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Have you ever wondered how close (and mutually influential) the social network friendships are? If you're an online marketer, you more than likely have; especially when Facebook opened up for ads a few months ago.

The first step to answering the question is to look at the different kinds of social networks. Some believe that all social networks are generally the same, but in a video posted by BusinessWeek a week ago Danah Boyd of Microsoft pointed out that the assumption that there is essentially only one sort of social networks (that we are talking about in different ways) is wrong. There are, in fact, 3 types of social networks: (i) personal networks (people you trust, and sincerely care about), (ii) behavioral social networks (people you spend time with, and communicate with on a regular basis), and (iii) articulated social networks (examples: cell phone address book, Facebook, Twitter). "The challenge is that we don't understand the relationship between these three types of social networks and we're trying to find ways to make sense of the theory that has come out of sociology and try to apply it" to our marketing said Boyd.

Cameron A. Marlow, a research scientist at Facebook, conducted a study to determine how close we really are to our online "friends". BusinessWeek summarized:

They looked at how often people clicked on their friends' news or photos, how often they communicated, and if the communications traveled in both directions. Studying this data, they determined that an average Facebook user with 500 friends actively follows the news on only 40 of them, communicates with 20, and keeps in close touch with about 10. Those with smaller networks follow even fewer. What can this teach advertisers? People don't pay much attention to most of their online friends. By focusing campaigns on people who interact with each other, they'll likely get better results.

Converting the above data into percentages, we arrive at the following pie chart:

Social network friends

An average Facebook user (a) actively follows only 8% of his/her friends, (b) regularly communicates with 4%, and (c) keeps in close touch with about 2%. With the exception of those of us who are fascinated with the social media marketing (like myself, a good half of the people I follow on Twitter, and many of you who have landed on this page), the majority of users just do not have the time (and/or the desire) to follow 86% of his/her "friends". People that are present on the articulated social networks, tend to focus, and interact with people, on two sub-networks (i) a personal one, and (ii) a behavioral social one. On Facebook, the "friends" on these two make up only 14% of the total number of friends an individual has. I wouldn't be surprised if on Twitter this number is significantly lower.

These are some sobering stats, which leave us with some food for thought on how to target our marketing efforts through the social media that are engaging more minds and hearts every day.

Geno Prussakov

Published 28 May, 2009 by Geno Prussakov

Geno Prussakov is the Founder & Chair of Affiliate Management Days conference, Founder & CEO at AM Navigator, author, internationally known speaker, and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can find Geno on Google+

27 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

Charlie Osmond

Charlie Osmond, Chief Tease at Triptease

Hey Geno,

Good pie chart and interesting to see it alongside the Business Week social networks definition.

I think you've reinforced the view that marketeers wishing to use Social Media to engage people, should not focus their efforts on Social Networks. Who cares how many people might have seen your tweet or facebook feed, what really matters is how many of the right people actually noticed it and taken action.

For that reason a product rating and reviews is a far more powerful form of Social Media for most brands (and certainly retailers). The impact of a review on Amazon for example when someone is in the purchase process, or reading user comments about Dell laptops in a Dell Community from others who have purchased that product, provides a far more powerful driver of consumer action.

The definition of 3 types of social networks is interesting, but there is a danger of believing Social Media Marketing is all about social networks. Online Communities are a more manageable and valuable tool for most brands. Furthermore, visitors to them tend to be interested in the wider audience, not just the 14% of closest-friends they follow in a Social Network.

Charlie
FreshNetworks - Online Communities

over 7 years ago

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Karen

Good chart!

The advent of online social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook is changing the average number of friends people have, with some users befriending literally thousands of others, Dr Will Reader of Sheffield Hallam University told the BA Festival of Science on September 10.

over 7 years ago

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Monikue

i would like to network more and meet new people. I would like to see what other people are into and they can see what I do

Monikue

almost 7 years ago

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ChriSEO

interesting review, ive seen similar posts like this and the key really is that if you want to benefit from social networking is that you really do need to make the effort to be social too and as a business not to use social media to constantly sell through

Chris

<a href="http://www.chriseo.co.uk">SEO Training</a>

over 5 years ago

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Chris Laing

The guy above chris laing is a fraud and steals money!

almost 4 years ago

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