By Todd Carpenter, Social Media Manager, National Association of REALTORS®
For the last 10 months, I have been unfriending more people than I friend on Facebook. I made a decision that I would either need to make my account unrealistically vanilla, filter all the members I didn’t know into a list that only saw that vanilla-ized version of me, or leave my Facebook profile as-is and start filtering who I connect with.
Now, I have a simple test for who I friend on Facebook; I ask, “Are you my friend in real life?” Using that simple criteria, I’ve deleted about a thousand people. Some, I didn’t like. Most, I simply didn’t know. Out of that thousand, two sent me a message asking what happened. For both of them, I apologized, re-friended, and have since worked to get to know them better. They cared enough to ask what happened. That’s someone I need to be friends with. The rest, not a peep. I wonder if they even noticed.
If I don’t know you and you don’t know me, and neither of us are trying to rectify that situation, then we aren’t really friends, are we?
British anthropologist Robin Dunbar theorized that there’s a limit to the number of people with whom you can maintain stable social relationships. He put that number around 150 people. Currently, I have about 400 Facebook friends. I’ve looked through that list many times, and I’d have a really hard time deleting any more of them. But I’m not kidding myself, either: Even this truncated group represents a large number of people I don’t know very well. So, I’m trying to get to know them all better.
A couple days ago, I talked to a friend who’s of like mind on this issue. She recommended I institute a “birthday test.” Here’s what it involves: Facebook will let you know anytime any of your friends on the network is having a birthday. Knowing that, simply look at the people on that list and do one of two things — either plan to wish them a happy birthday, or delete them. If you are not close enough to someone to wish them a happy birthday, why are you connected to them? They’re just creating noise in your social stream and making it harder for you to build stronger connections. Do yourself (and them) a favor and unfriend them.
Professionals who use sphere-of-influence marketing maintain that the more people you know, the greater the chances are that someone you know will refer business to you. But I think you have to raise the bar on the definition of “people you know”. Ten deep relationships have more potential than 100 shallow ones. As I said last week, real networking is harder, but it will pay off more. You can always use a Facebook business page — assuming you have one — as a stepping-stone to friending if you want to get to know them better, but treat your Facebook friends as you would a real friend. Friendships take work. Don’t call them friends if neither person in the relationship is willing to put in that work.
Todd Carpenter, Senior Manager of Industry Engagement at Trulia
Previously the Director of Digital Engagement for The National Association of REALTORS®, overseeing the association’s communication strategy on its social media channels. He's also been a real estate and mortgage professional since 1992 and created the first broker-focused mortgage blog in 2005. Todd is an industry pioneer in leveraging the social web.