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Friends, Acquaintances, and Followers

friendsI have lots of friends. Well, at least Facebook tells me I do. I don’t think I’ve ever asked anyone to be my friend on Facebook (certainly no more than a handful if at all), yet I have 117 friends. Honestly, they are more like acquaintances, and some of them I don’t really know at all. I mean, I couldn’t pick them out of a lineup, much less tell you their names or anything I know about them. It got me to wondering about how we use social networks—and how some people use them very differently from me.


117 is not a really big social network as Facebook networks, go. I have 285 contacts on LinkedIn, which isn’t very much, either. I have 234 followers on Twitter.
But that’s because I am a passive networker. I accept every invitation that comes my way and I hardly ever send one. My social networks are not much more than an extension of my address book—just a way to keep in touch with people in case I need to contact them again.
But that’s not how my daughter uses Facebook. She has a tightly-knit group of real friends that she knows offline and she organizes a lot of communication around that. So one difference is whether you use social networks for personal networking or business networking, but I wonder if another difference is generational.
I use e-mail and instant messaging as electronic ways of keeping up with people, rather than social networking. My daughter rarely uses e-mail. But in a few years (fewer than I’d care to think about), she’ll be entering the work world and I wonder how she’ll dice up her social networking then. Or maybe she won’t have that work/personal split that I do.
I think I am missing something about social networking. It took me a while to warm up to Twitter, and even now I doubt I am doing great things with it. But I treat all social networks as though my acquaintances are followers rather than friends. As I embark on a change in my career where I will be working more than ever with social media (even purporting to be some kind of quasi-expert), I wonder whether I need to change my pattern in social media to learn more. It’s something that I am definitely thinking about, and people who know me (my real friends), know how dangerous that can be…

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, a leading digital media marketing consultancy based in New York City. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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