Many internet users have taken Tim O’Reilly’s definition of a Web 2.0 application — “one that gets better the more people use it” — as a personal axiom. A big network, goes the argument, gives you reach and, potentially, that holy grail of “influence.”
Many users are beginning to discover, however, that a larger number of social network connections may be less valuable than a smaller, more intimate circle.
With an enormous collection of friends or followers on a network, you lose the benefits of intimacy, discoverability, and trust, all of which can work better when you have fewer connections
.Social networks can help us balance the access and influence of large networks with the benefits of small networks, but to do so they need features that let users focus their engagement on subsets of the people they connect to or follow. There is something miraculous about how social networks can connect us to just about anyone, anywhere, even if we’re not Kevin Bacon.
But most of the time we want to connect to specific people for specific purposes — and that’s just not possible with networks that drive us to stuff a one-size-fits-all contact list with as many names, email addresses, and mobile numbers as possible.
Let’s take LinkedIn as an example. I’ve long been an advocate for what I call the favor test: only connecting to people you know well enough to ask a favor
Author: Alexandra Samuel is a speaker, researcher and writer who works with the world’s leading companies to understand their online customers and craft data-driven reports like Sharing is the New Buying. The author of Work Smarter with Social Media(Harvard Business Review Press, 2015), Alex holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University. Follow Alex on Twitter as@awsamuel.