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More Facebook Friends Isn't Necessarily Better for Marketers

social network . / Credit: Facebook Image via Shutterstock

How people share information about charities on Facebook may have implications for marketers, too, new research finds.

The research suggests that the more friends we have on Facebook, the less likely we are to share information about charitable causes. That goes against the common wisdom that more is better when it comes to sharing information on social media.

Kimberley Scharf, an economist professor from the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) at the University of Warwick in England, claims when we have larger online social networks, we rely on other people to pass on information about opportunities to give. This phenomenon is called "free riding," she said.

 "Information transmission about giving opportunities is undermined by 'free riding' incentives," Scharf said. She said people tend to count on other people to spread the message.

Scharf said her study showed there is more giving in smaller, closer-knit groups of individuals who share common interests.

"This is what matters, the closeness of social interactions: large loosely connected groups share information less effectively than smaller, better integrated groups," she said.

The implication for marketers is that building a huge base of fans with extended social networks may not be the right approach to getting the word out about your business.

Even when people do share information about a charity — and perhaps a business, too — having too many people in the group may drown out the message.

"People may share information about worthy causes or good providers, but if there are too many people sharing information, the messages could get lost in the noise of the crowd," Scharf said.

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.