Photo Credit: cyberuly on flickr 'Mark Zuckerberg has changed our lives'


My birthday was last week. Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to expect to see a number of nice messages from friends and acquaintances in email and on the various social media sites. I wasn’t disappointed.

As I’ve gotten used to having slices of my life play out in public, I’ve developed some bad manners. I think it’s a part of 21st century communications. I no longer responded to every message that I get.

About 12% of the people I ‘know’ on Facebook noticed that it was my birthday. The number was way lower in email and Twitter, less that 1/2 of one percent. In all, I got about 160 birthday wishes

On a whim, I decided to answer each and every one of the kind wishes I received. Through some miraculous intervention of an unseen hand, my manners were momentarily restored.

For the most part, I knew the people who sent me birthday greetings. That surprised me. There were about 5% who I just couldn’t place. One of my favorite messages was from someone who offered, "Happy Birthday from Someone You Don’t know." I replied "Thanks for the honesty" and mentioned some of the neat people we both know. She wasn’t the only person I didn’t know who wished me well.

In the process of sending everyone a note back, I looked at their profiles, examined their photos, read their walls and pondered their information. It was a beautiful sea of interesting folks and I hope to get to know them even better.

I wanted to have a first hand feel for the time involve in having "relationships" in social media. I’ve read a lot of material that talks about being social in social media. I am currently trying to figure out how realistic that actually is. Does this whole idea of talent pools based on intimacy in relationships actually make sense?

It took about two minutes, on average, to answer each note. That includes breaks and miscellaneous social media detours. I’m not sure you can do this sort of thing without a few diversions. Mostly, though, I stuck to the task of saying thank you and offering a personal reflection.

About half of the people I responded to responded back and I took the time to respond to them again. Another minute each. Total time to respond personally to 150 people? About 400 minutes. Six and a half hours. With a little lunch and a staff meeting, that’s a full day’s work.

Still, that wouldn’t be much of a relationship, would it. I suppose that I ought to say "Happy Birthday" to each of my Facebook pals (and maybe most of the folks Plaxo reminds me about). Let’s say that takes 30 seconds. If 10% respond to my good wish, that will add the same amount of time as the greetings I received.

I started to imagine the bare minimums required to maintain ‘relationships’

  • Birthday Greetings and Responses (Sending and Receiving) 2 minutes per relationship
  • Holiday Greetings (assuming the same as Birthdays) 2 minutes per relationship
  • 2 actual phone calls per year (what’s up and is the data right) 6 minutes per relationship
  • 2 memorable customized emails that deliver personal value 4 minutes per relationship.

That would give you six connection points over the course of a year. As long as you were supplementing the contact moments with high value memorable content, you ought to be able to maintain those relationships.

If a work year has 1920 work hours (that’s 20 work days per month which means no vacations and no meetings), one could theoretically maintain 8,000 relationships at this level.

Unless you are fortunate enough to be a social media worker (social media gurus don’t have time for all of this stuff), you probably also have to get some actual work done. For each hour of work you do, you will have to give up nearly five of your potential social media relationships.

And then, there are those important meetings, conferences, collaboration opportunities and moments of office politicking.

Let’s say, just for argument purposes, that you get an average of 25 hours of work done each week. This would not include the two weeks of vacation, personal time, holidays or travel time which amount to between 4 and 6 hours per work week. It also probably doesn’t have much time for meetings which might account for another 4 to 6 hours per week. God help you if you have to do much coordination to get things done.

Looking at it this way, in a 40 hour week, where you got 25 hours of actual work done, you might have as much as 5 hours to apply to social media sports. That’s if you didn’t do anything else with your discretionary time.

That’s a ceiling of 1,000 relationships, in the best of all cases, for most of us. If you want to make sure that they’re the right (most productive) friends, you’ll need to work overtime.

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