Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Difference Between a Fan and A Friend

They were playing with Polly Pockets. Little tiny rubber clothes, little tiny rubber dolls, little tiny rubber shoes, hats, purses and more.

"You are taking all the dolls!" shouted the smaller of the two as she reached for a doll just after it was snatched up by the older one.


"No I am not," was the response, "I collect people, that's all."


"You can't collect people. That's not fair!"


And so it went. And so it goes.


Unfortunately, in the world of social media, social selling, socializing and society, it's all about collecting people. We want to invite everyone to our party and we want to be invited to all parties. What's more is that we want everyone to know that we got invited and how much inviting we do. It's human nature.


The problem with collecting people is that all intentions are lost and numbers become the critical measure of success. That's a dangerous phenomena because even numbers lie.


Just take a look at the importance that we put on how many Facebook friends we have. Call them connections. Or followers. Or clients. Or customers. Or whatever. Really, who cares? Well, some say some do. For some gaming applications, loads and loads of friends are a requirement to play. And if you are using your friends to support your livelihood, more means better for you and your bottom line. But the truth is that a human being can't handle more than 150 (friends, according to this New York Times article.) Adding friends after that only means diminished exchanges and opportunities for real personal interaction. After that, it's all a numbers game.


And when numbers lie, it's hard to tell who is telling the truth and if, in fact, there is a truth to be told. Take, for instance, the Schrute Farms farce on TripAdvisor. User-generated content had this fake destination ranking higher and with more marks than many Manhattan hotels. What's that say about collecting people and the high degree of group-think that comes with corraling folks like cattle? To me, it says the data is as useless as a plate full of beets. You can serve it up, but don't expect people to buy.


Another way of saying the same thing is to say that it's vital - both for business and pleasure - to know the difference between a fan and a friend. Anyone can buy a fan. But a friend is someone worth the fight.