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The Social Graph and Social CRM

The term social graph refers to the networks of connections among people. The theory is that all people in the world are connected by six degrees. Understanding what the social graph is and how it’s plotted is key to understanding social relationships and how to leverage them for Social CRM.

The cultural trivia game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon uses the concept of the social graph. In the game, you have to link from Kevin Bacon to someone else in six steps based on your connections to each other.

The idea that six degrees is close can be misleading. When you think of connecting to people who matter to us, six degrees is a long stretch. Paul Adams, in his book Grouped, says that people really can have a meaningful connection to only those people who are within three degrees. If you look at a social graph, you can see how distant three connections really are.

To visualize what a basic social graph looks like, imagine if you were to draw a circle with your name in it in the middle of a piece of paper. Then draw circles linking back to you that represent your closest online friends. Then add friends of your friend’s friends. This picture you created would show you the beginning of your own social graph.

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You see your friend one degree away, a friend of a friend as two degrees away and a friend of a friend’s friend as three degrees. That’s really getting distant.

So how does this relate to social networking platforms? A deployment of a social graph you may instantly be familiar with is the use of Search plus Your World from Google. If you sign up for a Google+ account, you’re connected to the following:

  • Information shared by all your Google+ followers

  • Information about the searches you do

  • Your search history

If you want to view this information when you search with Google, you simply click the link that says Personal Results. When you click that, you’ll see information that’s specific to you and your connections.

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There are several ways to leverage the social graph for your company’s benefit. They include the following:

  • External networks: Leverage the relationships of fans that connect to you from their social platforms or social bookmarking sites. They might tweet a blog post of yours or put it on Digg, a social bookmarking site . This will help you find connections that your company might never make on its own.

  • External networks: Use an API like Facebook Connect that lets you link your company’s application with your customer’s Facebook network. This means that users can log in to the application using their Facebook account. Since you’re tying your application to a habit your customer already has (logging into Facebook), you’re making it more likely they will use the application.

  • External networks: Leverage your employees’ networks outside the company — to their relationships on social platforms. If employees participate in the company’s social outreach, they can help the company reach new people.

  • Internal networks: Leverage your employee’s relationships within your company to effect better employee performance and leadership roles. It’s important to remember that employees have relationships with people in different departments. When the company makes it easy for those employees to communicate, they help foster collaboration.

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