Re-Thinking My Facebook Strategy

A few days ago, I posted about my problem with Facebook. I outlined my complaints and then solicited reader input. So far, I have had more than 80 comments. They have been extremely helpful.

My Facebook Fan Page

In the last several days, I have discovered several things about Facebook. First and foremost is the realization that Facebook itself is not the problem. I am. Facebook is simply a tool. It has its quirks and issues, to be sure. But the root problem is that I didn’t have a strategy for how to use it.

Until now, my “friend policy” (if you could call it that), was to simply accept any and all comers. I figured, the more friends the better. The problem is that this resulted in a huge amount of noise, not to mention added workload. I grew weary of all the friend requests, invites, and notifications.

It also made me think long and hard about my vocabulary. Like many people, I had begun to use the term “friend” in a very loose way. The first thing I did in re-thinking my strategy was to tighten up my definitions of key terms:

  • Family: These are the people who are related by blood or by marriage. I have occasionally been too loose with term, too. I have used it to refer to close personal friends or even the “Thomas Nelson family.” But I don’t think this is accurate or helpful. It creates the illusion of something that is not true. From now on, I am going to use this word as it was intended.
  • Friends: These are the people I know in real life. They are people I have met face-to-face, enjoy being around, and interact with in real life. (These three elements are key.) Frankly, a few of these relationships started off online through Twitter. Over time, they grew and developed. Regardless, I have a few deep and significant friendships. But if I am honest, I don’t have many. I only have so much time available.
  • Acquaintances: These are people I have met online or off. I may know their name or even their face. We may even have been friends at some point in the past, but we don’t have an ongoing relationship. We only know one another at a superficial level, and that’s just fine. We just have to be clear that these are not our “friends.”
  • Fans: These are the people who know my public persona or my work. This is also where people get confused because the relationship is not mutual. For example, I am a fan of Chris Brogan. We have even met once. I know lots of stuff about him, because of his blog and Twitter posts. This creates the illusion of intimacy. If I am not careful, however, I could fool myself into thinking I have a relationship with Chris. I don’t. I’m just one of his many fans.

So with those definitions in mind, I set out to re-think my approach to Facebook. Basically, it’s pretty simple. I have decided that I will only use my Facebook profile for family and close friends. I don’t want an inbox that is flooded with sales pitches and invitations to things I don’t care about.

However, realizing that more people are on Facebook than Twitter and that at least five percent of my blog traffic comes from Facebook, I decided to create a fan page for everyone else who wants to connect with me.

For the record, I dislike the term “fan page.” It makes me very uncomfortable. Instead, I wish Facebook would use the term “public pages” for fan pages and “private pages” for profiles. I think that better represents the distinction between the two.

Regardless, my Twitter feed will show up in both places. (Or it least it will when I get that working!) However, the interaction on my fan page is more limited, which is what I need in order to preserve my sanity. My “fans” can write on my wall and I will reply back as I am able—just like I do with Twitter direct messages and replies.

Once I set up the fan page, Facebook tech support was kind enough to move all of my “friends” over to the fan page. I then proceeded to “unfriend” everyone on my profile page who wasn’t a family member or a close, real-life friend. I went from over 2,200 friends on Facebook to less than 100.

Frankly, this was a slow and tedious process. I had to unfriend people one-at-a-time. Facebook doesn’t currently provide a way to unfriend people en masse. I did this for a few hours each evening and powered through it. If I had to do again, I probably would have just deleted my account and started over. It would have been easier.

Here are some of the key learnings I took away:

  • You have to understand the difference between friends, acquaintances, and fans.
  • If I try to be everyone’s friend, I will be no one’s friend. I must be deliberate and selective.
  • I will probably offend some of the people I unfriended. That’s okay. My sanity and real friends are more important than meeting the expectations of fans and acquaintances.
  • I need to be very careful who I accept as a friend on my profile going forward. Just based on mouse clicks, it’s three times as much work to unfriend someone as friend them.

I found that I got more aggressive as I culled my list. After my first pass, I had 400 “friends.” I went back through and had 250. On my third pass, I had 95. And, frankly, that’s probably too many. But at least it is a start.

In this crazy world of social media, I think we need to remain thoughtful and flexible about how we connect online. What works today, may not work tomorrow. What works with 100 followers many not work with 10,000 followers. I doubt this is the last time I will re-think my online strategy.

One final note: I am still not able to update my fan page automatically with my Twitter feed. I have tried the Facebook app, “Selective Twitter Status” and PeopleBrowsr. Both are showing promise. I am working toward a solution. But neither one of them have it nailed yet.

Question: Is it time to re-think your Facebook strategy? What needs to change for you?
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  • http://twitter.com/realpetermag @realpetermag

    nice post michael. i'm wrestling with the same thing. it seems to me that social networks organizing into better groups should be the next wave of social media. you should be able to organize your friends into the categories you described and organize access to your profile accordingly.

    it's time for facebook to get rid of the word friend. it's antiquated. there should be an option where you can "get to know someone better" by allowing them to temporarily access your page.

    I think it's time we start thinking of making social media friends the same we do in the physical world. introductions, common interests, shared experiences grow a friendship (is there a way to do this online?), family, work relationships, etc.

