Quality Over Quantity: How to Build Your “Friend” Network on Facebook

by Teresa Valdez Klein on August 22, 2007

When I was first getting into social networks, I noticed that a lot of people I knew had hundreds, even thousands of “friends.” I asked one girlfriend about how she knew all those people and she explained that a lot of them were just random strangers. This was especially true on MySpace.

Apparently, the number of people you count as cyber “friends” is a metric of your popularity. For many, it’s a manifestation of the same phenomenon that leads people to conduct smear campaigns before prom court is announced in high school.

Having never been terribly popular in school — hard to believe, I know, but true — I was pretty much oblivious to this phenomenon. Until recently, the only people I was friends with on Facebook were folks that I had met in real life. Since then, Robert Scoble has convinced me that it’s alright to friend — it’s a verb now — all comers. It’s a good way to reach out to your readers. Robert uses his Facebook as a hub to organize the copious content he produces all over the Web.

This raises a lot of questions about privacy and control over personal information. But those issues aside, it also brings us back to the hyper-friending phenomenon:

How many friends do you really need? Don’t the quality relationships matter more?

Our good friend Andy Bourland, hit a brick wall with this issue yesterday. He went about friending anyone who would have him. Eventually, Facebook rate-limited him. They told him that he wasn’t allowed to friend anyone else for several days.

In short, Andy’s practice was to find people from the groups he was interested in and ask them all to be his friend. He was able to grow his list to several hundred “friends” before Facebook slapped him on the proverbial hand.

UPDATE: Andy has a great post with some wonderful takeaways from this whole experience.

If you want to build an online audience, getting happy on the “Add to Friends” button isn’t the way to do it. Here are my recommendations:

Teresa Valdez Klein's Facebook profileFirst, advertise your Facebook on your blog. I have links to my Facebook profile all over my personal blog. You can even create a profile badge like the one you see at left. There’s a link at the bottom of your profile that lets you create a profile badge of your very own. That way, your audience feels free to reach out and friend you.

Second, work on developing good relationships with the friends you already have. Pay attention to their interests and use the “posted items” feature to send appropriate nuggets of content their way. Leave insightful comments on their notes. They call it a social network because you’re supposed to build out a network of friends rather than just randomly friending people. If you have good relationships, your network will grow slowly but steadily to include a plethora of people that you can only reach through trusted sources, like their friends.

Third, don’t abuse the network you’ve already developed. I made the mistake of accidentally sending three copies of the same message to a group I administer yesterday to promote the conference. Part of it was a technology glitch, part of it was my eagerness to get the word out about a special discount for our Facebook community. A couple of people gave me good-natured crap about it, but I’m sure there were others who were genuinely annoyed.

Joseph Thornley left a great tip on our BlogTips application about a week ago:

Wake up every day with the attitude that you’re going to invest more in your community than you expect in return.

That could just as easily have been a Facebook tip. Invest time in your community and it will pay dividends in time. But like all good things online, it takes time and patience to achieve.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Spencer 08.22.07 at 2:17 pm

Great tips. Thanks. :)

2 Jason Preston 08.22.07 at 2:56 pm

I’m not the best example for people who want to “build their network,” because I’ve always been a passive network-builder on Facebook and its ilk.

What does that mean? It means I build my network by making it easy for people to friend me, rather than actively sending out friend requests. It’s not necessarily a conscious choice—I try not to be that egotistical—but it seems to work pretty well.

By participating in groups, putting links to Facebook on my own blog (like you suggest), suggesting that people can contact me through Facebook, etc, I’ve been happy with the results.

3 shawn 08.22.07 at 6:04 pm

Nice ideas here. I’ve been telling many bloggers that they should add a badge to their blog if they are going to promote their facebook at all. And they should!!!

Do you know anything about promoting groups? I started one today, and figured I’d try promoting it the same way I do my profile.

The greatest advice you put in here: Put in more than you expect to get back. That’s solid advice, and sure to go a long way in the social networking world.

4 Teresa Valdez Klein 08.23.07 at 8:46 am

Shawn: When you create a group, go through all of your friends that you think would find it interesting and invite them to join. Be careful not to invite anyone whose interests don’t really and truly overlap with that of the group.

Next, post about the group on your blog. You could even have a graphic designer create a bug that encourages people to “join our/my group on Facebook!” and link it to the group.

There are a lot of other ideas I have about this, and I’m curious about what my good friends Jeremiah Owyang and Jake McKee think about this.

5 Jeremiah Owyang 08.23.07 at 7:10 pm

I add anyone that adds me. why? I want to learn more about people and their interests.

6 Emilie 10.06.08 at 7:45 pm

Is it not the right thing to do by asking my friends friends to be my friend on facebook?

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