How many friends do you have on Facebook? Do you have loads of followers on Twitter? And what about those LinkedIn connections – do you have hundreds and hundreds? There is a constant reminder of how many friends and contacts you have in every social network you join. Indeed, there often appears to be a competitive element to it, with the “I have more friends than you” mentality.
There is a fairly constant argument as to whether you should go for quantity or quality. Should you have thousands of connections who you know hardly at all, or just a few dozen who you know a great deal about?
You can find evidence to support both sides of the argument of course. The people who argue that quantity is important can cite serendipitous examples of things that could never have happened unless there had been some kind of weak connection. Yet the people who favour quality can point out the depth of relationships and the long-term benefits they bring.
However, new research suggests that the arguments over quantity or quality of social networks is not as simple as you might think. According to researchers from the University of Virginia our social networks are linked to the prevailing economic conditions. It seems that the best social networking strategy in times of economic boom are to go for quantity. But when we are in the economic doldrums, then a quality social network appears to work best for us.
This makes sense because when times are tough we can concentrate on getting support from those who know us best. But when the economy is positive we can benefit from those chance happenings which can arise from a wider social network.
So as we struggle through this long economic downturn it might be a good time to start slimming down your social networks and seek quality rather than quantity. It could be just the boost your business needs.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+