Using Trust Rather than Volume in Social Media, Part II

Posted on February 23, 2010. Filed under: Social Media | Tags: , , , |

Tethering and Tribal Differences

Let’s imagine the potential customer as a tree comprised of three rings radiating outward 1) their core; close friends, family and the activities and brands they identify themselves with and are strongly tethered to, 2) extended networks of acquaintances and their interests, such as exist on Facebook or LinkedIn, which provide on occasion some interesting new item or experience, 3) strangers, brands and activities that exist on the periphery; things they may have seen or heard of in passing but paid no attention to.

If we can understand these areas, we can make it to our advantage rather than disadvantage that the inner circle is hardest to access and the outer circle is least trusted but a source of personal expansion. Then we can turn to understanding credibility.

A popular and useful way to look at the situation is to think of people as using the web to join and establish groups analogous to traditional tribes. According to RAND theorist David Ronfeldt, these initial groups created and legitimized identity and fostered a sense of belonging, and did not admit of hierarchical leadership. This maps very well onto what we’ve just sketched and will help understand the issue of credibility.

For the average consumer, establishing their internet presence and locating their core friends, family, activities and brands is very simple. It does not take long to find blogs, message boards, media outlets and even beloved brands on the web.

Core-building was the original attraction behind Facebook, what put it over MySpace; on Facebook you could establish and solidify your core, and simultaneously connect to and have some distance from your extended network. MySpace was simply too open, exposing your core tribes to the world of strangers, a world you almost always want nothing to do with, with a very low payoff.

Facebook is now working to put a person’s core tribe and their extended network of tribes as close as possible, and pull the world of strangers into this structure as well. It remains to be seen if this will work, but I sincerely doubt it. It’s simply more likely that it will turn into a much better done MySpace, which will turn off many users, than it is that it will get 300 million profitable consumers to bare their souls to the world.

Come back on Thursday for Part III: The Contradiction.

Damien DuPont is a report writer and quality assurance specialist in the Dow Jones Media Lab and is based in New York.

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