How Many Friends Do You Have?
Connections are the new currency of personal branding.
Listen to recent episodes of TWiT or Diggnation, podcasts that chronicles the news of the web. Scan the blogosphere. Look around. Everyone from Leo Laporte (Formerly TechTV) and John C. Devorak (PC Mag), to Alex Albrecht and Kevin Rose (Digg), all the way to Jason Calacanis (Mahalo) and most famously Robert Scoble are doing everything in their power to boost their numbers.
Are You Connected?
It used to be that your prowess in the realm of the web was measured by the traffic to your blog. That was before digital identity splintered, fragmented and was spread out across a dozen different platforms. Now, it’s not so much how many feed subscribers you have or how much traffic your page is getting, but how much exposure your personal brand receives. How many real people your message is reaching. How big your megaphone is.
No one can have a real, personal relationship with 20k+ friends (most of the people mentioned in this post have at least that many). No one can hold 20k different conversations. That isn’t the point. That has never been the point. There are only three practical reasons to get into the game of collecting connections:
1. It’s power. Every single extra person who chooses to follow your digital identity is one more person who you can directly market yourself to. It’s one more ear bent in your direction, one more set of eyes who — unlike a fly by night blog visitor — is willing to accept your personal endorsement.
2. It’s a score. Who doesn’t want to feel like they are bigger, more important or otherwise more popular than his peers? Being able to show off your numbers, being able to see yourself at the top of every leaderboard proves unequivocally how strong your community is and how important your personal brand is. In a world where all of these factors will eventually turn into ad dollars, it would be crazy for the web famous not to constantly work to build these numbers up.
3. It’s ESP. For those among the Internet famous who friend-back those who friend them, these platforms provide a limited form of ESP. You have, at your finger-tips, the thoughts, memes, and conversations of thousands upon thousands of clever people. If information is currency, this much information is a treasure trove.
The New Black
Before you ask, none of this is a bad thing.
Everyone is still playing the exact same game that they have always played. They want your eyeballs to see their message. The only difference now is that the parameters have changed.
As the business of the Internet evolves, we need ways to measure how far our web extends. We need ways to quantify our own fame, and all of these social networks have given the most powerful players in the field a way to do it. Where once you were hamstrung by the fickle mistress that is your blog, now you can develop micro-communities around anything. Your fame isn’t limited to how well you produce text, but how well you communicate — how well you produce context.
With that in mind, now I turn it to you.
How important are these social networks? How important is this movement towards being “friended” by the world? Is there real, concrete, value in thousands of peripheral connections or is it just another trend — another flash in the pan?