    I loved Michael's line about the fact that "I think we need to remain thoughtful and flexible about how we connect online. What works today, may not work tomorrow. What works with 100 followers many not work with 10,000 followers. I doubt this is the last time I will re-think my online strategy."

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I agree with the word "friend." I think at this point in the evolution of social networking, we can make better and more discriminating distinctions.

  • http://twitter.com/HSchiefelbein @HSchiefelbein

    Have you tried Seesmic for allowing Twitter to update Fan page? Great post, by the way. It's so important for leaders to be reflecting and constantly challenging the process. Well said.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      No, I haven't. However, I have it on my Mac, so maybe I will give it a try. Thanks.

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  • http://www.widneywoman.com WidneyWoman

    I took a Facebook sabbatical this summer. Deleted the FB app from my iPhone. I deleted almost 200 'friends'. I removed my Twitter link. There were things I wanted to say and not have to be worried I would offend a 'friend' on FB. I did this to reduce the amount of time I wasted on social networking and increase the amount of time I spend face-to-face with my kids.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    I thought I wasn't going to be affected with the switch to your fan page (because I have never met you), but today your tweets are not showing up on my facebook home page like they did yesterday. This is okay because I have your blog bookmarked and I'm following you on Twitter, but I enjoyed reading through your tweets on Facebook.

    Just a note on social media, I don't really care if people follow me or befriend me. What is most important is that people hook up with God and we don't need computers or cell phones. Just speaking the password–"in the name of Jesus"–puts us in immediate contact with our Father who loves us with an absolute love, a love that is perfect, complete, and real

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    I thought I wasn't going to be affected with the switch to your fan page (because I have never met you), but today your tweets are not showing up on my facebook home page like they did yesterday. This is okay because I have your blog bookmarked and I'm following you on Twitter, but I enjoyed reading through your tweets on Facebook.

    Just a note on social media, I don't really care if people follow me or befriend me. What is most important is that people hook up with God and we don't need computers or cell phones to communicate with Him. Just speaking the password–"in the name of Jesus"–puts us in immediate contact with our Father who loves us with an absolute love, a love that is perfect, complete, and real

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Patricia, I think this is just a temporary Facebook glitch. After I got your comment, I did a test to see if people could see the Facebook post on my fan page. I received a ton of comments. If you can't see it at http://www.facebook.com/michaelhyatt, please let me know. Thanks.

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  • http://janalynvoigt.com Janalyn Voigt

    I'm one of the people you marked for unfriending, but actually I unfriended you first. (I hope it didn't hurt your feelings.) ;o) I decided to spare you the few clicks for me, and besides, you had already voiced your desire to save your friend page for your family and close friends. I'm not one to hang around uninvited.

    I did have a small reaction to your pronouncement, although I understood it. After introspection, I recognized that, as a writer, I use fb for networking, to connect with, share ideas and learn from others in publishing. I viewed you in that category – as something of a mentor and role model. I didn't think of myself as your fan. Your wish that the fan page could be called the "public page" helped me.

    My family feels a little uncomfortable tagging me in photos or making comments because they know I use fb for networking. At first I initiated friendships with other professionals, but now others initiate just as often. It does feel strange to allow complete strangers access to my personal information. Rather than make a fan page that includes writing contacts, I've decided to make a personal page for family and friends under an alias and allow them to connect with me on either page. I think you can turn off applications. I don't mind letting invitations pile up, especially if I post a notice in my profile that I don't want them. Emails can be directed to my primary email account.

    By the way, the fact that professionals have invaded fb for networking seems to indicate a need for something like it, minus the fun and games.

    Janalyn Voigt

    http://janalynvoigt.wordpress.com

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    My facebook is for family and friends (friends definition is loose like my handful of writers I've gotten to know from my local chapter, church congregation because likewise I'm trying to change the face of our church to be more community orientated, family, and real close friends or in other words people I confide my secrets in, talk to, and enjoy hanging out with). Good for you on clearing out your list. I think 2200 is bit many to handle. In fact, just having to build a platform with twitter and trying to keep up on what's going on in the lives of my friend list is almost a third job ontop of my writing and my day job. My list has 149 people on it.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patalexander patalexander

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As always they provoke thought about my own needs as we are all learning the world of social media and how to use it.

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  • http://www.theflossip.com Flossip

    I am curious how you contacted facebook to transfer friends to fans? Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/EmcsMedia @EmcsMedia

    Interesting read. However it looks to me like it's more like a noise cutting effort, than a real strategy per se. Like twitter followers and following, Facebook allow grouping and total and precise control of inbound and outbound feeds. I agree with the Fan page being 'the business personae' but that does not mean that your fans have to be different than your friends, as some of them are both, and you want to be able to speak to few as well as to all, but also be able to listen to as many as possible, and just choose when you want to hear what they have to say.

