At what point do you have too many friends, followers and subscribers? The big question we keep hearing about all of these online social channels is, "does it scale?" Maybe the better question is, "why does it have to scale?"
Welcome to Intimacy 2.0.
Right now, most of the online social networks and communications channels seem more like games than anything else. For the most part, the game is about collecting as many followers, friends and subscribers as possible. In the end, that is a mass media model and even though these are conversational channels - much more back and forth than one centralized place that edits and distributes information to the masses - the only way to shift from "conversational" to real conversations is to get more intimate.
The better conversations are the smaller ones. The ones that happen in the hallways and not on the tradeshow floors. The ones that are sparked by a Blog posting but happen on instant messenger or through email.
Perhaps one of the bigger trends we will see in the coming years is the overall pruning of one's online social network down to a manageable level where real interactions between real human beings start taking hold again. Maybe true success in these online social circles will not involve metrics like amount of connections or how many times something happened, but rather how powerful and poignant something is to the specific target market. We all know people who use these channels in that, exact, way. They keep their circles tight and the conversation is very personal... even when it's publicly visible for all to see.
Word of mouth is only successful when the person receiving the message either trusts the source implicitly or loves what they're hearing about so much that the source is simply the vessel that delivers the message. It's a fairly simple form of marketing and communications when you break it down (it's also arguable whether it's marketing at all). Technology is getting to the point where this type of messaging can transcend your physical group of connections. It is quite powerful.
Who would have thought that you could have an intimate connection with someone in another country whom you have never met in person?
The whole quality over quantity debate still rages on because most people (and I can be just as guilty of this as the next person) are not looking at creating valuable and intimate relationships. They're hooked more on the sheer volume of their loose ties. For some, it seems to be more than enough in the snackable content society that we're all creating with every Twitter tweet and FriendFeed comment.
The real question is, just how badly do you want intimacy in these channels or is it simply a number's game and newer version of mass media?