Friend and Follower Management: When you are too popular for yourself on Facebook


What to do when you've got too many Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Sigh...too many people are following me! Chances are, you are thinking this because you have followed or friended most of those people back, and you don't really know who most of them are.

Let's back up for a minute and explain what this means, for those of you resisting the social networking swell. On Facebook, you can have "friends". It is up to you, sort of, who those friends are. You gain friends by requesting to be someone's friend, or by accepting someone's request to be your friend. In the most pure sense, you are most likely requesting and accepting friendships of your friends and family. If you are a teen or in college, you are most likely not accepting your mother's request to be your friend, because if you did, she could see everything that you do (post on walls, post photos, comment on photos, post links, talk smack, etc.).

On Twitter, people can 'follow' you. Unlike Facebook, you don't have to accept their request to follow you. You can 'block' them if you are suspicious for any reason, and then they cannot see your updates anymore.

Here's where things get tricky. Regular people, aka non-celebrities, are developing a certain celebrity status in social networks. Either they are funny, go to hip places, share the coolest links, write a book, write a column, you name it. Journalists, designers, shop owners, career coaches, news anchors (CNN's Rick Sanchez is married to his Twitter feed and is good to his followers, meaning, he actually "tweets" to them and puts them on the air) are beginning to use their Facebook and Twitter profiles as a place to promote what they do for a living, and many times it works. Tickets are bought, books are sold, attendance to an event increases.

The Personal Price of Online Fame
All of this can come with a price: you friend/follow me, I'll friend/follow you. Some people even promise it in a sentence describing who they are. Some people are obsessed with hitting mile markers, and this tweet is common: "I'm 3 shy of 1,000 followers! Help me get more followers!" As with anything social, an etiquette has developed, where it's common courtesy to follow someone back. In Twitter, this is easier to do, because they are not called "friends", and there is no limit. Facebook currently has a limit of 5,000 friends. They know that you cannot possibly be entertaining 5,000 of your closest friends, and they suspect that you are using your account for business reasons (which you most likely are), and they may shut your personal profile down, thus erasing all of your personal notes to people, birthday reminders, emails, hugs, snowballs thrown, etc.

But do you care? While you had 5,000 friends, you forgot that you actually did follow your best friend in Chicago, but suddenly, you thought she dropped off the planet because you weren't noticing her "status updates" in your "friend feed." Flippantly, you assume she has crawled under a rock. But when you go to her profile page, you see that she just had her second baby and her new profile picture is of the entire family in the hospital room. Oops.

You lost her within your 5,000 other professional friends who you have friended back because they friended you. You did common courtesy, because you wanted to keep those new fans of your work happy, and that etiquite has actually made your pure list of friends and family less potent. Who are these people? And what are you going to do about it?

Marci Alboher, writer, journalist, author and speaker, posed this question to me after reading about what a Facebook page is here on the Collectve-E blog. She and others like her are getting closer to hitting the 5,000 cap on Facebook, and they are considering what to do about it. I've answered her question, so get started with our conversation.

PS: If you're in New York on March 24, 2009 and want to learn more about social networking, check out our
Tweetworking class for really good strategies on how to use Twitter...


katie you are so right! I think there is a fine line between friends & followers, and it's also sometimes embarrassing how obsessed we can all become with "friend" getting. I'm really interested in this whole world of virtual celebrity as I find it both interesting and scary. Can't wait to see what goes down on Hey Marci!

I think that if you know ahead of time that some of your contacts are going to be business related, even if you're not close to that 5k mark, it might be the best thing to start a fan or business page and actually create links to THOSE pages, instead of generically leading everyone to your personal profile.

My understanding is that the sky's the limit for fans or business friends on Facebook.

One could attract people to the fan/business page, interact with them regularly, and then decide who to invite to "friendship." Personally, I think these pages are great screening tools. While the point of social media is to create genuine relationships with your followers, I think this can still be achieved with a less personal fan/business page via a true insider/clubhouse atmosphere on those pages. It's all about how you use them.

I so wish that there was a way to group my Facebook 'friends' - those that I really care about versus just some random person that I went to highschool with. Hmmm... new app???

Melissa: You are right on track! Facebook created the option to have "Friend Lists" so that you can manage these things. Personally, I like the spontaneity of seeing what random people are doing, although I am sorely neglecting my sister. For example: she bungee jumped off of a mountain several months ago, and uploaded the video, and while she quietly never told me about it directly, I completely missed the statement in my news stream!