Is online friendship worth less than a piece of meat?

January 10, 2009
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In a brilliant marketing campaign, Burger King is offering a coupon for a free Whopper to anyone who “sacrifices” ten of their Facebook friends. The “whopper sacrifice” campaign is earning mass media coverage, including in the New York Times. I checked it out myself and took the opportunity to trade ten of my more questionable online friendships for a slightly less questionable repast.

Of course, the interesting question

In a brilliant marketing campaign, Burger King is offering a coupon for a free Whopper to anyone who “sacrifices” ten of their Facebook friends. The “whopper sacrifice” campaign is earning mass media coverage, including in the New York Times. I checked it out myself and took the opportunity to trade ten of my more questionable online friendships for a slightly less questionable repast.

Of course, the interesting question in the context of much of the discussion on this blog is what such a campaign tells us about the value of online social network connections. On Facebook, friendship is symmetric, as is also the case on LinkedIn. But it’s interesting to consider how such a campaign might have worked on Twitter. Would you be asked to sacrifice followers or followees?

On one hand, you choose whom you follow, and in theory you follow them because you’re interested in what they have to say. It stands to reason that unfollowing someone would be a sacrifice.

On the other hand, having lots of followers is signals status and perhaps even authority. So perhaps it’s giving up followers that would be a sacrifice.

Of course, these two possibilities aren’t mutually exclusive: there may be value both in following and being followed. Regardless of whether it is better to give than receive, it may be good to do both.

Nonetheless, I suspect that the average online “friendship” is worth less than $0.37 (a whopper goes for $3.69). I’m sure Burger King will have no trouble giving away whoppers.

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