In a recent article titled The Next Big Thing, social network analyst Valdis Krebs pointed out that just as a person has a "social graph" that depicts how they connect and interact with others, a book can have a social graph too. His network map displays connections between the purchasing behaviors of individuals who bought a specific book on Amazon.com:
Below is a network map of a very interesting new book – Too Big to Know [2B2K] by internet scholar David Weinberger. David's book is shown by the magenta node in the center of the network. Directly connected to his book are the books that Amazon mentions that customers also bought [green nodes], in addition to 2B2K. These books are probably more similar than different to 2B2K. The blue nodes are books that are 2 steps away from 2B2K, they are probably more different than 2B2K, but retain similarities also. The arrows show the direction of the majority of also-bought activity.
His conclusion? Amazon is building an "Interests & Passions network...under the radar."
"Social Graph" of the book Too Big to Know on Amazon.com, via The Network Thinkers - Click to enlarge
It occurs to me that if a thing (like a book) can have a social graph, so can some of the "things" we use to engage alumni and donors. For example:
Events can have a social graph.
Is someone who attends a particular event more or less likely to attend certain other events? The answer could improve our target marketing for events.
Volunteerism can have a social graph.
Is someone who volunteers for a specific role more or less likely to fulfill another, specific role? The answer could improve volunteer recruitment.
[If a book can have a social graph, why can't an event?]
And directionality matters here too. For example, arrows would show which volunteer roles lead to future activities.
This is hardly a new idea. Overlay behavior onto a social graph and you're creating an interest graph. That's how several popular online services work, in a general way: Zappos, Netflix, and of course Amazon. But these sites mostly aggregate past users' behaviors to influence the next user's behavior, without those users being connected otherwise. A true "interest graph"–based system would interpret your behavior to help organizations understand why you attended that additional event, or how you felt about your volunteer experience.
Intrigued by this idea? Then see this article by Derrick Harris: The personalized web is just an interest graph away.
Do events, volunteer roles, and other engagement tools have social graphs?
If they do, should we be capturing and analyzing them?
Why – or why not?