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Shared-Interest Networks Help You Bridge Connections Quicker

Written by: Bill Sherman on Thursday, 4 September 2008, 12:19 PM

Don Reisinger at TechCrunch wrote yesterday about a social networking study commissioned by European cellphone carrier O2. While the study was informal, it reveals some interesting aha-moments.

The study proposes that within an affinity group, we’re perhaps only three degrees of separation from others within the same affinity group.

Rodrigues finds that we are usually part of three main networks based on family, friendship and work. Outside of these we are, on average, part of five main shared ‘interest’ networks based on a range of personal interests from hobbies, sport, music and the neighbourhood we live in, to religion, sexuality and politics. It is the growth of these shared interest networks and the influence of technology on them that has led to the reduction in the number of degrees of separation.

In the study, participants were asked to contact someone with a similar shared interest who had been chosen randomly from around the world. Participants were able, on average, to connect with the target within three connections.

For example, one of the respondents Katrina, 27 from Brighton, is a classical musician and leads a jazz band. She was asked to make contact with a Japanese jazz singer, Natsuo Murakami, halfway across the world. She contacted her record producer in Berlin via an email. He called his opposite number in Tokyo who had a register of all jazz singers in the country. Therefore making the link from Katrina to Natsuo in three personal steps.

Clearly, this study doesn’t replicate Milgram’s “Six Degrees” of separation research. Milgram gave people a name and address. He asked  to use their personal network to connect with a person, without telling them any details about the person. Many people were unable to complete this challenge, but those who did achieved the results in six connections.

Rodrigues’ social interest networks study points to two ideas.

  • If you and the target person share a common interest, you’re probably much closer than you are to a random person;
  • If you know something about the target person, you’ll leverage your network more intelligently

In the example above, the Brighton singer knew the target shared an interest in music. So she leveraged her jazz connections.

So, before you try to reach a “seemingly distant” contact, take some time to research the person. What do you know about them? What are their interests? If you know the answers to those questions, you’ll probably find a quicker and easier route to a connection.

One Response to “Shared-Interest Networks Help You Bridge Connections Quicker”

  1. Kare Anderson Says:

    how timely your post is for me today. I researched you after a valued colleague told me about your interest in ways people connect to collaborate (our sweet spot of mutual interest), then I read your blog and enjoyed the quality of your writing and your topics, then reached out to you. During that same time 5 people have contacted me, asking if I could help them (become a paid speaker, get a book published, etc.) yet clearly not know much about me yet depending on the introduction of a mutual “friend.” Ah i sound like a grinch. Doesn’t feel good. Such an approach does not speak to the notion of mutuality or shared larger world.

    The approach about which you write (and example cited) tends to bring out the best in both parties – best talent/knowledge and temperament. That’s mutually-reinforcing and can spiral up into a deeper desire to be of help, to be open to a future collaboration.

    Thanks for a post that helped clarify my thinking and taught me something new.

    September 5th, 2008 10:31 am

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