Monday, January 25, 2010

The right size of social networks

Clive Thomson has once again a brilliant article in the current edition of WIRED. He argues that there are only really two right sizes for a social network, either one has a few hundred followers with an intimate felling of closeness and real conversation, or one has a few hundred thousand followers where no real dialog is occurring but where the owner of the social network uses it as a broadcast medium to spread his or her wisdom. The (usual) death zone is in the middle where one does not have the scale of a true broad cast medium but where the social circle is too large to have a real dialog between people who think of themselves as a circle of friends.

A lot of marketers think that social networks are the Holy Grail for relevant and targeted marketing but they fail to realize that social networks are “just” another communication channel with its own dynamic, its own advantages and disadvantages. Thomson’s POV is an extremely important insight for brand managers who try to use social networks for non-broadcast marketing purposes. One can either use a large number of social network owners to proliferate a certain message in a more dialog oriented manner or one can utilize one big social network apostle with a large following in a much more one-to-many based approach that resample much more a traditional TV commercial.

Not only the medium is the message but the largeness (or smallness) of the medium and its distribution is the message, too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good point! Thank you!

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Blogger eames said...

I would also argue that the make up of the network (i.e. who is in it) makes a huge difference. If it is a small network of people who have a strong influence on others it may have an outsize impact.

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