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What “Counts” on Social Media?

My wife and I recently celebrated our birthdays. Friends and family sent us cards, emailed, called us, texted and wrote on our respective Facebook walls. As they did, my wife and I got to talking about whether wishing a close friend or family member a happy birthday via their wall “counted” as an acceptable form of birthday recognition.

For the casual friend, it’s nice they’d recognize us at all. My wife and I were flattered by the wall postings we received and admitted to receiving more recognition of our birthdays than ever before, thanks to Facebook.

But the heart of our question was, for one’s close friends and family, is posting a note on one’s Facebook wall enough? I argued “yes” and my wife argued “no” (or, I should say, she “offered as perspective,” since she isn’t one to argue).

My argument went that as more of our lives move online, our interactions become more seamless between different channels. You likely converse with your best friends through a variety of channels, and any one of them is acceptable for saying hello, wishing a happy birthday or congratulating them on their new job. After all, the best web experiences are ones that mirror (at best, optimize) and integrate with our offline experiences.

My wife “offered as perspective,” that a wall posting replaces a more personal and thoughtful gesture these close friends and family would have made in years past – maybe a phone call or a visit – and that a Facebook wall posting is not as special – if for no other reason than you receive more of them from people who don’t know you as well.

Regardless of who is “right,” there are questions and implications beyond one’s birthday wall postings from this discussion – questions of online etiquette and appropriateness, types of relationships, relevance, individual experience, permission, etc. All of these are important considerations – as much for us in our personal relationships as they are for companies and their customer relationships.

So, question 1: Does writing “happy birthday” on someone’s wall “count” for your closest friends and family? And, question 2: How should companies treat us differently as they engage us socially and not merely in a capital relationship of producer and customer?

As a quick aside: Given how many relationships you have with companies who know when your birthday is (e.g., banks, insurers, phone/cable company) isn’t it strange they’ve never wished you a happy birthday?

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