Facebook Fans vs. Friends

Annie Arthur & Bill CammackBack in September 2007, I wrote “Friends, Acquaintances & Contacts” about the lack of the ability to differentiate between levels of acquaintance we have with people we connect to via Social Media.

It’s been rumored that Facebook is going to add a “Fan” distinction to regular pages. Currently, you’re a “Friend” of someone or you’re not. If they add Fans, that’ll make “Facebook Fan Pages” obsolete, IMO. It will also make people more likely to add other people to their regular page that they don’t consider to be Friends to the degree that they would add them at all.

I think this is a good idea, as it would centralize the database of people that are connected to one person instead of having at least two databases for at least two pages and most of the people being redundant anyway. I have 1492 Friends on my regular page and 109 Fans on my fan page, which are, AFAIK, *ALL* Friends of mine on my regular page. There’s no need for this redundancy, whatsoever.

Also, I would feel more comfortable, personally, adding myself as a Fan to someone’s regular page than as a Fan on their fan page. For some reason, that feels more representative of the facts to me, as it pertains to Social Media. For instance, I’ve Omar Epps & Michael Beach, but I *certainly* don’t qualify as a “Friend” of theirs. OTOH, I would appreciate a distinction that’s ‘more’ than “That’s someone I’ve seen on television and I respect their work”. Similarly, there’s a band that I’m a fan of, and I’ve actually hung out with them several times.. however we don’t have ANYTHING in common, and I’d feel more authentic demoting myself to being a Fan of theirs, assuming Facebook offers you the opportunity to change your relationship to someone when/if they add this Fan status option to their regular pages.

Since this whole thing is about data collection anyway, I think it’s in Facebook’s best interest to add the Fan distinction. They’ve already made groups, and you’re able to assign different qualifications and qualities to each group, however, it still doesn’t allow you to properly define yourself in relation to the people in the groups.

If I raise glasses with Joe C., Jim L. and Rox D. whenever we end up in the same place at the same time, I’d like to be able to mark that down separately from someone whom I saw in a web series that I enjoyed and respected that I’ve Friended and they accepted, but we’re not IRL friends. I’d also like to be able to accept Fan Requests from people whom I’d like to acknowledge for “Following” me on Facebook, but I have no connection to and no reason to add as Friends. Flickr has this capability and so does XFN (“friend, met, colleague”, etc). Arguably, you can create these distinctions using multiple groups, but it would be better to be able to do it off the bat… Better for the users and better for Facebook’s data collection and utilization efforts.

~ Bill Cammack

Twitter: BillCammack
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