Intimacy Model of Social Networking Sites

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I was bored a few weeks ago and created this framework of a few social networking sites. They sites seem to be the next stage in the progression of how people interact on the Internet. It is just another thing people came up with the mimics how the real world works. This article is not the end all since it only it analyzes only three popular sites. However, like Google, they will become dominate in the US because of their critical mass.

No one site will have the lock on people’s time since we have alternate egos throughout the net. I expect people join these as their “Public” personas but you will find many on more targeted sites that interest them in a more personal ways to find people of like interests.

Networking
 

Model

Intimacy

Like the real world, social site users interact with the people they are closest to in real life. Most spend 66 – 85% of their time communicating or looking at the profiles of the 4 to 11 people they are closest.

On these sites, people spend time sending small communications to one another that update each other’s pages or if they are online at the same time, they will engage in mini-applications such as quiz games or use in site chat programs. Traditionally, this communication has taken the place via phone calls, text messages, instant messages and face-to-face meetings.

Casual

Outside of the intimate group of contacts, people keep track of their casual acquaintances much like the real world. These contacts are people they know, but do not interact with on a daily basis such as former work mates, high school and college friends, and people they interact with in online and offline groups they engage in such as church groups or gamer clans.

While people have varying number of these people connected to their profiles, there seems to be an upper bound of 150 – 200 people in this category. After that point, the user cannot keep up with their social network.

If a user has a strong civic or brand relationship, these groups may also be in this category. Such as being a member of a Ford car club or softball team.

Identity

Groups or people in the group give the user’s profile color and uniqueness. Many sites have small add-ons that users allow users go give each other gives or compete in games and quizzes. People find these apps based on affinity to a brand or take part because they see it in another users’ profile. Users may also use these mini-applications to foster social activities or just to break the ice. Examples such as giving a friend a Budweiser or completing a Family Guy quiz that displays the number of points they received.

Public

This is the entire social ecosystem of the site. Depending on what companies do, users may or may not venture into this space. For example, MySpace focuses on entertainment and users will often look around to see what their friend are into to find new music and shows to watch. Where as a site like Mixi is an invite only site that focuses on intimate relationships and does not have a strong public component that allows deep interconnections.

Site Differences

MySpace

MySpace is focused more on media and entertainment. People use this site to find out what their friends participate in such as music or TV shows. It also has great flexibility and allows users to personalize their profiles and give it an individual look and feel. This ability makes the user focus more finding new connections rather than fostering their more intimate groups.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is seen as a more business like site that offers networking opportunities to find new business or meet acquaintances in a particular line of business. It nature fosters more causal relationships based on mutual interests much like traditional settings such as the Chamber of Commerce or trade associations.

Facebook

With its rather plain shell, Facebook looks to foster communication between users. Unlike other sites, it is stripped down and simple to navigate offering a consistent look and feel for it users. The site is setup around small comities such as the year someone graduated from a high school or college to work groups. From there people branch out to other groups based on their preferences. It nature allows users to interact with their friends and colleagues easily and is set up so people can maintain their offline relationships.