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Social Networks vs. Real Life Networks

Lori Halley 19 August 2010 3 comments

There is no end to the challenges of social networking for nonprofits. How, in social media, can we keep our personal and professional identities separate? Who are the “influencers” who can help to spread our message, and how do we reach them? Which social media tools are best for nonprofit outreach?

In The Real Life Social Network v2, Paul Adams, Senior User Experience Researcher at Google, comes at social networks from a UX design perspective, but the insights here will be useful (and rather fascinating) for any of us trying to come to grips with the complexities of online outreach in the fast-changing online environment.

People are spending much more time interacting with other people, and much less time consuming content from websites. This shift is not about any one particular social network. It’s about people connecting to each other online.

So this shift is much greater than any one social network, and much more complicated that deciding where the “share this” buttons go...

And “complicated” it certainly is!  Take, for example, Adams’ case study of Debbie, whose online networks linked up in a way she’d never intended – when she clicked the “Like” button on a friend’s Facebook photo.

Or the emerging indications that the “influencers” in social media may not be who we think they are – and they may not actually have much influence!

This presentation shares what Google’s User Experience team has learned about how the web is changing our real life networks; how people are connected to each other, and what that means for their behavior online; how people influence each other, and how “influence” is affected by the structure of our social networks; why “identity is a cornerstone of the social web”; and, finally, the touchy issue of online privacy and giving control of their own data to the users of social networking sites.

As individuals and organizations alike struggle to figure out the best way to manage their social networks, Adams says, it becomes clear that “we don’t have a technology problem here.”

The rapid pace of change means that businesses focus on what technology or application is coming next. But the people using it don’t care about the technology; they care about the communication that the technology enables...

Technologies will come and go, but the fundamental social behavior patterns of people will remain the same. A better long term strategy for business [or the non-profit sector!] is to understand people’s motivations for using new technologies, and not the technologies themselves.

This is a long document – 224 pages – but please don’t let that put you off. The insights into the nature of social networking to be gleaned from Google’s extensive “sociability” research should more than repay your reading time.

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Thursday, 19 August 2010 at 2:07 PM


  • Bethany said:

    Thursday, 19 August 2010 at 9:21 AM

    This is fantastic information! Will have to find time to read later... and hopefully, share with some of my organization's management team!  Thanks for posting this, Rebecca!

  • Judy Nelson said:

    Friday, 20 August 2010 at 1:14 PM

    Extremely impressive presentation but your point of only being able to handle 150 weak relationships is also true of the number of slides my brain can take in! Better to cut this one or present in 2 parts.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Monday, 23 August 2010 at 4:12 PM

    Good point there, Judy! Hmm, I wonder where the best place would have been for him to have divided it: every time I go through the presentation, I find myself pausing in a different spot to do the requisite thinking and digesting. At least with it posted online, we have an advantage over the live audience in being able to set our own pace for taking it all in. ;)

    Bethany, so glad you found this interesting and useful - I think it brings out information and viewpoints we don't usually see covered in social media presentations and lectures, many of which raise some provocative questions of their own for nonprofit leaders.

Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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