The Social Graph and the value of Like

As we move further into a social media world where unlike anytime in the past friends can have a much larger and far ranging impact than before. This isn’t your father’s type of friendship as many of the people we call friends in this social media world are people we most likely haven’t met nor in a lot of case will ever meet in the traditional face-to-face manner. Yet they are becoming an increasingly important influence in our lives.

This effect is especially apparent when it comes to what is referred to as your personal and public social graph. Brad Fitzpatrick in an excellent post outlines what is meant by the term social graph thusly – “the global mapping of everybody and how they’re related” and while Wikipedia doesn’t have a specific Social Graph page they do combine it with social networks in which they state

A social network is a social structure made of nodes (which are generally individuals or organizations) that are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as values, visions, ideas, financial exchange, friendship, sexual relationships, kinship, dislike,conflict or trade.

On it’s own a person’s social graph is pretty well a static entity that only changes as you add or subtract contacts from it. On the surface there is really no way to be able to tell if anyone within your networks has gained in ‘value’ within your social graph. By value I mean that a person has found things you have shared or done of value and in some way acknowledged that value you have given them. This acknowledgement in return also raises your value to the people of other networks you might be a part of. The question is how do we show this acknowledgment of value?

When I was checking out a new service called Likaholix the other day something started niggling at the back of my brain about this whole thing of Like and liking things. it wasn’t until the next day that I was able to really get my thinking on it straightened out and what I came up with can be best summed up in something I said to Hutch Carpenter in a comment thread about Brian Solis’ post I Like You! The Emerging Culture of Micro Appreciation

‘Like’ will become the basis for a value added social graph

The thing about social graphs is that they are basically flat – everyone within your social graph is on a level field which makes it very hard to be able to pinpoint those who add value to your graph and those who just hang around. As well right now your value within someone else’s social graph is just as static as those people in your social graph with the only differentiation coming from the number of followers / friends you might have. this kind of value system is too easily gamed to be any real indicator of one’s ability to add value to a social graph.

This changes though if we look at the idea of Likes being a value indicator that increases your value within a social graph. The idea being that as information you have shared whether it be on FriendFeed, Twitter or Facebook is liked by others within those social media circles your overall value to others is increased. You in effect bubble up through other people’s social graphs as a value added friend and in turn make their social graph more valuable.

So rather than Like being just a casual thing we do as a way to bookmark something we are in fact indicating to others that we think this person is a valuable part of their social graph. Like has become a value indicator – a digg marker of your social graph so to speak. This in turns turns that flat 2D social graph into a vibrant living three dimensional entity and a whole new dimension to what Social Media and our social graphs are and their effects on our lives.