Social Networking, Permission Boundaries and User Adoption


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Presentation at Internet User Experience Conference, July 2010, Ann Arbor, Michigan

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Social Networking, Permission Boundaries and User Adoption

  1. Social Media, Permission Boundaries and User Adoption:How to Choose Social Media Features for Your Company or Software(Will people use it or not –Facebook or MySpace)<br />
  2. An evolving framework for making choices on social networking features that people will use<br />
  3. Who Am I ?<br />Product Manager and Lead Spokesperson for Vertabase Project Management Software.<br />Former Wall Street Analyst.<br />Economist by training <br />(London School of Economics and University of Michigan).<br /><br />
  4. So<br /><ul><li>Facebook beat MySpace
  5. MySpace beat GeoCities and AOL
  6. Google beat Yahoo
  7. Twitter is in a totally different league and is kicking butt
  8. You Tube is in a totally different league and is kicking butt (though MySpace still has a place)
  9. LinkedIn lives in its own successful little world
  10. Skype is an entire Universe
  11. AIM is trying to survive (while MSN has a much bigger and wealthier parent to take care of it)
  12. FourSquare is the latest flavor of the day
  13. Wikis still abound
  14. Message boards are still very active
  15. And Blogs Abound –and are beating Newspapers. </li></li></ul><li>AND<br />Cell phone use has exploded.<br />A gazillion texts are sent everyday<br />You can vote for an Idol with your phone<br />And the American Red Cross raised over $10 million for Haiti from text messages in a week.<br />
  16. Meanwhile<br />Someone in your company sees all this happening and says “we need that” and now you’ve got to build it or buy it.<br />
  17. <ul><li>This talk explores what you should actually build or buy
  18. And why.
  19. What will work.
  20. There are many companies that will sell your organization social media in a box. And a lot of organizations are buying. But then it falls flat on its face and nothing happens with it. Never gets touched.</li></li></ul><li>Even Giants Can Have Trouble Getting User Transaction<br />Google apps, totally free, totally social and totally collaborative is still fighting with Open Office and every other player you could think of for the roughly 2% of the market share in the office productivity space that Microsoft doesn’t own <br />(apart from the approximately 5% Adobe has with Creative Suite).<br />
  21. Don't focus on technology.<br />Focus on people's behavior.<br />Up to know, this has meant studying the type of relationship someone has with someone else.<br />
  22. Don't focus on the advertiser. <br />Almost all of the research and studies have been from the perspective of the advertiser or the ad platform.<br />Is it any wonder it has been framed as “how can we understand the consumer so we can better connect with them.”<br />
  23. I propose a new framework for determining what to build or buy.<br />
  24. Specifically<br />This talk explores the factors that influence user adoption of social media in a system.<br />It talks about the current research on social media and proposes a framework for helping make choices on what social media aspects to include in your system.<br />
  25. Where Current Research Falls Short<br /><ul><li>Describing and defining the types of relationships between people is interesting.
  26. BUT
  27. It does not help you select the right tools or features for a piece of software (or really, any system).
  28. This kind of analysis hasn’t been a predictor or indicator of what will or will not work.
  29. Knowing that most people have 150 weak ties doesn’t help you pick features. It doesn’t determine whether you’ll be Facebook or MySpace.</li></li></ul><li>What Does Help<br />is knowing the type of social transaction.<br />If you know what type of social “business” the person wants to do,<br />or <br />the type of social “business” you want them to do,<br />You can build a feature and design a system that is the cheapest, easiest and fastest way for them to do it.<br />In terms of building tools and making decisions, now we’re talking. <br />
  30. As You All Well Know<br /><ul><li>In terms of adoption, one good tool that makes an incremental difference (one key feature) is worth more than a whole huge toolbox that never gets touched.
  31. Pick the feature/the tool that works and has the biggest impact.
  32. btw, you can't force people to use a tool just because it makes sense to you or management. People will make their own adoption decisions.</li></li></ul><li>Like adoption, in general, <br />it is dependent <br />on the cost / benefit <br />of using the technology.<br />
  33. In the case of social media this translates into<br /> “is it easier for the user to conduct the key parts of their relationship with another person or group of people using the tool.”<br />In other words:<br />Is it easier or harder for them to make the social transaction.<br />
  34. If it is easier, cheaper and faster, they will use it.<br />
  35. If not, not.<br />Not even if you try to “make” them.<br />
  36. How Do We Define Cost?<br /><ul><li>Cost, in social networking, is not clearly defined yet.
  37. We are only now learning about the implications of connecting ourselves and information to others and to other information online.
