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OMD Sense. Why social networks are creating ‘Friend Fatigue’

OMD Sense. Why social networks are creating ‘Friend Fatigue’

If MySpace and Facebook’s active users were populations, they would be the 11th and 17th largest countries on the planet.

The proliferation of social media has given rise to an infinite friend space but people are realising it is quality, not quantity that matters with friendships.

Are the days of poking, stalking and status updates over?

The explosion of social media in recent years has been driven by three key consumer advantages.

Firstly, the flexibility of digital networks allows users to control their online persona and project their virtual self to their wider social circle.

Secondly, it facilitates users maintaining their existing ‘real life’ friendships with easy-to-use chat and diary functionality.  

Finally, it allows expansion of active social networks based on elapsed relationships, existing friendships or common interests.

Infinite Friendscape  =  Infinite Friendships

However, social media is becoming the victim of its own success.

Firstly many people’s inherent self-indulgence and narcissism have led to digital projections becoming increasingly inaccurate and downright boring – it’s great you’re in a band, but I’m not interested in visiting your MySpace page…

Secondly ‘real’ friendships which took work, effort and mutual commitment have been undermined and devalued.

Finally, in this new digital social network, removal of physical constraints like time, effort or geography which drove friend evolution by a pseudo natural selection has led to hundreds of worthless ‘friendships’. Worst of all these ‘friends’ have ‘access all areas’ passes to us and our real friends.

The Social Revolution

The first rumblings of discontent began on 30th January 2008 which was declared, with the help of a Facebook group, International Delete Your MySpace Account Day.

Recent Manning Gottlieb OMD Snapshots research indicates that social network cleansing has become a mainstream behaviour with 43% of Facebook users claiming to have recently defriended at least one person.

In the US, Burger King capitalised on this with its ‘Whopper Sacrifice’ promotion. Facebook users who defriended 10 ‘friends’ were rewarded with a free meal and the promotion was so popular that people began to advertise on Craiglist for ‘temporary friends’!

However in light of social networks’ continued growth, albeit at a slower pace than in recent years, a complete annihilation is unlikely.

Much more likely is the evolution of social network applications to address the emerging consumer gripes, for example, a friend fade functionality which siphons off inactive friends.

Already, new social networks are emerging which address these issues.

For instance invitation-only closed networks are emerging such as that from fashion designer Paul Griffiths who sells his collection on MySpace.Only his friends, who are heavily filtered to be in keeping with his ‘look’, can access it.

Other closed networks are emerging which are not based on peer-to-peer connections, but on common interests. NING allows users to create their own social networks and invite friends to join based on common interests.


Social networking has traditionally had a disproportionately low share of ad revenue for its share of online traffic, largely due to the lack of protection and accountability.

Closed networks in which member recruitment is tightly controlled adds a layer of safety for brands while networks like NING, based on common interests, are even better positioned to offer access to groups and sites with integrity, alongside robust segmentation and exceptional targeting.

Brands could capitalise on this evolution of social networking by creating invitation-only VIP closed networks for their customer base in which they can deliver exclusive content e.g. O2 music, Red Bull extreme sports.

An established CRM programme such as this could become a unique advantage for the brand and the sustained customer dialogue could feed into their NPD chain or customer services.


Ben Haley
Insight Manager OMD
Direct: +44 (0)20 74705482
Mobile: +44 (0)7798 630564

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