It seems that everywhere we turn we hear or read the words social media, social networking, social platforms and the list continues. You know they all exist “out there” yet what are they and what do they mean to you? Despite their varied and often very strange names, they all have one thing in common.
What they have in common is a way for people to connect; it's that simple. Ever since the first humans started walking on earth, they wanted to connect and communicate with each other. Social media and social networking are the current evolution.
Think about it. If you go back in time, you read about villages, tribes and communities; celebrities have fans, leaders have followers and we have friends. Social Media and Social Networking merely moved those entities online. This may be the digital age yet, more than ever, it is the relationship age.
On facebook you have “friends” for people and “fans” for pages while on twitter you have followers. Depending on the network, there are groups, lists, communities and other such terms. These social structures exist because of common interests.
Back in 1990 John Guare wrote a play popularizing the long held theory of “Six Degrees of Separation” first developed in 1929 by Frigyes Karkinthy. This theory held that everybody on this planet is separated by only six people. Today, I venture to say, that six degrees is probably closer to the three degrees that Milgram postulated for the population of the United States.
In fact, LinkedIn, the business-oriented social networking site launched in 2003, is all about connections. It operates on the concept of how many connections you are away from the person you want to communicate with thus it encourages people to pass messages via first degree connections to first degree connections.
On twitter, according to a study released in April, 2010, by the social media monitoring firm Sysomos, the average distance is 4.67.
Facebook's numbers fit squarely within the six degrees before the application was removed in 2009. Though it only measured 5.8 million users who chose to participate, nonetheless the average was 5.73 degrees.
Enough of the statistics, let's get to the Why.
Social Media and Social Networking are today's fabric of connection. More than ever before, people are reaching out to connect with people—no matter the age. From young children to great, great, great grandparents people want to connect with others. Why are they there? They are asking advice (78% of people trust peer recommendations vs. 14% advertisements), easing loneliness, reconnecting with family and friends, seeking employment, looking for business partners, doing research, educating themselves, learning a new skill or hobby and the list is endless.
Social Media and Social Networking bring the world to you wherever you may be. Will you open the door?