Monday, June 22, 2009

Online Networking: Quality, Not Quantity, Matters

By Stacy Blackman

When you open your Facebook profile and see a friend request from someone you’ve never met, consider this before you hit “accept”: the more online contacts people have, the less their networking power.

This is according to new research conducted by Professor Zsolt Katona from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, Professor Miklos Sarvary from INSEAD in France, and Peter Pal Zubcsek, a Ph.D. Candidate at INSEAD.

Why quantity means less quality

The study found that in order to get the most out of social networking efforts, it’s very important for people to communicate with their network. The more friends a person has, the less likely he’ll be able to respond to his network’s posts and messages. Therefore, his networking power is weaker than someone with less friends who stays in better touch with his contacts.

What this means to marketers

This study has important implications not only for those who want to harness the power of online networking, but for marketers as well. Companies have long been creating pages for their bands, restaurants, books and so on, and many make it a practice to target users with the largest networks. However, Katona suggests they may want to contact “influential” users instead:

First, if the firm wants to introduce a new product or service, the best way to market it is to target influential customers.

Second, these customers might influence other’s preferences and tastes, thus, by learning about them the firm can design a better product.

The big take away from this seems to be that whether you’re a marketer or simply a Facebook devotee, it’s important to do something with the friends you acquire, not simply collect them like baseball cards. Here’s a novel idea: instead of spending the afternoon trolling a site for new friends, take your networking efforts temporarily offline and invite a friend to lunch.

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