The vast majority of us are plugged into the mainstream social networking platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and the newest member of the club, Google+. But are you leveraging your network? Are you tracking the right data to analyze and capitalize (professionally, if not financially) on your connections? Who is your figurative Kevin Bacon, and how many steps away from him is your network?
The science behind social networking is burgeoning, and most people are barely skimming the surface of what we can do with this data. Most of us are familiar with just the top layer -- the people with whom we are directly connected. And through some tools, we can see into our second level (and sometimes third level) relationships. But how do you know whom to connect with to strengthen your overall network? THAT is the harder question to answer, and one which the mainstream platforms don't address. Is it about the number of followers, i.e. you find new people through your existing network, and add them based on their number of followers? Or is there some other way to identify (intelligently) as to which connections will provide the most relevant connections based on your profile, your interests, your most recent searches?
As I shared in a previous post (The Power of Circles), the ability of Google+ to sort connections by sub-topic is an advance over the popular Yahoo Groups model, but does not provide recommendations based on your profile, even based on patterns within your circles. Facebook tries to help you research new additions by highlighting the number of shared connections, but this has limited value -- because it focuses on the network you already have rather than the networkyou want to build. LinkedIn takes it a step further, identifying shared connections (part of its model of using "trusted" connections) but also allowing you to view shared groups/interests. However, there is no automation. Suggestions are still made through your current connections (and employment history), and limited by the groups you are aware of/a member of. You still need to do the footwork.
What we need are tools that understand and interpret our profiles, that suggest connections outside of your existing network -- based on explicit network queries that you make manually, or are somehow automated (such as aggregating themes across multiple Bing! searches).
We need to get smarter about the tools we use and the analysis we conduct if we hope to get the most value out of social networking science. In short, the tools need to catch up with the science. #KevinBacon #socialnetworking #networkingscience #buckleyplanet #socialcomputing