1. Hello stranger, let’s not connect on Facebook.

    I’m noticing a new trend in how I am using Facebook & Twitter and I am curious to see if it resonates with other users. I am finding that the value of a connection is greatly increased when they are channeled through the appropriate network.

    When I originally signed up for Facebook, I was making connections right-and-left. I added friends, friends of friends, and happily approved just about any friend request sent my way. By late 2009, I had about 600 connections on my page, and was starting to feel the strain of maintaining all those connections.

    The newsfeed was bogged down by meaningless games, and a flood of updates from people that I just didn’t care about. I started hiding people, removing their posts and while it cleaned up the feed, it created a pool of users that I never interacted with. They had become the lurkers.

    I can’t be 100% sure, but I have a theory that the Facebook privacy concerns that started popping up in the last few months were the catalyst for my pruning of my Facebook network.

    It concerned me that I had 600 people, some of whom I’d never met seeing my photos, family updates, and other fairly personal content.

    Pruning my Facebook “friends” list

    Towards the end of 2010, I started pruning my Facebook friends. Round 1 included the following criteria:

    1. Facetime – I decided that with the exception of very few people, I must have met a person in real life before I would friend-connect them.
    2. Clients – While I do like many of my clients, I do not consider them to be my personal friend. I refused new friend requests (directed to Twitter and the Business Facebook page) and pruned current clients.
    3. Drama – Since my list contained many old friends, or people from my childhood, I decided that if these people created stress, or drama in my Facebook page, I’d prune them from the list. I do not need old drama brought into my current life.
    4. Spammers / Gurus – I have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to spammers and “gurus”. You all know the type. Self serving types who just want to connect so that they can push their services and products on you. Boom, gone!

    By following these 4 simple rules, I was able to remove close to 300 Facebook “friends”, from my list. Over the course of 5-6 months, I have further refined and pruned my friend list to include a few people that slipped through the cracks, or who added no real value to my personal life on Facebook.

    Benefits of the pruned Facebook life

    Now that I have a closer group of connections on Facebook, I have found several benefits to that life-style:

    1. Better connections – Since there is less spam in my newsfeed, I find that I am able to get a better glimpse at the life of my friends on Facebook. I find that it’s a more personal connection, and that the value of comments and interactions is greatly increased.
    2. Control – With a smaller network, I have better control over my privacy. I’m not talking about the physical privacy controls, but the mental control, knowing that when pressing the upload or update button, you know who is going to see what you’re sending.

    More connections doesn’t mean more value

    I think that there is this completely irrational mindset that gurus and B2B marketers have; that if they have more connections, the better off they will be. They come from the old-world of marketing where eye-balls on your marketing materials means more $, and I just don’t think that rings true today.

    These same gurus, the ones telling you to “follow everyone, reach more people” are the same people who are telling you that social media is about personal connections. How personal can you be when you can’t even make sense of your news feed, or your Twitter feed because of the noise?

    I would rather of 10 people who truly read what I say, and share to their friends, than 100 uninterested followers who are just looking to up the number of connections that they have.

    Better management of your networks

    I think the answer to this problem is to have better management of your connections. Determine which networks & accounts are for personal use, and which ones are for business use. By filtering your connections to the network that is comfortable to you, you will create a better online relationship with that person.

    This blog post could easily spawn another, in regards to value, and maybe I’l get a chance to put that together later, however, if you take one thing away, it should be this:

    The value of a social network, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, or a face-to-face interaction at a party, is not in how many hands you shake or how many connections you make, but rather in how you maintain those connections, and how you leverage them.