June 23rd, 2010

Five Degrees of Separation

Historically, six degrees of separation has referred to the idea that everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth.  However, according to recent data, Twitter has now shortened our “degrees of separation” from each other: “On average, Twitter users have five degrees of separation between each other – meaning nearly everyone within Twitter is only five steps away.”  Therefore, “on average, a Twitter user will encounter 83% of all other Twitter users by visiting everyone’s friends up to a distance of five steps.”  So, in theory, it does not take a great number of “retweets” for a message to reach a large and diverse audience.

This is great news for marketers looking to justify a larger investment in social media as communications tools.  The news is even better for those looking to communicate in local (i.e., smaller) circles: “if a user traces their friends, and their friends and so on, in 3.32 steps on average they will discover a follower of their own. This means there are many small, circular connections on Twitter.” At this point, it almost seems negligent of a brand to not have a presence on Twitter.

When looking to wade (or dive deeper) into the social media pool, take the five-degrees-of-separation fact with a grain of salt and remember these few tips:

  • Don’t build it and assume they will come.  Seek out quality followers: those active on Twitter who are predisposed to like the brand.
  • Content should be relevant and interesting to warrant any “retweet” activity.
  • Monitoring with the resources for rapid response are absolutely necessary.  A negative message will usually be spread faster than a positive one will be shared.

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