I know this guy who has hundreds of friends on the Facebook. I know another guy who’s trolling for his thousandth friend on the MySpace. I know authors by the score who talk about how many friends they have on this social network or that (LinkedIn geeks, anyone?). Musicians who have built entire careers on their friends list. What if Facebook disappeared tomorrow? Poof! Into the ether. Gone without a trace.
Taking all your friends with it.
Could happen. Could happen at any point. Could happen in a way that you don’t expect. Like, maybe the site doesn’t disappear, but there’s this weird database glitch and 90% of your friends are lost to you. Let’s say this happens, oh, about an hour before you send out a message touting your latest project.
You don’t own your friends on social networks. The social networks not only own the data you’ve given them about yourself, but they own all these relationships. You get access to these friends, but, really, you’re living off the kindness of strangers.
They that giveth can taketh away.
Shakespeare said that (look it up!). If there’s one rule of life in the oughts, it’s “Thy should own thy mailing list” (Machiavelli said that). Not “Facebook should own thy mailing list” or “Complete strangers with dodgy ambitions should own thy mailing list”. You’re amassing friends, but losing, well, audience.
If you’re a musician or an author or a filmmaker or an artist or a business owner and you’re not doing everything in your power to funnel people to your own personal, take-with-you-wherever-you-go mailing list (that’s backed up the nth degree), then you’re making a serious mistake.
Social networks should supplement you, the artist/business/entity, not serve as your main tool. Everything you do should be with the goal of funneling people back to your main online presence. It’s so cool to have lots and lots of “friends”, but if you don’t have a way of contacting them, touching them, talking to them, are you winning? What if, say, MySpace decides to attach advertising to every message you send to your friends? What if that advertising featured your arch-rival?
Makes sense that MySpace would monetize these connections. They’re not running a charity. Isn’t it better if you control the communication you have with your fans and customers?
Possession isn’t just 9/10ths of the law, it’s the only way you can guarantee that you’re reaching your audience.