Critical Social Mass

The release of Twitter lists and the new “listed” metric has me thinking about reputation and how its applied to people in consumer web examples.

I had an interesting chat with my pal Kelly (@verso) about the listed metric Friday. She doesn’t see it as immediately useful since there’s no way to determine the impact being on a list has on followers, e.g. she is listed on Robert Scoble’s (@Scobleizer) “iphone” list, but has no way of knowing if that has directly impacted her followers count.

Photo by anne.oeldorfhirsch from Flickr used under Creative Commons

Photo by anne.oeldorfhirsch from Flickr used under Creative Commons

I suspect Twitter clients and one-off sites will explore the reputation aspects of lists, but it does seem like an impossible task to track the impact of lists on followers. Somehow I doubt the Twitter API would provide that type of granular information.

Lists are still very new, so ways interpret their effect on reputation are evolving.  Twitter must have planned for lists to influence reputation. Otherwise, why include listed as a profile metric?

Anyway, lists have me thinking about the other metrics that are commonly used to establish a baseline for consumer-web reputation, i.e. followers/following on Twitter, size of network on classic social networks like Facebook, and subscribers to a blog.

I’ve noticed a critical mass lately, and yes, it’s lately because I honestly don’t track this stuff with much regularity.

My personal Twitter account (@jkuramot) has been hovering between 800 and 900 followers for several months after growing much more rapidly prior to that. Followers are a fickle bunch, but my tweets haven’t changed much to warrant either a large drop or rise.

I’ve noticed similar behavior in traditional social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn and Connect), and oddly, my networks on each have all reached about the same size, about 400 friends on Facebook, 300 contacts on LinkedIn and 400 connections on Connect.

Again, I can’t recall anything that would have caused a spike or valley in these synchronous networks.  They just seem to be settling in that 300-400 range.

Finally, this blog has been around for about two and half years. For a long time, we were adding about 100 subscribers every couple months; then, a couple months ago, shortly after FeedBurner added FriendFeed to its count, we’ve plateaued at between 1,500 and 1,600.

It’s odd to me that all these metrics seem to have hit their ceilings after sustained growth over the past two to three years.

Maybe this can be attributed to my behavior, i.e. I don’t do much promotion of this blog and don’t seek followers or connections. So, maybe I’ve hit the ceiling of organic growth, at least until (or if) the content of my tweets and blog posts changes to attract new (or repel) people.

For Facebook and LinkedIn, I know why I’ve hit the ceiling. I barely use them anymore, other than to accept requests (and ignore Facebook game requests). With Connect, we’ve changed it into a public information source, de-emphasizing the networking aspects, so I get why I’m topping out there.

I’m curious to know your thoughts and experiences. Are you hitting the ceiling too? If so, maybe this is an early adopter thing. If not, why do you think your metrics continue to grow?

If you don’t care at all, be well and thanks for reading all the way to here.

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

6 comments

  1. Not hitting a ceiling yet. FB: I deliberately restrict search and friendship options (I operate a connection rule of “Pass any two from: a) Do I Know You, b) Do I Like You, or c) Do I trust you), but I am sure if I loosened it up it would quickly soar past 100 (40 now) given the recommendations FB keeps making. Twitter – I also post under @localization. That one's going steadily. I find flashpoints, controversies are the main magnets for followers. Now at about 520 followers and growing.

    On the subject of metrics, I am fascinated by the ratio of followers to followed by most users. Gives a good indication of who is listening as well as speaking (you got that @stephenfry?)

  2. Makes sense. My Facebook policy has always been “open to anyone”, ever since we started beating this drum. Surprisingly, having a network allows you to experience network effects. Go figure. Anyway, this is why my friend list is so large.

    Twitter is odd for me b/c I've always draws followers from Portland and Oracle, both large communities, and I guess I figured with Twitter's explosion this year, my count would be higher by now. Guess I need to be more interesting and/or controversial 🙂

    The followers/following ratio is the classic way to vet people on Twitter, but I think lists may shake out to be a good counterbalance too. The ratio doesn't always map well across people, e.g. mine is about 4:1, but only b/c I can't possibly keep up with 800 people's updates. I struggle with 200.

    Good thoughts. Thanks.

  3. I like to actively maintain my FB links, working on the same principle as how I'd react if somebody sat in my kitchen for three months and showed no sign of activity. If there's no posts, comments, interaction from a link, then they're out. Especially in-laws. They know where to reach me…:)

  4. Sure, makes sense for your network, not so much for mine. Most of the people I communicate online know to find me on Twitter or here. Or by email 🙂

  5. I like to actively maintain my FB links, working on the same principle as how I'd react if somebody sat in my kitchen for three months and showed no sign of activity. If there's no posts, comments, interaction from a link, then they're out. Especially in-laws. They know where to reach me…:)

  6. Sure, makes sense for your network, not so much for mine. Most of the people I communicate online know to find me on Twitter or here. Or by email 🙂

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