Not everyone is as active within networks as others, which makes sense. There are givers and takers, people who “hang,” and people who do not participate. Forrester Research has developed the Social Technographics Ladder, which identifies seven different groups within networks.

- Inactives, who do nothing on the Web.
- Spectators, who watch, read and listen within networks.
- Joiners, who join networks and create profiles.
- Collectors, who organize content for themselves via RSS feeds or tags.
- Critics, who review, comment on blogs, or are active on forums.
- Conversationalists, who use Twitter.
- Creators, who create or enrich content.

You have to be careful not to label people too quickly within these archetypes. The Web is simply a dynamic system; within one network, someone’s role can be different than in another network. I am a collector on LinkedIn, a critic on Facebook; a conversationalist on Twitter; and a creator on Society30.com. These network roles give an interesting interpretation, but nothing more.

We all have friends. However, the friends of the industrial age are different from your friends in this digital age.
Friends in social networks are people you are connected to. The word “friends” was only introduced because Marc Zuckerberg happened to start Facebook as a “book with the faces of friends.” Obviously, different people define friendship differently.

In the past, our social network was defined by an activity: you had friends at school or at work, at the sports club, within the family, or at your favorite bar. You knew more about a particular friend, and he knew you quite well, so you trusted him more than others. That one friend was literally and figuratively closer to you than other friends. For that matter, you did not call all of them a friend.

There is a completely different picture in your virtual social network(s). In fact, you have nothing but friends. In principle, they are all only a mouse click away…so, instead of friends, I think of them as my connections. You obviously have stronger and weaker links. However, the speed at which you can expand you network of friends in the virtual world is incomparable to that of the past. Some celebrities have hundreds of thousands of friends, but for mere mortals, having a couple of thousand is exceptional. Is this in any way useful to you?

The British anthropologist Robin Dunbar posits in his book, Dunbar’s Law, that human beings have the capacity to maintain a serious social relationship with about 150 people at the same time. The question that is asked the most is, ”why do you need 1,500 ‘friends‘ in your network?” This is when the dynamics of the Internet reared its head again. If I am working on, for example, yellow cups in France, then that relates to a part of my network, and when I’m interested in cumin cheese, I could perhaps share this with others. So, for me, the hard number of 150 is right by itself, but there can always be another group of 150 people…

These ex post facto analyses of network roles and friendship intensities are, of course, fun. It is evident that the effectiveness of your network behavior increases as you take a more active or intense role in the network. Relationally, this is actually an open door.

I find it more important to view my network as a whole and, in particular, its:
-Size: how many players does the network consist of?
-Strategic composition: who does what in my network?
-Relevance: which groups around a certain theme of the network members are important for me?
-Trust: which of my network members can I really trust?
Tags:  facebook, Dunbars number, dunbars law, connections, Forrester, friends, social technocratics ladder, spectrum of friendship, Zuckerberg
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Last Edited by Ronald van den Hoff on 2/11/2014 2:32:27 PM

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