Thursday, June 11, 2009
Facebook Study on Personal Networks
I found an interesting study by Facebook that set out to answer this question: Is Facebook increasing the size of people's personal networks? The researchers discovered that the answer was not so easy. First they had to define "network." On Facebook they found four types:
"1. All Friends: the largest representation of a person's network is the set of all people they have verified as friends.
2. Reciprocal Communication: as a measure of a sort of core network, we counted the number of people with whom a person had had reciprocal communications, or an active exchange of information between two parties.
3. One-way Communication: the total set of people with whom a person has communicated.
4. Maintained Relationships: to measure engagement, we took the set of people for whom a user had clicked on a News Feed story or visited their profile more than twice."
Regarding these maintained relationships, the study says: "Facebook and other social media allow for a type of communication that is somewhat less taxing than direct communication. Technologies like News Feed and RSS readers allow people to consume content from their friends and stay in touch with the content that is being shared. This consumption is still a form of relationship management as it feeds back into other forms of communication in the future. For instance, a high school friend uploads a photo of her new puppy and this photo appears in your News Feed. You click on the photo, browse through a host of other photos and discover that she has also gotten engaged, which may lead you to reach out to her.This type of communication is the core of the Facebook experience."
The study found that Facebook users have between 2 and 2 1/2 more maintained relationships than reciprocal ones. (It has a chart for easy visuals.)
I use Facebook for marketing--to reach out to my fans and to extend my readership. I've experienced what the study shows: my "maintained relationships" greatly increase my network. Yes, I keep active on my page, posting updates (through Twitter) and responding to comments. These are the day-to-day "reciprocal communications." But the quoted paragraph above on maintained relationships is right. My network is expanded by folks who, say, happen upon a picture of me--perhaps posted by someone else--and click over to my page or my picture gallery of book covers. They may not even talk to me, but they're absorbing information about me. Then if they want, they can click over to my page and leave me a note.
Once they get to my home page (fueled by the reciprocal network), when they they see it's active, with conversations throughout the day, they're more likely to want to be a part of that reciprocal relationship. He/she wants to get in on the action, so to speak. So one kind of network feeds the other. And the more friends I have overall (now at 1500), the more likely others are to find me and communicate with me.
Read the rest of the study here. Interesting information to absorb for marketing and networking purposes.