The blogosphere is abuzz with the idea of the Social Graph versus the Interest Graph. The idea comes from observations of the growth of Facebook and Twitter over the last few years. Facebook is said to represent a person’s Social Graph while Twitter represents his or her Interest Graph.
Facebook holds all of your connections to people as individuals. It is like an address book, and more and more, as everyone in your life gets onto Facebook, it is hoping to become *the* address book. The organizer of human relationships on the planet. That may sound grandiose, but that really is what they’re shooting for – a white pages for the planet. This information is incredibly valuable, and being able to leverage those relationships and monetize the movement of information between people is what has made them so successful up to now. Facebook also allows for organization around “Groups” and “Pages” that represent interests, but its core is built around personal relationships.
Twitter is public by default. Following and being followed on Twitter don’t mean that you necessarily know the person, and in fact it serves more as a channel through which a person can curate different streams of information from experts and sources whose information they are interested in or entertained by. This is an organization of what you are interested in, and is also extremely valuable, if not quite as effectively monetized yet. People also follow and are followed by their friends and relatives and actual real world relations, but its core is built around following those who say or spread interesting information.
This clearly matters for advertisers in so far as they are different and many people will be hired to look at spreadsheets, or perhaps more exotic things like pie charts… or bar graphs even… sexy. And it will make a difference. Different messages and different images and different URLs will work better on one than the other, and better within a certain group as compared to another.
But what will it mean for the basic individual trying to spread their message? You get rewarded in both for building a reputation for contributing items that are found interesting by your followers/fans/friends. You are punished in both contributing items that are overly polemic or offensive. (Sure, a certain amount of polemics will create more interactions for you, but at some point it will lead you to lose a broader spectrum of audience. Niches can be valuable, but at some point shouldn’t you get tired of preaching to the choir?)
As much as I hear people say that these graphs are so completely different from one another I just don’t think that difference has truly matured enough to be understood in an effective way yet.
Yes – you can do different things on Twitter vs. Facebook, but you can also do similar things. I think that there is a fundamental difference and we can feel it viscerally as we use the products and watch them evolve, but especially in the case of Twitter, these things have still not matured into their ultimate services to their users. Hardware, devices, and access to the network are all changing so fast that the potential for what these companies can achieve is continually outpacing the creativity of the builders of these services. The game of catch up that they are constantly playing in order to try to stay one concept ahead of their competition is exhilarating.
Well… this post hasn’t really gone anywhere has it? But it was fun not getting there with you.