One of the interesting counterpoints of the digital revolution is the way in which thriving “real life” social networks resist the formalising structures offered online. After all, if your RLSN delivers all you need, then why grapple with the vagaries, issues and complexities for small, unmetered gain, right?
I have long held a theory that this was the reason for slow social network adoption amongst different demographics. Take, for example, students. Yes, they are all over Facebook, but they are surprisingly absent from more formal networks like LinkedIn. Same with artists who live and breathe on the power of word of mouth.
But RLSNs lack one important feature that’s inherent in the digital realm: directed serendipity.
In a RLSN, your conversations start in a distinctly one-to-one format. They originate from you and are directed according to your interest and knowledge – that is, you will directly ask the person who you think knows the answer (or where to find it). After all, a RLSN is based on the social graph – the network of relations that connect us all.
But social networks allow answers to find questions and the people behind them. They are driven by what we call the interest graph and powered by human curiosity. As Wikipedia explains:
The Interest Graph refers to the specific and varied interests that form one’s personal identity, and the attempt to connect people based on those interests. On an individual scale, this means the different things one person is interested in—be itjogging, celebrity gossip, or animal rights—that make up their likes and dislikes, and what has more meaning to them over someone else. On a broader scale, it’s the way those interests form unspoken relationships with others who share them, and expand to create a network of like-minded people.
Once a RLSN realises the value in and potential of the interest graph, a gradual migration begins to take place.
We can see this happening now, with a recent report indicating that LinkedIn usage amongst graduates is rising dramatically – in fact, students and graduates are the fastest growing demographic on LinkedIn. More that 35% of students plan to use LinkedIn as a primary source for their job search – a 700% increase since 2010.
The question you’ve got to ask yourself is this – how are you engaging young people via LinkedIn? How are you planning your over-the-horizon sourcing? And how are you priming and directing the interest graph of those you want to attract to your business? Sound challenging? It’s the future of work.