Should I use auto-friend-adders?

I get this question pretty much every time I go and speak somewhere. It’s generally about MySpace, but it also relates to anything like the automated friend adders, chat bots, scripts and automatic human being replacements in social networks.

Essentially this is about making decisions about the kind of conversations you want to be involved in.

I’m sure you can already guess that my answer to the title question is a resounding “No” – but this is not about making you do all the hard work so that you have to reap the benefit. Believe me – this is not my serious work ethic talking here.

I’m a deeply lazy individual.

A bit like the tortoise and the hare
While it might seem that using an auto-friend adder is like strapping a jet propulsion system onto your online social networking system – chances are it’s not going to help you win the race.

Tools that can seem to get you ahead really quickly have the downside of exponentially diminishing the quality of that engagement, and the overall effect thereof.

But that’s not to say you have to set aside an hour a night to add ten friends at a time for the rest of your life, plodding away adding genuine contacts on a slow, incremental basis. It’s also possible to make serious headway quickly using this approach.

Let me tell you a story. And there are no anthropomorphic animals in it.

The Street Evangelist and the Neighbour who Bakes
Two churchgoers want a lot of people to come to their church meeting. They both enjoy their church, but they’re also really passionate about it, and what’s more – they think it’s really important.

One of them stands on a box in a busy intersection and shouts at people.

The other bakes a cake and knocks on the neighbour’s door.

Now the obvious problem is one of scale. Both approaches are hindered by the physical constraints of the world. One has machinery that will allow for a message to get out to hundreds or even thousands of people at a time. The other has a cake.

If you want to shout at more people, one way is to get a bigger megaphone. The logic at work there is that the more people hear your message, the more chance you have of connecting with someone that will want to come to your church meeting.

The other approach, you’ll recall, is to pop over to the new neighbours with a cake you made. You have a chat, and they eat your cake. They get to know you as nice people, and you invite them along to your church. They’re new in town and you seem nice, so they come along.

You can’t shout through a cake
Now obviously, the number of people who hear your message in the first approach is much greater. The number of people who will come to your church because you made a cake is very, very small.

But here’s the thing: the people who came because of what started with a cake will likely come in the first place – then they’ll stay, they’ll find that it’s a community they fit into – and chances are they’ll invite their own friends next time they’re around for dinner.

Especially if your church holds a bake-a-cake, invite a friend event.

Because the friends of your neighbours have friends too, and before long, they’re making friends, inviting friends and being part of a community.

It’s not so much that there was cake (although cake, it has to be said, is very good), but it’s a lot to do with the fact that you didn’t start out by shouting at them through a megaphone about what a miserable time they were going to have down below upon their imminent demise.

It’s not really about cake
I’m sure we can agree that cake is, indeed, a wonderful thing. But this is, of course, an imperfect metaphor. We can’t yet email each other cake. Nor beer, sadly.

But the approach to the conversation is the same. Rather than try and accumulate as many hits on people as you possibly can through the use of obvious and much hated communication methodologies such as megaphones and auto-adders, go for quality of connection.

It might seem like one at a time while you’re doing it – but the power of a recommendation by a trusted friend is an amazing thing. Getting people to bring their friends and build their communities with respect to your music builds exponentially.

Cakes are louder than megaphones
The trouble with a megaphone is that no matter how big it is, sooner or later the sound decays and reaches no further. A softly spoken word by a trusted friend who is having a good experience not only continues, but multiplies upon every connection.

So, perhaps one way to interpret this parallel of the street shouter and the cake baker is to say that maybe building a street team of trusted individuals who are tapped into powerful networks, and enabling and rewarding them to evangelise in quiet, enthusiastic tones on your behalf is better than gathering as many random MySpace accounts as you can find and spamming them with ‘HI! WE’RE A BAND! ADD US AS FRIENDS NOW!’

The other, more literal way to interpret this would be to offer free cake on your MySpace profile to anyone who ‘friends’ you – but I wouldn’t recommend it. Like I said – imperfect metaphor.

But you get the picture (and no, I won’t come to your church meeting, no matter how good your cake is).

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57 thoughts on “Should I use auto-friend-adders?

  1. I Halve Gnomes says:

    Dubber. Here’s a question. Is placing an Ad in a music magazine anything resembling human, or personal, interaction? It’s just as unsolicited and automatic as a friend request from an “auto friend adder”.

