After reading the article on Bill Gates leaving his Facebook profile behind due to his inability to distinguish who he knew and who he didn’t, I coudn’t help but wonder if LinkedIN had it right all along? What I mean specifically is LinkedIN’s system of showing pathways to recognition; should Facebook look into implementing something similar? We’re not all Bill Gates but I’m sure you’ve received a request or two where you ask “How do I know him?”.
As I’ve written about previously, I believe we’ve dawned on the new age of relevance. For example, the social currency accrued on MySpace was based on scale of connections within one profile (i.e. John124 has 50,000 friends/popularity contest) yet your “top 8” or first degree of friends was what you paid the most attention to.
Twitter may be the first to marry scale with relevancy, through opening up its API and allowing 3rd party developers to create products such as Tweetdeck that give users the ability to filter or group conversation.
But let’s go back to Facebook for one moment. Facebook has done a plethora right. They’ve recognized the migration patterns of aggregate social networkers who move in crowds from one site to the next (friendster > myspace > facebook) and developed tools to migrate with the herd (e.g. fanbox, facebook connect). Yet every tool in the universe can’t keep the attention of its user base if networks swell to a size that makes social networking counterintuitive.
What I found most interesting about Bill Gates’ decision is simple. Bill Gates does not need 10,000 friends on his social network. When he opens his mouth, he has a core of press ready to dictate every word and push it to mainstream media. What he was looking for was a true method of connecting with individuals who have relevance and meaning in his life.
We get so caught up in the celebrity of owning share of voice within a network. In fact the other day, someone I’m connected to had mentioned he was frustrated with Facebook’s cap on friends at 5000 and is interested in starting his own Ning page. After thinking about this, the individual who made that statement doesn’t need another social network. They need a broadcast tool. And that is not what the fundamentals of social networking is about.