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Social circles and influence

Posted on Saturday, 20th November, 2010

Why people think social influence is an “online phenomena” is beyond me.

I’m kinda over the whole “social networking” terminology because it’s NOT new. It’s not even something that needs extraneous amounts of explanation.

If you were ever:

  • In a sorority
  • Art class
  • Yearbook staff
  • Bridge club with neighbors
  • PTA
  • Swim club/country club
  • Finals Club at Harvard

Yes? Then you have been social networking your whole life.

The “media” portion of “social networking”  (ie: social media) only relates to how technology enables and connects like minded individuals together and expands influence amongst one another- far beyond what we would ever have the time to do in person. The social web, and all social media that operate within it, is a way of thinking and communicating as opposed to a new channel.


It’s 100% behaviorally driven. New technology doesnʼt change how our brains work. For thousands of years, people have formed into groups, built strong and weak relationships with others, formed allegiances, and spread rumor and gossip. The emergence of the social web is simply our online world catching up with our offline world.

As technology changes the tools we use to communicate, we still use the same behavior patterns that we evolved over those thousands of years. Its up to you on how far you are looking for your social influence to penetrate through your levels of connection. Itʼs about rethinking how you communicate, and with whom, when your connections are in the center and in control on said influence— via the social web.

Social networking has been covered to death– I have no interest in rebuilding an explanation when it looks to be very well done in 193 pages right here and just in time for Christmas! Perfect for the  ‘Duh’o I don’t get social networking at all so I won’t use Facebook or Quora”, when in reality, we are all doing this in our everyday lives already.

Newsflash: you’ve been social networking your whole life without a computer or the web.

Here’s your wakeup call. Don’t read books? No problem. Take a whirl through this infographical representation on The Real Life Social Network.

No patience for 224 slides either? Fine. The cliff notes below should cover my point, if you like thin slicing information and whatnot. (Personally, I think the slide show is the bomb diggity. Less copy than images makes for a happy Jessie.)

Understanding your social circles and their influence

Everyone loves a good map

click on all images to enlarge them

What does your real life social network map look like?

How does you real life social network map connect through the social web?

Real life connections are friends. Be clear of that. Facebook has altered the semantic meaning of “friends”– I like to call them webciprocal acquaintances.

(Yes, I made that word up, it’s what I do.)

Who do you really “connect” with and how? Strong ties are the most influential to each of us.

Research shows that on average, people have ongoing communication with between seven and 15 people, but most communication is concentrated around a personʼs five strongest ties.

How influence REALLY works…

How people influence each other is complex, and the role of “influentials” in society is over-estimated.

Resources: Images borrowed from slide presentation above courtesy of Paul Adams, author of Social Circles: How offline relationships influence online behavior and what it means for design and marketing

Paul works on the UX team at Google; he is the user research lead for social, and works on Google products like Buzz and YouTube.

I trust Paul. Paul has influenced me. Now through me, he will influence others.

Note: I was inspired to write this post via a “stalking” conversation with a real life friend in one of my social groups. I find him to be most influenceable; but not influential…yet. I have since begun my own social experiment called the “schwafluence”. If all goes well, I will have a blinded report to share around the Summer 2011 timeframe.

If he makes it through this entire post and acknowledges the mention, said experiment will start off on the right track.


    • Jess
  1. Jess
  2. Carla Kado
  3. Jimmy W

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