Not All Friends are Created Equal

A week or two ago I tweeted an article called The Average American Knows How Many People?. It quoted research that suggested that the average American knows about 600 people and “that most Americans know just 10 to 25 people well enough to say they trust them.” Interesting stuff. A good friend replied to my tweet and suggested that rather than research they could have just asked people how many friends people had on Facebook.

That got me thinking: does my social network reflect my true friend and business relationships and how does this apply to business networking and introductions? I thought I’d take a look at my own relationships across social and offline networks to see how I stacked up against the research.

I started to dig in by thinking about how I define a “friend” in my personal and professional life. Because of what we’re trying to do at Introhive I defined it as:

  • I know them well enough to ask them to introduce me to someone
  • I would feel comfortable introducing them to someone
  • I think they would feel comfortable introducing me to someone.

I didn’t take into consideration how long I’ve known them or when the last time I spoke, saw or connected with them. I have old friends who I haven’t spoken to in years but know them well enough to make a connection. I also have new and brief connections that were meaningful enough to so the same.

Once I had my definition I went thought my social networks and contacts. Let’s take a look:

LinkedIn: 2400 connections. Kind of a lot, but in line for people in my industry. I’m pretty open with whom I connect with on LinkedIn and view it in the same way I view business cards. If someone offers, I accept. Of those 2400 about 300 are former coworkers who I know fairly well and another 200 are clients, partners and friends who fit the friend definition. I’m glad I’m connected with the other 1500, but I’m not sure I had a close enough relationship to ask for a contact. Total 500 friends out of 2100

Facebook: 530 Friends. Most are people I know. Some close, some old friends or colleagues or classmates that I’ve lost touch with. I enjoy seeing what they’re up to, but not all of them I would ask for a connection. About 350 fit the definition. 200 of this 350 are also in LinkedIn for an additional 150 out of total 530.

Twitter: 3500 following, 3600 followers. Nearly everyone that I follow on Twitter who I know well I also connect with on LinkedIn and/or Facebook. There are a few twitter only friends who I’ve developed a close enough relationship to fit within the definition. Lets say there’s 100.

Mobile: 1560 contacts on my iPhone are synced to email. Most are duplicates with Facebook and Linkedin, but a solid 200 or 250 are unique. Of those most are business only contacts. Lets say 200 out 1560.

So Let’s Recap: 7990 connections. Remove the duplicates and the ones that don’t fit the definition, and I’m left with 950 “friends” who I feel comfortable asking for or making a business connection. Not a bad contribution to my company’s relationship capital and business.

Given that I’ve worked in technology and marketing for my whole career, I wasn’t surprised that I had connections that crossed social platforms. I also wasn’t surprised that my “offline” contacts were also online contacts, but I was surprised at how many contacts I have that I’m not connected to online.

What do you think? How do you define your network? How many people are you connected to that you know well enough to introduce to someone or ask for an intro? We’d love to hear your thoughts. We’re also going to ask these questions to a variety of interesting people and feature them on the blog. Let us know in the comments if you’d like to participate.

Comments (1)

Rob, this is something I have often wondered about. It would be an interesting exercise.

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