Is Social Networking Like High School?

Understanding how groups and connections form on social networking sites can be as simple as remembering the strange development of cliques and social circles in high school. People self-select into specific groupings and what they say can build or destroy reputations. Some groups are inclusive and some exclusive, plus fun and exciting people seem to attract a crowd.

It was that way in the high school cafeteria and it’s the same on the social web. Of course, there is one huge difference. High schools students are all roughly the same age and from a single geographic area, while the social web is far more diverse. The latest research finds that 15% of social web users are under the age of 18, 39% are between 18 and 34 and 46% are 35 and older.

Yet the social circles or areas of interest in the social web are very familiar. Users tend to find a fairly specific group of social media categories to spend their time:

  • Location—complete with localized reviews and guides
  • Networking—either professional or personal and increasingly reliant on mobile devices
  • Gaming—places for leisure
  • News and publications—for blogs, news updates and wikis
  • Sharing—photos, videos, music and links
  • Discussion—forums, FAQs and commentary
  • And, of course, commerce—for shopping, opinions, reviews and inspiration.

The two most widely used sites: Google and Facebook serve as a center for all this activity, helping users move from circle to circle depending on their needs and pointing the way to areas of activity.

What’s amazing about the whole arena of social networking is how quickly it has blossomed into a global phenomenon, since its invention in the 1990s. Even Facebook, by far the largest of all sites, began only eight years ago on a single college campus. Today it is cited as a global force for political change and certainly a level of societal connection never seen before.

Businesses seeking to get a sense of how to build a social networking strategy need to understand how the social web grew up and how it is developing. Details on both of these elements can be found in Part 1 of a recently released study from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America. Check out the report, authored by The Integer Group, at www.ccrrc.org (under Councils – North America page) and look for additional sections and discussion of this new report.

Michael Sansolo

Research Director

Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America

http://www.MichaelSansolo.com

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