How Do You Find Out Which Of Your Friends Are Already On A Social Network?

I asked the following question to my friends on

When you join a social network (eg Twitter) how do you find out which of your ‘real life’ friends are already on it? Email / Ask them all?

I got quite a few responses (see below). It seems like most people, as I expected, go out of their way to contact (via email, instant messenger, etc.) each of their friends to see if they are on the service. Alternatively, some services include functionality to scrape your address book for contacts that are on the service. Right now, the latter is the best solution. Unfortunately, this requires the web service to re-invent the wheel to incorporate this feature, which is why many do not have it. When it is supported, it still requires that you give the service your email account information (including your password). Last, but tied with the rest for least, is searching for each of your friends individually, IF the service even provides search functionality (Twitter, I’m looking at YOU!).

So what can be done? What would be the ideal solution?

As much as I would like to lay out my plan, I should keep it under wraps until I develop a proof-of-concept. I do not want anyone to take the concept and create commercial competition. My goal would be to make a platform that is free and decentralized. Some might say that OpenID and ClaimID are barking up the same tree, but I think there is a much better way for the idea to be executed for it to be truly useful and widely accepted.

Meanwhile, if you have any thoughts on how you think this problem should be solved, you can feel free to let me know! On Twitter, just start your message with “@brianshaler ” (no quotes). Or you can email me at

Responses (via Twitter):

@brianshaler: most sites have a book that searches your gmail hotmail etc address books to add them to your list automatically. not twitter :(
Very true. However, I don’t think we can or should depend on every web service to build out this kind of functionality

@brianshaler social networking aggregators are the next big thing. they will help with that issue
Possibly, but I think there should be one open standard and it would have to be very well-developed.

@brianshaler: that’s a start. You could also try to invite them. If they’re already on, u’ll just get connected and if not, they may join

@brianshaler what are “real life” friends? :)

@brianshaler ask one by one, and maybe invite them
That’s the way it seems to be now on most social networks. Wish it wasn’t so.

@brianshaler well. I don’t even ask anymore. The answer is always no :p

@brianshaler: when you find out, let me know!

Will do. ;-)

@brianshaler – type there AIM/GoogleTalk handles in. Nothing beats BFI.

@Brain Shaler – under help the 4th ? its like where is search? click that and then there should be a blue word saying twittersearch
You would need to know their screen names, and TwitterSearch only keeps updates for a day or two.

@brianshaler I constantly stalk all of my real life friends online so I already know! Umm, where did all my real life friends go?


@brianshaler None of my “real life” friends are on any of this rubbish. Except possibly Facebook. Which I am not on.

@brianshaler: I invite them or email them to ask them and then invite them… :)
Wish there was an easier way, don’t you? I always have trouble thinking of who to ask/invite.

@brain Shaler – click twitter search and then there should be a box like where you can type in a name to find someone
It’s “Brian” by the way, but thanks for the compliment! ;-)

@brianshaler hardly any of my real life friends have ever heard of a social network other than Facebook. :(

@brianshaler, I ask them usually, but I think you can search with Twitter, not sure though

Nope, Twitter does not have built in search. But this idea applies to ALL social networks. Twitter is just an example of one where a solution is needed

@brianshaler: put that on my Twitter wish list!

@brianshaler: I have the problem that none of my “real life” friends are interested in joining. :P So all the people on my friends lists are those I only know online.

@brianshaler I say you email them but use web 2.0 buzz words


@brianshaler: e-mail.

@brianshaler you search ;-)

@brianshaler: Yeah, and sometimes they have an email address book checker, but who’s going to enter their email password to see which friends are on there?
Great point. There has to be a better way.

@BrianShaler Good question. I’ve got an idea for a site to help with that problem, but just getting started. “MySocNets”, maybe?
Here’s someone that knew where I was going with this question!

@brianshaler that’s one of the things I like about twitter, actually. Your network evolves naturally as u see who’s talkin to who.

That’s how I got some of my first contacts on Twitter, but that doesn’t help us very much in finding which of our real-life friends are already on.

@brianshaler that’s a good question! I only have one “real life friend” on twit…all the other ones have no idea what it is…
Are you sure you have asked every single one of them? What if you missed someone and he/she has an account?

@brianshaler: with the exception of Facebook the answer is always “non of them

@brainshaler I asked them and emailed-they just laughed guess my friends have lives-lol
Misspelling my first name decreases the chances of me spotting your reply by about 50%. Misspelling my last name decreases the chances of me spotting your reply by about 98%. FYI ;-)

brianshaler: i search by name or email

@brianshaler start typing names and see who comes up.

Not very efficient, but I’ve had to do that, too.

@brainshaler well if they are your real friends, you should already know the answer to that question :)

@brianshaler for me is easy cause no one uses social networks :-P

@brianshaler What is this “real life” of which you speak?

Urban legend.

@brianshaler what if you joined because your friends aren’t on and you don’t want them to find you

@brianshaler: ask them.. Twitter needs a contact upload application like the other networks.

@brianshaler “do you find out which of your ‘real life’ friends are already on it?” Quite good question! I asked myself too…

A “good question” is generally a bad thing. That means there probably is not a “good answer”.

@brianshaler – invite your friends and if they already have it, they’ll sign in and see your page. :)
Not bad, but what if you don’t want to bother the people who aren’t on it, and only want to add the people who already are?

@brianshaler i pretty much im my online friends w/ the link

@brianshaler I have asked and sent invitations but I guess my real life friends are not that keen joining any social network.


@brianshaler how do you put skin on twitter? I never notify friends except those I already know use a given site… no junk mail!

@brianshaler Interesting question.Been debating it with a couple of friends for an hour now. Shows how bored I am.

@brianshaler – Most of my RL friends don’t spend much time on-line. I’m glad they don’t ;)


@brianshaler Still wondering how to connect my real world and my social network. There is surprisingly little overlap.

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