  38. This was one of the first problems formal economics tackled “how do we define or measure cost” so we are starting from the right point.</li></li></ul><li>Introducing…Permission Boundaries<br /><ul><li>Permission Boundaries is a bucket I’ve created for capturing these costs.
  39. It’s a general category that encompasses a lot but is still valuable for helping define and select the cost side of the adoption equation.
  40. Note: The social transaction, will identify the “goal” or desired outcome of the transaction i.e. the benefit side of the equation.</li></li></ul><li>Permission Boundaries<br /><ul><li>A concept to capture the “cost” to a user of using or not using a social networking system.
  41. It is the cost/benefit boundary against which the use/don’t use decision is made for a social media component of a system.
  42. It incorporates the type of relationship, specifics about that relationship, privacy, boundaries and the cost of managing those aspects online.</li></li></ul><li>Why Online Is Different Than RL<br /><ul><li>Why its so hard to define online.
  43. Context and Control
  44. There are tons of physical and temporal cues
  45. And physical and temporal separations
  46. That provide context to your behavior
  47. Information is not as fluid in RL. There is no “hot” information (like hot money)
  48. We are already good at controlling and managing our personas and actions in RL.
  49. This is something we develop over time and can continue to refine (part of human development).</li></li></ul><li><ul><li>What you'd share or ask recommendation on or from on  person or situation vs. another.
  50. All of these aspects are managed in physical world, we know how to so  this. But online just starting and the cost of managing can be high and inconvenient and consequences big.
  51. The environment itself is just being built and so is our understanding of it.</li></li></ul><li>(things to keep in mind)<br />Online, the systems themselves are owned privately and are  commercial endeavors with point to make money, to capitalize on the  info in the system ad your use of it. There is always an underlining  transaction, an economic transaction, in the system. <br />Companies are not in it for the love.Email and the web are still the least commercial of VL systems. <br />Also email is  a good parallel to a social system you'd build internally since the email itself is owned by the company or organization. <br />(Just like the social media features would be in your proprietary system.)<br />Also, on email you decide who it goes to. You add the address or reply to the email (which gives it instant context).<br />
  52. These are all encompassed in Permission Boundaries<br /><ul><li>Each person has their own permission boundaries around their social transactions.
  53. We don’t have to worry about these in real world since there is a perception that information is far easier to control, different groups don’t cross as easily, information is less fluid in RL and there are many visual, spatial and temporal cues we have to be able to define and control our permission boundaries.
  54. However, even in RL this can cross –the dis at the end of the movie 8 Mile.</li></li></ul><li>Who do you give permission to share what with and who do you want to share with you. <br />
  55. Permission Boundaries<br />You’ll know it when you see it.<br />As we talk about relationships, we’ll come to a more solid definition.<br />
  56. This is very complicated & very broad. <br /><ul><li>Since there a ton of discrete interactions that take place between people.
  57. There are a ton of different social transactions that happen.
  58. Instead of trying to come up with a single unified theory of all human behavior that translates seamlessly to an evolving online environment.
  59. Let’s focus on the single discrete transactions and build up from there.</li></li></ul><li>Permission Boundaries<br />Relationships are a part of this.<br />Type of Transaction.<br />
  60. To start, though, let’s look at the current research on relationships.<br />
  61. Types of Relationships<br />This is where a huge amount of research has been done on social networking and social media.<br />Strong Ties, Weak Ties and Temporary Ties.<br />
  62. Relationship Types<br /><ul><li>A UX researcher from Google, Paul Adams, recently presented a great summary of the state of research on relationships, in the context of social networks.
  63. He pulled from published information and internally research from Google.
  64. We’ll start by summarizing the findings.
  65.</li></li></ul><li>Friends Doesn’t Say Much<br /><ul><li>"friends" is an unhelpful word.
  66. They looked at 342 different groups (that people identified when they mapped out their social networks)
  67. only 12% of the contained the word "friend" in it.
