Revolutionary Measures

Six degrees of Facebook separation?

Picture of tuareg nomads in the south of Algeria.

Image via Wikipedia

Given its size and consumer influence Facebook has been a godsend to the press. Not only can they use it to trawl for information on celebrities (X has Weetabix for breakfast shock!), they can research members of the public (Rioter X boasts about stealing Weetabix) and then roundly condemn what it has done to society today.

It looks like this fascination has spread to academia, with a slew of projects using Facebook to illustrate the human condition/quickly get funding out of gullible backers. There’s even the Facebook Project to share their findings and scholarly papers on the network.

First off, we’re told that Facebook friends cause stress as users felt they had to keep them up to date and entertained with what they were doing. My heart bleeds for them. And now Facebook itself and the University of Milan has come up with research that apparently knocks the Six Degrees of Separation theory on its head. For those that don’t know this claims that everyone in the world is connected to everyone else on the planet by, at most, six friends or acquaintances. But the Facebook research claims that this is shrinking – down to five or even four degrees for users of the site. Headline grabbing, yes, but it is important to understand that for all its supposed ubiquity only 10 per cent of the world’s population is on Facebook (and only around half of the UK). So it the separation is going to be smaller as you’re looking at a self-selecting sample. An accountant in Wilmslow is not going to be connected by Facebook to a Touraeg tribesman in North Africa, romantic as that would be.

But what this research does demonstrate is the vital importance of Facebook to companies and marketers looking to target specific audiences. Given the sheer amount of demographic information collected by Facebook it is relatively easy to identify if the people who will buy your products are on the network and target them accordingly – if you don’t, your competition will. So at a time when marketing budgets are being set for 2012 look beyond the headlines and investigate how you can be using Facebook to deliver your message.

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November 28, 2011 - Posted by | Marketing, Social Media

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