Famous entrepreneur Mark Cuban (Broadcast.com, HDnet, Dallas Mavericks) totally embraced Facebook when it caught fire this year. Other Facebook users sent him request to become “friends” and he quickly reached the 5000 friends limit. What happened afterwards is very telling.
He tells his experience on his blog:
Facebook went from being a way to broadcast information to 5k people, probably 4k of which I didn’t know or even have a business link to, to a platform I either had to take seriously or walk away from. (…)
What I had not accounted for was that there were a lot of people who I had never met or had any connection to, who took the concept of FB “friending” literally. They wanted to interact as if we were long time friends. I was getting FB emails asking me how i was doing. What I was up to tonight. What did i think of X, Y, Z. Stuff that I was not going to tell a total stranger, even if they were my FB “friend”
He then started removing “friends” and decided to rethink his “friending” strategy. He explains:
My new FB strategy is not exclusively about “friends” in the truest sense of the word. Its about three layers of “friends”
The first layer has my real friends. Those people who who I have actually met in real life and who I enjoy keeping in touch with. FB provides a great way to keep up with things with them via pictures, notifications, etc.
The 2nd layer is people who I have tangential connections to. They may just live in Dallas Fort Worth. They may be self proclaimed Mavs or MMA or movie fans, or in groups I’m in. For whatever reason there is something about them that I could connect to.
The 3rd layer is emerging as a very unique and interesting network in FB. Its what I will call “The Power Layer.” These are people who in whatever industry they are in , retain some level of power. Having them as FB friends, although very simple and non committal, gives me some level of access to them, and them to me. These are people that if they sent me a FB mail, i would certainly read and respond to , and I think they would do the same.
What it means: Cuban’s strategy is one of many we’ve seen in regards to personal and professional Facebook use. Again, we’re still trying and struggling to define what is a “friend” in the context of these new social tools.
Donna Bogatin criticizes the post and calls it a “self-serving self-promo”. (Donna just wrote to let me know she actually agrees with Mark Cuban. The line I quote was her reaction to a post from Jeremiah Owyang). I call it “exploration and experimentation”. We’re learning as we go.
I’m alway reminded of this graph (above) from René Barsalo showing how many generations it took to go from the beginnings of the modern man to writing (1700 generations), from writing to printing (300 generations) and so forth with each new communication technology. Where our ancestors had the benefit of one (or more) generation to learn how to use emerging communication tools, we now only have a few years. Expect a lot of trial and error in a very short period of time.