Social Graphs – The Power of Connections

Interest in “social graphs” has increased exponentially in the last year or two, with the rise of social networking platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. At its most basic level, a social graph is a digital record of the relationships (or ‘connections’) around an individual. In the business context they are an interesting way of mapping the informal relationships that really power the business. It might not be obvious, but Milestone Planner operates off of social graphs. In our case, the social objects that bind people together are the individual projects. Each collection of projects that a person is on, and the people that share some or all of the same projects, forms a social graph:

I’ll talk more about that in a future post. At the individual, consumer level social graphs are a map of the relationships people have, and have had. It isn’t unusual for a student entering the workplace to have thousands of contacts on Facebook. Social Graphs are big news, so when I heard that Social Media Week‘s London Partner, Chinwag, were running an event titled “Understanding Social Graph Optimization” I headed up to town.

While we aren’t about “monetizing” social graphs at SocialOptic – we’re about helping people to be more productive – for big media companies Social Graphs spell h-u-g-e o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y. The event was at the IAB‘s offices, and sponsored by instant messaging provider Meebo, and with an interesting line up for the panel:

  • Antony Mayfield (Chair) – SVP Social Media, iCrossing
  • Carter Brokaw, CRO, Meebo
  • Ajit Jaokar, Future Text
  • Vincent Sider, Head of Strategy: Social Media, Gaming & Presence, BT
  • Maz Nadjm, Online Community Product Manager, BSKYB
  • Trevor Johnson, Head of Strategy and Planning, EMEA – facebook

There was lots of talk about how BT is (and isn’t) using Twitter. Interestingly I’m currently having a Twitter exchange with @BTcare about an issue accessing Milestone Planner from a BT OpenZone hotspot, which they have been most helpful about. The focus was more about “leveraging the social graph” than optimising it, something that made me feel a little uneasy.

The general feeling from the panel was that users are happy to share their social graphs for providers to use, as long as it is done with their permission, and they get something back from it. However, Facebook’s Trevor Johnson said “it’s not about monetization, it is about users.” Facebook isn’t a stranger to concerns over how data is used, and Chinwag’s Sam Michel pitched in a question about user privacy, and more specifically users’ understanding of privacy issues. It’s definitely an emerging challenge, worthy of consideration. The convestion spread to Twitter, a few quotable highlights:

@juliusduncan: Social Graph Optimisation SGO has taken over from SMO in the past 6-9 months Carter Brokaw – CRO, Meebo #smwldn

@benjaminellis: LOL, @mazi on content: “sharing is caring, but love is not free.” #smwLDN

@zoe9: #smwLDN Maz Nadjm, BSKYB says social media is a collective effort in an organisation not just for marketing.

@yay_tar: RT @juliusduncan: #smwldn ‘if you can’t get the buy in of the CEO up front, you are in trouble’ Vincent Sider, BT Strategist

The panel’s closing comments on social media contained some gems:

  • BT :- It’s all about education. Create an eco system where customers can be rewarded.
  • Sky :- It’s all about iteration. Test out something small and take it forward.
  • Facebook :- Don’t put yourself under pressure to do something big and immediate. Iterate.
  • Meeba :- Enable people to interact with content. Watch and learn, and listen, and itterate against your content.
  • Future Text :- Think of what the customer wants.

So, the theme seems to be start small, learn, and grow. That’s advice that’ll go down very well here! By the way, for anyone involved in Social Media week that would like to, sign up for Milestone Planner Standard Edition and @ or DM us on twitter (@SocialOptic) for three months free Milestone Planner Professional Edition – this week only!

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