  68. only 3% were called simply "friends"
  69. 85% of the groups did not contain the word “friends”
  70. 61% of the group names were unique.</li></li></ul><li>That is:<br />There is no meaningful taxonomy you can build into your software that will encapsulate the relationships and therefore permissions a person has with other people.<br />It can’t be done.<br />Human Relations Are Too Complex and Nuanced.<br />[Single solutions for online identity management will likely not work. Focus on role based interactions where the role is determined by their part in the social transaction]<br />
  71. Let’s Look at the Bonds Connecting People Then<br />
  72. Strong Ties<br />Defined.<br />A study of 3,000 randomly chosen Americans showed that the average American has just four strong ties. <br />Most had between two and six.<br />
  73. Another study of 1,178 adults found that on average, people had about 10 friends they meet or speak with at least weekly.<br />
  74. In another study, researchers analyzed all the photographs posted on Facebook pages in one college. <br />When they looked at how many friends people had (based on who was in their photos), the average was 6.6<br />
  75. The average number of friends on Facebook is 130, and many users have many more. <br />Yet despite having hundreds of friends, most people on Facebook only interact regularly with 4 to 6 people.<br />
  76. As We See<br />Many research studies have shown that the vast majority of usage on social networks is with small numbers of strong ties. <br />So What?<br />Doesn’t Help With Tool Selection<br />Doesn’t have any predictive value.<br />
  77. Nonetheless, Some Interesting Facts<br /><ul><li>Strong ties dominate phone usage.
  78. 80% of phone calls are made to the same 4 people.
  79. The phone was a facilitator –cheaper and easier to conduct the social transaction.
  80. A study in the 1970s showed that the majority of phone calls were to people who live within five miles of the caller's home. Social tools help use strengthen the ties we already have.</li></li></ul><li>And in the Social Media World?<br />80% of Skype calls are made to the same 2 people.<br />That’s cool to realize.<br />
  81. Technology Enables But Doesn’t Build Ties<br />Studies in online gaming show that gamers are most often playing with strong ties who they already know.<br />
  82. Maybe Strong Ties, Does Tell Us Something<br />Strong ties often wield the most influence over people's decisions. <br />For example, they are often the biggest factor in purchase decisions. <br />
  83. Or Not<br />But not all strong ties have same effect.<br />I wouldn’t ask my mother for a clothing recommendation <br />but she is a very strong tie (and she buys me clothes in December anyway : )<br />
  84. So we are back in the world of the nuance of social interactions. Not all strong ties are equal in all social transactions.<br />But at least we learned that technology enables us to transact socially with people we already know, if its cheaper and easier.<br />If it makes sense against our permission boundary<br />
  85. Permission Boundary Break (with a transaction snuck in)<br />That’s a detail of permission boundary. What kind of products or advice you would take from which people. <br />And what would you expect to give/be asked for, from whom.<br />That transaction alone, getting product advice, could be a huge matrix and Ph.D. study.<br />
  86. One Path For Empirical Research<br />Is to create a pick a particular social transaction and map the permission boundary for it.<br />
  87. Key Concept<br />When we talk about cheapest and easiest, we’re talking about COST in terms of permission boundaries.<br />The cost includes managing one’s profile / identity as overhead. <br />Privacy impacts<br />RL impacts like finding a job or a spouse.<br />
  88. Weak Ties<br /><ul><li>Let's look at weak ties. Weak ties are people you know, but don't care much about. Your friends' friends.
  89. Some people you met recently.
  90. Typically, we communicate with weak ties infrequently.
  91. Btw, information shared with weak ties is often the source of much trouble and increased social cost.</li></li></ul><li>150 <br /><ul><li>Most of us can only stay up-to-date with up to 150 weak ties. This is a limitation of our brain.
  92. This number has been consistent throughout history.
  93. Neolithic farming villages tended to separate into two once they reached 150 inhabitants.
  94. The Roman army was split into groups of 150 so that everyone in the group knew each other. (That’s why the movie 300 was twice the fun of other sandal and sword movies.)</li></ul>Source: Paul Adams Preso <br />
  95. <ul><li>It is still true today, online as well as offline.
  96. There is evidence that when online games involving social interaction reach about 150 active users, group cohesion collapses, resulting in dissatisfaction and defection.
