Social Clutter and One Way to Reduce It

I saw a post on the Forrester blog, “How Can Marketers Overcome Social Clutter?” and wanted to make one myself because I often have thought the same thing and it got me thinking about a feature I’d really like to have in Facebook – targeting my wall posts to specific sets of Friend Groups. So, here is how I got from here to there:

Nate Elliot notes that he has been collecting data on the extent to which marketing messages on social sites such as Twitter and Facebook reach their target audiences. As an example he writes, “If a marketer has 100,000 followers on Twitter, or 100,000 fans on Facebook, and they post something, what percentage of those followers or fans ever actually see that marketing message?”

I’m sure you’ve experienced this, a Facebook friend posts something to their wall and you never see it on your wall because when you visit it says “most recent 300+”, you click, and a screen yields about 40 wall posts. This means if you scroll to the bottom of the page, you will see no more than 13% of the total posts since your last log-in. I don’t know about you, but I rarely scroll past the first wall of posts.

To manage the 437 “friends” (more than a bit over Robin Dunbar’s 150) I use friend groups. I have Friends & Family, the ones I follow most closely, then I have ones for College friends and High School friends. These are distinct groups. I also have groups for projects and activities so there is Motorsports, Arts Center, NewsOverCoffee, Professional-Work, giving me seven groups. Some people are in multiple groups and I follow the groups in different ways and give them different levels of attention.

Paul Adams has a great SlideShare presentation on social networks in which he addresses the interaction of these groups and how they are forced to intertwine in online social networks, which is very unlike how they interact off-line.

In many cases, people from College or Motorsports could care less about NewsOverCoffee, which is all about a place where they don’t live. Yet when I post it goes to everyone. When people receive messages that are not relevant to them it is perceived as spam.

Interestingly, Facebook allows you to share with Everyone, Friends of Friends, Friends Only, or to Customize. Under Customize you can select Specific People and Only Me. You can also post to all except specific people. What is odd is that I can’t post to one or more groups of my friends.

Having this functionality would allow individuals to post to groups to whom the information is relevant, cutting down on clutter, and helping to improve the odds it is seen by the target audience. At the same time, a further feature would be delineate between posting to that groups wall and then determining if that group could read the content on my profile wall or not.

What do you think? Should Facebook add the ability to message to specific friend groups and allow you to manage which groups see what content of yours?

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