The ‘Social Graph’. What is it and why is it useful? The idea of being connected to anyone and everyone, maximizing the potential for sharing, thoughts, ideas & media is a tantalizing concept for any business or individual with something to advertise.
So what is a social graph? Whilst the idea itself has been around for some time, the term itself was popularised by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. His use of the phrase was aimed specifically for the use of Facebook connections. The term has now been adopted for use in a wider context in other social media, such as Twitter and Google.
A Social Graph is a form of ‘sociogram’ that visually displays your online connections with others, and their connections to each other. Each person is represented as a ‘node’, a circle on the graph with connecting lines to other nodes.
A Facebook social graph looks like this:
So each circle on the graph represents a person, the lines are their connections. So whilst one person may not be directly connected to another, they share mutual connections. This is the key principle behind the social graph, the extended level of connectivity between people.
It’s akin to the ‘six degrees of separation principle’. An idea that everyone is approximately six ‘handshakes’ from any other person on Earth, a sort of “friend of a friend” concept. A theory that in 2008 was proved to be almost completely right by Microsoft after some serious number crunching.
So if everyone is approximately 6.6 acquaintances from any given person on the planet, it’s not hard to see how the concept of the social graph is a business dream. The image to the left shows a basic social graph, where the connections within the network show that person 1 is indirectly connected to person 6 through people 4 & 5. Allowing a thought or idea to be transferred from 1 to 6 without any direct connection between them.
So if a business has a product to advertise, a new campaign to promote or a new app they wish to make viral then the social graph shows how word can quickly spread throughout huge numbers of networks. A recent example of this viral spread is Take This Lollipop an “Interactive Live Action Facebook Connect experience” which, after being online for 24 hours, had more than 300,000 people giving it access to their Facebook accounts, highlighting just how big an influence the social graph has.