit more before I’ll become a “fan” of someone.

4) Friend. This is the model used by Facebook Profiles, Digg and many other social networking sites… and clearly implies (and most likely requires) a two-way relationship.  However, the term is so often abused (I’m just as guilty as anyone else of becoming “friends” with people I’ve never met and am likely never to meet) because I thought I might find some value to having them in my “network” in the long run.

Similar to Dale, a little over 1/3 (30 out of 85) of the people who have become “fans” of my Page are not “friends” with my personal Profile. This tells me that based on their actions, a fair number of folks feel more comfortable becoming “fans” than “friends” with someone they don’t know.

Almost all of these people are professionals I *would* have connected with on Facebook (via a “friendship”) in the past, but I’m so much happier to have them separated on my business page so I can begin to do a better job separating my work life from my personal life.

Also interesting is that from a marketing perspective these relationships imply different levels of business outreach. When someone becomes a “fan” of my business page that definitely implies an “opt in” to a certain level of marketing that is not necessarily part of being a “friend”… or even a “follower”.

If you’re ready to explore how different professionals are using Facebook Pages, start following (i.e. become a fan!) of these pages:

And while you’re exploring, you should probably also check out the page I created for my listing syndication tool.

3 responses

  1. I agree with everything you wrote here. I pose a question though. All of this information and these relationships are virtual and all can (and often do) stem from one master database. Why not have the “become a fan” feature on your personal page that one can see a limited amount of information on as a visitor?

    I segment everyone I encounter on FB into separate groups and use those groups to not only pull in content and check out their update/statuses/what have you but also use those groups to push content with permissioning (only certain people can see certain things) as well as invite folks to events, groups, etc).

    If we are striving for adoption AND simplicity then it would make sense that you can do this all in once place for everyone on both sides of the equation.

    With FB being a platform more so then a website it would lend itself to other media/networks taking advantage of this and lead to better capture of analytics all the while not pelting people with things they don’t want to see.


  2. Patrick,

    I’m not positive I understand how you’re thinking “friends” and “fans” should be managed on Facebook. What do you mean by have the “become a fan” feature on my personal page? Right now, in the “about me” section I have a link with a recommendation that someone “become a fan”, but I’m not sure anyone pays attention to that.

    The option I *think* you’re suggesting would be for me to segregate my “friends” into different lists and then “market” to one list (i.e. biz folks) and socialize with a different list (family/friends). However, this really isn’t available as an option in that FB’s permissions functionality doesn’t work this way. For example, as best I can tell, there’s no way for me to post a link, but only have that show up in the news feeds of my “biz” list. It’s going to show up in the news feed of anyone who I’ve given permission to see my links.

    In other words, if I want to share videos, links, photos, etc, with both groups from my personal profile, then I’d *have* to give both groups permission to see all all my videos, links, photos, etc. Hence, my desire to have both a FB Page (for biz connections) and a FB Profile (for personal connections).

    Am I interpreting your comment correctly?

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