Tuesday, March 10, 2015

6 Degrees of separation is now less !!

Kevin Bacon's six degrees of separation
Source: Image
I was fascinated when I first read about six degrees of separation in Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point - How Little Things can Make a Big Difference". As the title suggests, Malcolm tries to identify the underlying factors leading to some of the most successful social epidemics of modern times, such as rise in popularity of Hush PuppiesAirwalk & Ya Ya Sisterhood and the famous child education TV series Sesame Street. Malcolm argues that social epidemics can be effected by designing a campaign to use the Power of Context, by creating the Stickiness Factor and by propagating the message using the less degree of separation of the Connectors, Mavens and the Salespersons (The Law of the Few). The book was first published in 2001, much before the rise of social media in its current form.

The course has introduced various social media platforms during the first half of the semester. Given that a large and increasing number of people are interacting (& connecting) through social media, a larger degree of connectedness leads to the intuition that the six degrees should now be less than six. Though I have not come across academic research to corroborate the idea, yet various reports support it. Facebook claims that the average distance between any two accounts on Facebook is 4.74 (Anatomy of Facebook, November, 2011). Twitter claims even a larger degree of connectedness with 4.67 degrees of separation (Six degrees of Separation Twitter Style, April, 2010). Perhaps thats the reason for increasing number of content going viral on the internet. The shorter duration in which successful campaigns are being organized on social media may also be indicative of increasing reduction in the degrees of separation.

"Its a small world" - they say; and with increasing penetration of social media its becoming smaller every day. However, apart from effective use of power of context and the stickiness factor, the key to organizing successful campaigns still depends on the connectivity with the modern day connectors, the knowledge hubs, in the network.

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