Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Six Degrees of Separation

Six Degrees of Separation: The sky’s the limit for the platform of social media

Six Degrees of Separation refers to the idea that every single human being on the planet is connected to every other human being by a maximum of six steps.

Put to the test by the omnipresence of Facebook, the phenomenon has come under much scrutiny. One could argue that population growth might cause six to become seven and so on, but this depends on the rate of people joining Facebook compared with the rate of population growth. Even so, should it hold to be true, the sky should indeed be the limit for advertisers looking to capitalize on the platform of social media, as no potential customer should ever be any more than six people away.

But how can companies ensure that the messages that they put out are not just skimmed past by five out of the six degrees? And just because someone is a ‘mutual friend’ does it mean that they are a genuine acquaintance or merely an ubiquitous ‘Facebook friend’? The Six Degrees of Separation is a useful tool, but on Facebook, where the nature of a friend is too arbitrary to rely on and where pages are so saturated with advertising that one can barely distinguish between promotions, it takes something piercingly novel to capture the attention of the fickle young things of today.

The key is in the relevance. Despite the possibilities that the theory discloses, the Six Degrees of Separation doesn’t target specific audiences, and as we all know, blanket communication is not the way forward. Businesses who engage with social media need to take a flexible approach to advertising and not indulge in the draw of reaching everyone via six links in the chain, tempting as it may be.

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