Friday, January 14, 2011

How Many Online Friends Can One Maintain?

Over time Facebook friend relationships can get stale, so even with hundreds of contacts your Wall updates may only be seen be a few dozen people. It's critical to know how to keep relationships alive on Facebook. Similarly, your contacts (friends and fans) may have only a fraction of their contacts active, so it can be useful to advise them how to keep relationships relevant.

Also useful to consider is that a "Like" only posts a text message on that contact's wall. For photographers, an infinitely more valuable action would be for that contact to "Share" the link, so it is accompanied by a thumbnail photo and a sentence or two of text. (I'd really like to find a free or inexpensive photography Web site template which offers all common share options such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc., as well as integration of text updates such as external blog posts.)

I find that some of my most popular posts turn out to be ones which are personal, not related to photography, putting a personal face activity that otherwise might be perceived as too impersonal and too self-promotional. We're social beings; we thrive on interaction and community. Facebook seems to try to reward users who contribute towards two-way community-building behavior.

Looking into the human side of this topic, apparently there's a limit to how many close social relationships you can manage. That number is surprisingly small (and Facebook is aware of this, so their algorithms may be designed with a similar limit in mind):

After 150, Facebook friends are meaningless

There may be an important distinction however between friends that you know and "Facebook friends" and fans, who you may not have the time and cognitive capacity to keep up with socially, but who might still appreciate following your contributions and updates, including your latest artistic works. So "friend" away online, but don't expect to keep up with everyone individually, and it's not reasonable to approach this medium expecting others to keep up with everyone either.

I'm super-busy with travel, writing and photography at the moment so I can't devote the time I should to maintaining contact with my friends and fans, but I do try to create some content daily and have it propagated to sites such as Flickr, Facebook and Twitter, to reward the people who do hang in there and follow my activity.

Hopefully once my book is on track to be published later this year I'll have more time!