Monday, 28 January 2008

Six Degrees of Separation, Stanley Milgram, Social Networks and experiments on LinkedIn!

I attended a really interesting course at the London Business School tonight and have done some (LinkedIn) experiments in the aftermath!

Dan Goldstein gave the lecture tonight, discussing online social networks and viral marketing in the context of classic psychological experiments such as those conducted by Stanley Milgram in the 1950’s. We also covered the the ‘Psychology of Influence’ by R.Cialdini and ‘The Science Of A Connected Age’ by Duncan J. Watts.

We covered flash mobs and Lois Weisberg in trying to understand viral marketing and social networks through degrees of separation. The classic assumption made by Milgram was that everyone is linked through an average 6 connections, the ‘Six Degrees Of Separation’ theory. Subsequent experiments in a digital world (by people like Duncan Watts) have shown this to be more like ‘4 Degrees of Separation’ (though the ‘6 Degrees of Separation’ Facebook Group seems to be more promotional vehicle than scientific experiment!)

At the end of the session Mr Goldstein gave us his email address and invited us to connect with him if we wanted to. I thought I would put the separation theory to the test and I decided to look him up on LinkedIn - in line with Separation theory I thought it would be interesting to see if he was in my extended network of contacts!

I was not surprised to find that he is a ‘3rd-degree contact’ (ie a friend of a friend), but I was surprised by the diversity of my contacts who are LinkedIn to him. 4 of my contacts are Linked to him, but they are from different stages of my life and spread across 3 different continents! One was a University friend who now lives in Austin, Texas, one is a Regional Director for my company in Singapore, another is an American working in London who sells me things and the final one is a consultant in London that I have worked with.

This is not strictly 4 / 6 degrees of Separation, but it shows what a small world we live in and is a great endorsement for the effectiveness of LinkedIn!

Related posts
Bill Gates joins LinkedIn for the LinkedIn relaunch
FT launches social network for executives
LinkedIn celebrates hitting 1 million UK members and 10 tips for getting the most from LinkedIn poster advertising on London Underground

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