Daily Archives: January 17, 2011

Why should you follow me?

…Or why should I follow you for that matter? Amber posted an interesting read about why Reciprocity is a fallacy in Social Media. And so it should be.

Social media thrives on reciprocity.  Wikipedia notes that:

In public good experiments, behavioral economists have demonstrated that the potential for reciprocal actions by players increases the rate of contribution to the public good, providing evidence for the importance of reciprocity in social situations

If you follow someone who follows you, then you’ll get a great dialogue going, you can track what’s happening in your closed circle.  But there’s a problem…

Lots of us use social media to discover what’s happening in our circle of friends and their circle of friends.  Often friends and colleagues follow each other to find out what’s going on.  But this can lead to insularity – especially within organisations who are making their first forays into social media.  See the image below:


In the diagram on the left, A,B and C follow each other closely.  They know each others friends and they have a huge overlap in their friend circles.  Due to the high level of interaction between A, B and C, there is little time for any of them to reach out and discover new people, news or trends that might be happening outside of their world.  Only C has a link to D, but with the interaction between his other colleagues, messages from D, who doesn’t know any of the others, might be missed in the stream.

Contrast this with the example on the right.  A, B, and C have minimal interaction with each other.   A might follow B and C but not necessarily be followed back.  Their interaction is focused externally so messages from D have a better chance of being noticed and propagated through the group.

I’ve noticed this a lot in large organisations and clients I work with.  Often, they spend significant amounts of time following colleagues in the same team as them, and certainly in the same larger group.  They don’t seem to watch what is going on around them and often miss items of significance.  This has been an issue in some organisations who focus their attentions internally much more than looking externally.  Often, breaking some of the connections and replacing them with external connections has brought a new perspective and new interaction onto the group and its outreach.

So it really doesn’t matter who you follow.  you don’t have to follow anyone back because they followed you. Follow the people who you find interesting, not necessarily other members of your team or everyone in your organisation.  Follow those who interest you – and when they stop giving useful information – all you have to do is unfollow them.

Reach out to new people and stop the network imploding under the weight of the same pieces of information going round and round. 

Follow someone new today Smile

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