  97. Similarly, Wikipedia involvement tends to plateau at about 150 active administrators.</li></ul>Source: Paul Adams Preso<br />
  98. Paul Adams Says:<br />Online social networks make it easier to reconnect and catch up with weak ties<br />We can now look at what they've been up to via their online social network profile. This lets us easily communicate with them - it gives us a lightweight route to get back in touch. <br />This is a powerful route when we're sourcing new information.<br />
  99. My POV:<br />This is a great data point supporting the idea that the social network is so low cost, relative to the permission boundary with those weak ties, <br />FOR THE TYPE OF SOCIAL TRANSACTION <br />they are conducting, that they use it.<br /><ul><li>It is super easy
  100. It is ready made to customize and requires almost no effort.
  101. But since it is so easy (and not something we think about carefully it is the source of potential trouble –as well as growth).</li></li></ul><li>Permission Boundary Break<br /><ul><li>That’s why Facebook beat MySpace
  102. It allowed people to do this.
  103. Cheaper and Easier.
  104. Much less worries and hassles about privacy (a factor in permission boundaries) than MySpace
  105. But now that’s changed and the personalized/controlled experience is becoming diluted.
  106. And people are dissatisfied.</li></li></ul><li><ul><li>But in fact, MySpace wasn’t meant to be a place to share with select others. It was meant to be a better way to blog, as it were. An easier, multimedia blog (before there was Wordpress or Drupal or Joomla).
  107. But –it added to the terabytes of data out there and while it made it easier to add to them. It made it harder for individuals to filter those terabytes and see only what they wanted.</li></li></ul><li>Permission Boundary -Personalization<br /><ul><li>Google was about personalization of “info in” (search)
  108. Twitter is pure personalization of “info in” (search)
  109. Facebook is personalization of “info in” (search) and “info out” (customized, targeted micro publishing)
  110. MySpace is about personalized publishing (“info out”) like blogs. And like the web itself.</li></li></ul><li>Its not Definitive, Though<br />Because There is Still a Ton of Social Transaction going on “off network”<br />
  111. Paul Adams Says<br /><ul><li>Many people use email for very private exchanges. For example, sharing photos or sensitive articles that they would prefer not to post on a social network.
  112. Some young adults use email to communicate with their strongest ties because their social network is overloaded with information from lots of different people, and their message might not be noticed.
  113. My Analysis: As we mentioned above, email gives context and control –much closer to RL.</li></li></ul><li>If there is information overload, what is all that noise?<br /><ul><li>Paul Adams Says:
  114. Status updates are often perceived as a narcissistic activity. But research has indicated that they support important social functions. People have four primary reasons for updating their status:
  115. - People update their status to shape how others perceive them.
  116. - People update their status to maintain and grow relationships.
  117. - People update their status to share content that others might find valuable.
  118. - People update their status to source information.</li></li></ul><li>How Other’s Perceive Them<br />That is the key to identity or profile management.<br />This is a huge factor in a permission boundary.<br />And it changes depending upon the person you are trying to appear in front of.<br />But you don’t need it in RL with your friend who really knows who you are.<br />RL is different.<br />
  119. Temporary Ties<br /><ul><li>There is a third category of ties that some have identified: temporary ties.
  120. These are ties that are explicitly connected to one time or very infrequent social transactions.
  121. To me, its like trying to lump all the unknown “friend” categories into one bucket.
  122. To me, its far more valuable, in terms of tool and feature selection, to drop that category.
  123. Start with the transaction then build for adoption of the tool for that transaction.</li></li></ul><li>Cost of Managing IdentityA factor balanced against a permission boundary<br /><ul><li>Managing identity has high Overhead
  124. That’s why the less you need to manage of it, the better.
  125. This is a key to how “elastic” a permission boundary is in social network system. The lower the overhead is to manage identity and privacy (i.e. the user assumes the system is doing it for them) the more elastic the permission boundary i.e. the more free the information will flow in and out. The boundary will bend to allow more to pass in and out.