    Is radio play personal or human? They didn’t necessarily ASK to hear your band on that station, mere just willed to “listen to the station,” and in most cases have never even talked personally with the person responsible for playing the song, let alone the people listening.

    How about postering? How personal is that? How many unsolicited views are perpetrated by putting one single poster on a street corner? The only way to personalize that process would be to rig a wireless walkie-talkie system to every poster, that goes back to your place of residence.

    My point is this. Sometimes, you have to get through the initial “this is [band name here] as quickly as poss. so that you CAN afford the time to be personal… unless you have a very large promotions budget/staff… then why would you need to send out friend requests to anyone in the first place?

    Leaving pre-designed “ad copy” style comments, even to those who request you is more spam than speeding up the requesting process with the help of software.

  2. @ I Halve Gnomes

    Magazine advertisements, radio ads and posters aren’t supposed to be personal. Creating a friendship is.

    ( Not that I disagree with all your other comments, I realize “each and every person [you] add is held in the highest regard…” I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, I just think those were bad examples. )

  3. I Halve Gnomes says:

    My point is this. There is nothing wrong with the method of delivery, just how that method is used or abused. If someone uses an auto friend adder to spam people, much in the way described (fake profiles, automated or non-existent messages, and so on) THAT is the problem… someone who is just speeding up the process of physically adding people, much in the way that you would set up a photoshop script to automate a repetitive task that you would be doing with the mouse to save time (that’s all an adder is), is no different really than the traditional hand done way.

    There is no lack of communication, if not even more communication as one doesn’t have to spend their time with the act of friend requesting, but rather, with correspondence. The friend request is planting a seed… If the person enjoys the music and accepts, then that line of communication has been opened (and if they deny it, they wouldn’t have been interested anyway), and its up to the artist to either ignore that line of communication, or to use it to build relationships and friendships.

    Let me say this: Friend Adders INCREASE the line of communication with people that I am able to have. I have much more relationships that have been made possible, simply by automating the process of clicking on the add to friends button, rather than toiling through the browser killing profiles with flying glittery unicorns bouncing around the page at 200mph, and half transparent foregrounds over busy eye melting backgrounds. If someone can legitimately convince me that there is something ACTUALLY wrong with that, then I’ll listen… but I doubt that is possible. The real problem is musicians who don’t feel the need to connect with their fans, or potential friends.

    My analogies were more/less there to bring up the point that almost all strategies to initially inform others about your band are impersonal… not because we like it that way, but because it would be impossible to reach more than a couple of people that way. There is no moral connotations in placing a magazine ad for IT’S initial impersonal nature, but simply because it’s popular to “blame it all on the auto adders”, anyone who automates a friend request, regardless of how they, themselves, handle it afterward, or how those friend requests are generated, is a complete sham, irritating people much in the way of an internet spammer. The difference is… myspace is set up to expand your circle of friends…if you want to stick to just who you know already, go with facebook, but myspace… the entire point is to meet new people, while an emal client is not set up for the purpose of getting emails from people that you don’t know (in fact that pisses people off, myself included) Let’s just say: I haven’t had a single person who has been in correspondence with me have a problem with hearing from my band. Why? Because I send only to those who seem already interested in the kind of thing we do, and I handle it with care, politeness, and sincerity to build a relationship. Those who aren’t interested have a deny button to click, and they can enjoy whatever other music that they enjoy, while those who are interested in what my band are doing can become part of our ever growing circle of friends (we view them more as friends than fans… but that’s besides the point) How is that wrong? Tell me, and I’ll listen (but not necessarily believe you)

  4. I thought this debate was dead and buried but it appears my uncannily named friend has resurrected it.

    Frankly, I think you’d be hard pressed to disagree with anything that’s been said – unless of course like Atul Rana you believe we shall all burn in hell.. ?!

    I think a key point is taking the relationship beyond myspace and ‘owning’ it yourself – but I’m really glad to see someone who can advocate the Friend Adding benefits alongside myself.

    Good idea about using the venue myspace – I may have to give that a try myself!

  5. FQV says:

    you should not.

  6. MySpace Friend Adder says:

    I found your blog whlie Googling for ways to promote my own blog with Social Networks. Great work here – hope that I can get mine going soon – any tips or advice for a relative newb?