Understanding the Value of ‘Friends’ in Social Media Website

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    Most social media websites give you an individual profile page alongside the option of befriending other site users.

    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

    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 option*s. 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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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
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