  126. Until something goes wrong –then there’s a whiplash out of there.</li></li></ul><li>Interesting Fact<br />Half of the top 1000 reviewers on Amazon don't use their real name.<br />Its just a review. It adds credibility to use a real name. Yet people don’t. <br />Permission boundaries are that weird.<br />As Paul Adams says “sometimes people need to be anonymous”<br />
  127. What Does That Tell Us?<br /><ul><li>That doesn’t mean you need to rush and build in the capability for people to be anonymous in your social networking tool.
  128. Or that it should be a requirement on your RFP for a solution you are purchasing.
  129. It means that you need to understand the full import of the transaction you are asking or allowing users to conduct on your network.
  130. And sometimes, anonymous is just a way for a user to tell you that managing the online profile is too darn “costly” on your system.</li></li></ul><li>Privacy, Another “Cost” Factor in Permission Boundary<br />Research on Facebook usage showed that only 8% of users had left their profile open to anyone searching on the Facebook network, and that 64% of users had adjusted their profile to “only friends.”<br />
  131. The “kids” know it<br /><ul><li>Young adults (ages 18–29) are more likely than older adults to say that they actively control their privacy online.
  132. 44% take steps to limit the amount of personal information available about them online
  133. 71% change their privacy settings
  134. 47% delete unwanted comments on their profiles
  135. 41% remove their name from photos
  136. Source: Paul Adams Preso</li></li></ul><li>Cost of Managing a Profile (and what happens if you don’t)<br />One research study found that only 18% of users updated their profile after 24 hours of creating it, and only 12% updated after one week. Without live content that updates regularly, profiles quickly become outdated representations.<br />
  137. People Don’t Understand the Consequences of Privacy<br /><ul><li>People often don't understand the consequences of what they are posting e.g. can it be searched by Google, searched by others.
  138. Because they don't have the visual or environmental cues that being in a physical environment have.
  139. Because its totally new. And changing every day.
  140. No experience on the dangers and risks.</li></li></ul><li>Persistence of Online Information<br /><ul><li>Your Interactions Online Are Persistent
  141. Let's imagine these girls were gossiping about this guy. When he comes over, they stop. Their conversation isn't persistent.
  142. But if this gossip happens on their Facebook walls, and it does, then it remains there for the guy to find at any point in time. Not only that, but it could be weeks old, or months, or even years.</li></ul>Source: Paul Adams Preso<br />
  143. The Impact of Persistence Grows<br /><ul><li>In 2009, 45% of HR departments said they use social networks to learn about applicants.
  144. In 2010, this grew to over 70%
  145. Not to mention cyber-bullying.
  146. It stinks in the virtual playground, but what about in the corporate social sandbox</li></li></ul><li>Sample Transactions, Tools to Do it, The Type of Relationship Its done with and what kind of Bond it Builds<br /><ul><li>Mutual interests, a community of common interest (message boards –low pressure, time convenient)
  147. Planning a party or club event or FNM or WoW
  148. Consumer-Provider transaction (phone, IM, FAQ self serve)
  149. Sharing project information (a tricky one wrt context)
  150. Just chatting (texting, IM or chat)
  151. Keeping up with others (posts)
  152. Projecting a persona, pretending (posts or 2nd Life)
  153. Finding a relationship with someone
  154. Keeping track of company acronyms (wiki)
  155. Alerts and quick notes, no conversation (email, text, post)</li></li></ul><li>Key Concepts<br /><ul><li>Social Networking Features are just like any other technology
  156. Users will adopt or not adopt based on cost/benefit
  157. The cost is weighed against their permission boundaries (which tries to capture the nuanced and complex nature of people’s relationships with each other)
  158. Isolating which transaction your are trying to encourage will help you build/select the right feature since it is a starting point for understanding the permission boundaries involved.</li></li></ul><li>VL is Not RL<br /><ul><li>VL is still coming into being
  159. We are learning about it and adapting as it evolves.
  160. Keep in mind though: VL is mostly driven by commercial interests and will only exist as long it is economically sensible for it to exist.
  161. Commercial players, government and others can change the playing field in a minute.
  162. There is no true “nature” in VL. Nothing bigger or stronger than us (despite movies about robot take-overs). We run the show.</li></li></ul><li>Thank you<br /><br />@mpmobile <br /><br />Most Recent Article: <br />“Context Trumps Content”<br />In ComputerWorld & Bloomberg BusinessWeek<br />Search “Context Trumps Content”<br />