  • Maureen

    Finally an approach that is realistic. I struggled with quality versus quantity of friend numbers I have numerous friend invites waiting for my response but would not add them due to this dilemma of melding everyone in one pot. It was about integrity of my values for me.. allowing anyone into the sanctuary of my family life without due course and natural evolution. so I held back until you beautifully expressed your plan as you plugged through your list… I now have a fan page and what I consider healthy boundaries for both my family and my associates. Much appreciate your candor Michael and the example of integrity that you emanate always.

  • Ellie

    Hi,
    How were you able to contact facebook and ask them to transfer your friends to fans? If anyone can help me with this??? That would be great!

  • http://alyiceedrich.com Alyice

    I went through the same thing some time back. I almost deleted my FB altogether, but then I realized I have kids to monitor–and now that my son is in college, it gives me an opportunity to play a few games with him online and stay in touch.

    I did, however, unfriend a bunch of strangers and even some high school acquintances who friended me but never talked to me beyond that "Friend" status. Even unsubbed a few friends who no longer talked to me on a personal level once we became FB friends as it was easier for them to catch up with my updates and then move on with their day–which made hurt our relationship. Unfriending them, has allowed us to reconnect on a more personal relationship.

    A may have to start a fan page, for the magazine though… something to think about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/spdlc Tim Westermeyer

    Michael –

    It looks like you were able to change the URL for your “fan” page from “facebook.com/michaelhyattfan” (which is the link to it you have in this blog) to simply “facebook.com/michaelhyatt”. How did you do that, since you can apparently only change your user name once? Sorry for such a pedestrian question — great information in all of your blogs. Keep it coming.

    Tim

  • Pat

    Interesting reading, even if a few months late! My computer was hacked several months ago, and as a result, I went through and deleted just about all of my online accounts, photographs, etc. I found, to my surprise, an enormous sense of relief about the simplicity that returned to my life. Only at the urging of extended family did I recently open up a new Facebook account (everyone but me was on it). But this time, like you, I was judicious in keeping the list of 'friends' to about 100. I ditched my old Fan Page, and with the new account, I made everything as private as possible ("only friends"), even turning off the search capability for my name. I don't 'friend' people who are just acquaintances, and unless they are friends of a friend, they can't 'friend' me, either. I discovered that if I don't click 'ignore' on a friend request, that there is still some capability of 'awaiting confirmation' folk to read my wall posts–and due to my need for privacy from my hacker, I click ignore for all friend-of-friend-but-stranger-to-me requests promptly. I've trained myself to do so without guilt. ;)

    To simplify my newsfeeds, I don't enable/accept applications, and hide all games. And the biggest help to me with the newsfeeds is the creation of categories of friends ('lists'). I found that my general newsfeed was still missing many posts from family or other close friends–but that when I put folks in lists, such as Family, Local, College, High School, etc.–if I clicked on just that list group, I'd get ALL the newsfeeds for that category. So now, I can at least stay current with family feeds, or certain groups of friends.

    The thing that's odd about Facebook is that it generalizes all as 'friends' or 'not friends'. In real life, though, there are shades of grey…there are some things I'd share with certain friends and not with others. So mass-posting certain posts to 100 other people sometimes means either I'm staying light and superficial, or I'm getting close with a few folks who I otherwise might not share so intimately with. Just one reason why technology is likely to always fall short of real-life interaction and communications.

  • Colin

    Michael- Looks like Facebook finally got the message and changed "Fan" pages to "Like" pages today.

  • http://www.windridgeconsulting.com Lindsay Colitses

    Good moves Micheal!

    I would like to add that "linking" Twitter to Facebook (even a Fan Page) can become extremely annoying to your FB fans. Filling people's FB Newsfeed with Twitter tweets (chatter) leaves little room for others – Personally, I hide people who use FB as a Twitter mirror….. I'll follow them on Twitter if I want that much of a person.

    Twitter and Facebook – two different beasts and even a Fan Page must be used with discretion so as not to turn into an annoyance.

    My two cents :-)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/moraw moraw

    please let us know when and how you figure it out how to split your fb friends and your FB "Fans"…

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  • Belinda

    Thank you Mr Hyatt for being so open about your thoughts with Facebook. My husband and I both deleted our personal FB pages. Now to set up the “fan page” for our businesses. Thank you for your encouragement through your blog and Twitter!
    Have a blessed CHRISTmas!

  • Jay Blaisdell

    I am reading Platform, Mr. Hyatt, and I am enjoying it very much and finding it useful. On page 182 you said., “Once I set up the fan page, Facebook tech support was kind enough to move all of my friends over to my fan page. I then proceeded to unfriend everyone on my profile page who wasn’t a family member of a close, real-life friend.” I have been trying to do this myself since I have over 4,000 friends on my personal account, but the only option I see is to CONVERT my personal page to a fan page, which I don’t want to do. I have had my personal account for years, and I don’t want to erase it. I see you made this post in 2009. Do I still have the option of transferring my “friends” to my public page and then deleting them from my personal, or must I have convert the personal account? Any help would be appreciated. It appears people can no longer do what you did. It seems I will simply have to delete all of these “friends” if I want to keep my personal account.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      What if you converted it to a fan page, set up a new personal page, and then selectively invited to the new page those you want?

  • Chris Harris

    How did you receive Facebook’s help in moving all your friends over to your “fan” page?