Friending vs Following

Friending is so different than Following. I was talking through this with a few different founders over the weekend. Thinking out loud late on a Sunday night:

With “friending” as on LinkedIn, Facebook you are establishing a fact. You say “we’ve met in the past and want to be formally connected in case of something useful happening in the future”. On LinkedIn, this means the people you connect with can help you in finding a reference, a job, a new employee, etc. On Facebook it means something your friend does may show up in your news feed if relevant and you are ok with them seeing what you share.

But “following” is a very different action. When you follow someone or something, you are effectively saying “I’d like to hear what you have to say tomorrow”. This is powerful. Very different than friending — it means I’m inviting you into my world. On Twitter or Instagram, if I check my timeline often, by following a new account I’m giving them space in my world to share content with me.

Most products don’t do a very good job of helping you decide whether to follow someone. Pinterest had this challenge — so many people followed all of their Facebook friends in the early days that they did not have a great personal Pinterest feed set up. It’s much different and much better if you sign up now from scratch.

I think this is an area of great investment for a new social network. Just assuming you want to follow everyone on one platform to another, doesn’t help you curate that platform to discover the people and content that gives you a great experience.