I just watched a very good talk from Paul Adams on Social Circles and Influence…it’s from *last year’s* UX week…but I’m clearly just catching up now. If you don’t have the time to read his book, take a gander at the video. If you can’t spare 45 minutes, fast forward to about 40 minutes in for a summary slide (captured below). It won’t have the same impact, but it’s handy!
Some great points I’d like to highlight:
The people connecting groups are not special. Yeah…sad, but true. But not in a bad way. More like, we’re all special. Each of us is at the center of a web of groups. There are people in those groups who are close to us, and those not so close to us…and each of them is at the center of their own web of connections. It seems obvious, but it bears repeating.
He goes on to say that the “tipping point” view of influence is not right (pictured above the web diagram). Firstly, influencers can’t influence people who aren’t influencable. Some people have a high threshold of influence. See below for another hilariously obvious but essential diagram.
The web of connections is the key to influence…we are much, much more likely to take the advice of our close friends over the advice of celebrities. He goes on to point out that Facebook average interactions are surprisingly low…4 people interacted within a week. Average group sizes of 8. These numbers are amazingly close to numbers arrived at via theories and studies of human interactions. The average number of friends, for example, is 130-170…which is basically Dunbar’s Number.
Paul also points out that we share feelings, not facts. It’s a great point and he shows it with a chart of what articles people view versus what they share. We read the news about Libya, but we share gossip, intrigue and helpful articles.
So his final conclusion is that social needs to be baked into experiences, not bolted on. It’s the difference between having a “share” button at the bottom of an item, versus knowing where in the concert hall your friends are sitting. Which really motivates you to buy a ticket? In the end, this is about selling things, true. But it is wrapped up in a larger mission to build business around people. He points out several times that technology is changing a lot faster than people. We *have* to interact with more that 150 people regularly…and technology can help us cope with the limits of our memory and experience. There is too much information to sort through, and unless we work intelligently with the limits of our own intelligence, we’re bound to be overwhelmed.