Probably the big So.Me story of the week was GigaOm’s infographic declaring that 83% of Google+ users are inactive. This generated a lot of debate about are we seeing Google+ Fatigue where perhaps the real discussion should have been about how Google+ compares to the other networks. As we discovered earlier in the week Jakob Nielsen’s studies in 2006 suggested the Social Networks followed a 90:9:1 Rule for Participation. This would suggest that (at least based on this study) Google+ is actually more active rather than less active than the average social network.
Back in April Business Insider published a chart that suggested on 51% Twitter’s 175 Million users had no followers and only 10% follow more than 50 people. This doesn’t account for the number of inactive users on the network but it does provide some insight into health of the network.
You may also recall that back in February Jim Edwards examined the LinkedIn IPO documentation only to discover the surprising admission that “a substantial majority” of the network’s members “don’t actual visit the web site on a monthly basis” (See LinkedIn Confesses That Most of Its “Users” Don’t Use the Site). Again it was a case of the majority of page views being generated by a minority of power users.
Which raises the question. Why is this so? Why isn’t LinkedIn engaging enough to keep the substantial majority glued to the site on a daily basis?
Today there is a lot of discussion about social influence. What we don’t hear too much about is the correlation between influence and intimacy. Or, how in a social world, some actions are more equal than others.
I would postulate that in a social world my level of influence in a relationship is directly proportional to the level of intimacy expressed by the relationship . Or, put another way, I am more likely to swing the deal over a beer, lunch or a cup coffee than I am by Tweeting or updating my LinkedIn or Facebook status.
Of course Social Circles is often touted as what makes Google+ different (Think: David Armano’s Google figures out humans) and this diagram below expresses both of these ideas by showing the degrees of intimacy in the relationship. As you can see Social Media is peripheral while the mobile phone and sharing food are central. (This is what made Jonathan’s Card such an interesting social experiment and why in this context RIM’s “Crackberry” handset business represents a more interesting business networking model than LinkedIn)
This is in the end is the LinkedIn challenge. It doesn’t solve the real problem. It doesn’t even help me to solve the real problem. At best it represents a remote opportunity to explore the problem.
For example: If I am having a beer with a mate and he introduces me to a friend of his and we get talking about a deal. The next step is to send through the IM or the Business Case that is on his iPhone. What happens next? Does he invite me to join him on LinkedIn and then share the IM via LinkedIn? No. He just emails it to me. Why? Because we have already jumped passed the LinkedIn stage of intimacy. If we do go back later and hook up on LinkedIn it’s because we are using it as a memory stick or because we which to make a private:public statement. Nothing more. At best a minor measure of social success. At worst a meaningless metric that allows the So.Me guru to measure influence.
LinkedIn is peripheral (maybe even external) rather than central to the opportunity and this is the challenge that LinkedIn has to resolve. It needs to become central to managing, exploring and executing the business opportunity. More Salesforce than a warehouse of C.V.’s.