The way we define our friends has vastly changed over the past decade or so. There is a fine line between virtual friends and the friends we see in real life. In many cases, these two groups overlap. We might connect with former friends through social networking sites but never actually see them in person for the rest of our lives. Other friends we connect with online we might see every single day. Heck, they might be sitting right next to us as we share a link on their Facebook wall or retweet them. Some people are less picky about their virtual friends, and they’ll accept new ones that they’ve never met in person. For these less selective people, are the friends they’ve made through social networking sites true friends?
The answer to that question lies in your definition of “friend.” Your casual social network acquaintances are certainly friends if you define the term as someone to whom you are attached by mutual feelings of respect or similar interests. In that case, you can find friends simply by searching for other people that share a fondness, such as pizza. You respect them because they also like pizza, and you could pleasantly discuss or even debate pizza for at least a few minutes.
On the other hand, you might define a friend as a person you know well and with whom you have formed a bond of trust. In this definition, friends are separate from acquaintances. A friend is not someone that simply shares a liking of pizza, but instead has maybe shared many meaningful conversations with you over pizza and has proven that they will be by your side through the good times and the bad, shared interests aside.
In many cases, you can tell which type of standards a person has for a friend. People with thousands of Facebook friends but little interest in what you have to say face-to-face probably has a more casual definition of the word. Those with only a hundred social networking friends are probably stricter in their definition. Interestingly enough, studies show that three different personality types determine how people make friends on social media sites and businesses looking for social media fans can use this information to their advantage. The way people define friends on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites depends on whether they are an extroverted, emotionally intelligent or Machiavellian.
People who are extraverted are the ones who are outgoing and social. They’re the prom queens, the talk show hosts, politicians and overall social butterflies of our society. They thrive on human interaction, and they are usually well-liked for their talkative and enthusiastic nature. Extraverts love to be in social situations, and would prefer to be in a crowded room than alone. They often find themselves bored when left to their own devices in an isolated setting.
Extraverts probably have a lot of friends on their social networking sites, but there is also a good chance they’ve met most of these people in person. Extraverts might come home from a party or fundraising event to find a few Facebook friend requests from people they had lengthy conversations with, or they might find twenty LinkedIn requests from people they handed out their business cards to. While they might not trust their children with every single one of their Facebook friends, they did base their acceptance on a positive personal interaction that could someday blossom into a true friendship. These people make great social media marketers, because they know how to find and connect with fans.
People who possess an emotional intelligence are able to perceive and evaluate their own emotions and the emotions of others around them. Essentially, they are more empathetic and compassionate than others and they can quickly sense what someone is feeling. This makes them sensitive and steadfast friends. They are the social workers, the nurses and the motivators.
People who are emotionally intelligent (EI) are more likely to have fewer friends on social networking sites, but these friends are probably more meaningful. Those that are EI likely define friends as those who are connected on a deeper level, so Facebook friends are expected to have the same connection. EI individuals won’t necessarily accept a friend request from the polite gentleman they waited on at Starbucks, but they will work to maintain the relationships they have with their Facebook friends. These people understand consumers and their interconnectedness and make for great idea people behind marketing strategies.
In many psychological studies, Machiavellianism is put in a negative light and closely associated with psychopathy and narcissism. In some ways, this is an accurate association. One trait common of people with a Machiavellian personality is that they are relentless in achieving their goals, even if it’s at the expense of others. They don’t care what their relationship with people is like, they only care that the relationship advances them personally in one way or another. Yes, this is a selfish and negative personality trait overall, but it is also necessary in some professional environments, and it’s okay to be a little bit Machiavellian in your career. Machiavellians in our society are the cold-hearted CEO’s, the rude celebrities, and the constantly preoccupied PR agents.
Social networking sites are playgrounds for people with a Machiavellian personality type. LinkedIn especially provides an endless list of meaningless social connections that could further their careers, and having an outrageous list of friends on Facebook might advance them socially. If you meet up with a Machiavellian for coffee, you probably won’t have a great time. The conversation would be shallow and the person would probably be preoccupied with other thoughts. However, don’t be surprised if you get a friend request from that same person hours later. In some ways, these people make great managers, as they don’t let their feelings cloud their judgment or get in the way of the company’s goals. Of course, they need to be balanced with compassionate people who won’t be taken advantage of.
So what does this all mean for your brand’s social media marketing? Of course, you can’t control the people that like your Facebook page or share your Twitter with their friends. However, these extreme differences in personality types should be a lesson in quantity versus quality. Word of mouth is the most efficient form of advertising. If you get twenty emotionally intelligent people to like your brand on Facebook, there’s a good chance their close friends will see it, and those friends will probably like it too. If you get one thousand Machiavellians to like your brand, their Facebook friends could probably care less. They’re not concerned what the arrogant businessman they met four months ago is doing on Facebook. They’d rather follow the activity of their true friends. The same goes for your own professional page. If your page doesn’t have hundreds of “likes” or followers, don’t lose hope. Create a team that is diverse as the personality types out there, and you will likely be able to attract all three. Then, focus more on making true, deep connections with your customers and connections, and you will get more out of your social networking sites.