Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Social Networks: One Size Fits All?

An old Post by Caterina Fake nee Flickr Very interesting distinction between social networks in terms of how they accommodate different "friendship cultivation" styles (drawn from a Microsoft UK Study) Friendship Cultivators -- friends mean a lot to them and they spend a significant amount of their time nurturing friendships. They're always arranging get togethers and are in constant touch with friends online and on the phone Friendship Pruners -- make and drop friends quickly according to how useful they are. Friendship Pruners name drop a lot -- they like to be seen to be in social contact with the 'in crowd'. They hate 'dead wood' so frequently prune names from their diaries, online buddy lists and mobile phones Friendship Harvesters -- tend to have a very wide circle of friends that they get in touch with on a seasonal basis. They're happy to leave long periods without contact and typically dedicate a set period of time every few weeks or months to a flurry of contact to keep up to date with friends' news and gossip Friendship Gatherers -- are quick to make friends but the least proactive at maintaining friendships. They gather friends wherever they go but are socially lazy and once friendship has been established they rely on the other party to keep it going. They often seek out Friendship Cultivators so they can ride on the back of their frequent social contact and arrangements. Then, a commentator on her blog Don Ramsey says "I find that fascinating, but I'm particularly interested in how different web sites encourage different *kinds* of friendships. e.g. Facebook encourages you to keep in contact with people you already know, MySpace encourages you to add as many 'friends' as possible regardless of if you know (or want to know) them or not. Flickr is somewhere in the middle and encourages sharing with friends while making 'acquaintances' with similar interests. I don't think most sites even consider the kinds of relationships people form when using them - it's usually just a matter of "we need an 'add friend' function". In the end, there's a limit to the number of real friendships you can maintain before people start getting pi**ed off because you don't have time for them" Often the most powerful contacts in your network are those that have "break-out potential", those that span other networks. Given that some of your friends and business contacts will fall into the categories above, perhaps social networking, and how we manage and use them, requires different approaches. Just because someone bought a product from you three years ago does not mean that they want to get an sms update from you. But if you could push the message through a social network, perhaps the message will reach them in a way that is acceptable to them. Just a thought.

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