Frequent updates lead to social network success

Coronation Street actor, Antony Cotton could well be the “King of the Jungle” in this year’s “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here…!” Not only does he have millions of adoring fans who watch him on the box each week, he is also a popular “Tweeter”. And while he is busy eating witchetty grubs down under, Antony has employed the services of his “mystery elf” to Tweet on his behalf. Even though he is stuck in the jungle, with only 115 cameras and a bunch of new-found friends as company, Antony is still a continual presence on Twitter.


And that, according to new research from Harvard, could well be the root of his success in the coming weeks. It turns out that the co-operative success of a social network is entirely dependent upon the frequency with which its members update things. The more people update, the more co-operative the group. And, naturally enough, the more co-operative the group, the more the individuals update.

Previous studies of social networks have found that groups tend to start of full of enthusiasm but this wanes and with it so does co-operation and resulting success of the group. Co-operation can be stimulated with the addition of new members who, fuelled with their own enthusiasm, help the group achieve things.

However, almost every social group finds the same problem – co-operation and success tends to decline over time. This new research, however, found (probably for the first time) that when members of the group are constantly updating each other, group co-operation is maintained continuously. In other words, there is a direct relationship between frequency of update and the success of a social network.

This explains partly why Facebook is such a phenomenon – it has billions of updates each month. Other social networks simply can’t match that – not even the much promoted, algorithmically-tweaked Google Plus. As a result, they simply don’t get to the levels of co-operative sharing and success which Facebook can achieve.

However, this new research has a significant implication for anyone running an online business. Your social network is going to be a lot smaller than the 850m on Facebook. For instance, you might only need to connect with 150 customers or potential clients. When you establish your online network with these individuals you are filled with enthusiasm – and they too want to take part in your Twitter stream or your LinkedIn discussion group. But over time, it all fades and decays. Then, when people say “you should try social networking” you reply that you tried it, but it didn’t achieve very much.

What this study form Harvard shows is that if you are in this situation you probably were not updating your social networks anywhere near enough. The more you Tweet, the more you post on LinkedIn, the more you blog the more successful you will be online because your social group of customers and suppliers will act much more co-operatively with you. Reduce the frequency of your updates and what this research concludes is that you will also reduce your levels of co-operatively working with your network.

Already, research on blogging frequency has shown that the more you blog, the more business you get online. This new research is part of the same equation – in the online world you need to create more content and add more updates than you are probably doing. It means blogging SEVERAL TIMES A DAY, if possible; it means updating Twitter not once a week, but once an hour. And if you have a monthly newsletter it means turning it into a weekly one. That means you need to re-focus what you do with your business and make the Internet the centre of your world, from which everything else radiates from. No longer can you think of the Internet as just one marketing channel which you “do” when you get the time after finishing your “real work”. What this study suggests is that if you want to benefit from the online social world, it is activity in this world which is your “real work” nowadays.


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
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