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2009 Prediction: As Social Connections Reduce, Keyword Tracking Increases

Via Army.mil on Flickr

Via Army.mil on Flickr

Let me ask you this:

How are you tracking keywords in various social media right now?

I’ll bet the most common answer is Google Alerts. Not bad, I subscribe to them too. But you’re missing so much in terms of content and people that will be of interest.

Let’s examine why keyword tracking will become more important in 2009.

Social Network Contraction

Peter Kim has a terrific post in which 14 luminaries in social media offer their predicitons for what will happen in 2009. Read the comments below for a common theme:

Peter Blackshaw: Some of us will join the Social Media equivalent of Weight Watchers, eager to trim the excess and rediscover a modicum of “don’t follow everything” discipline.

Chris Brogan: We’ll still have Facebook and Twitter, but the real interest will be in making targeted networks that aren’t “come one, come all.”

Charlene Li: Having thousands of friends becomes “so 2008″ and defriending becomes the hot new trend, driven by overwhelming rivers of newsfeeds.

Greg Verdino: Many consumers will scale back on both the number of accounts they maintain AND their number of so-called “friends” and “followers.”

Several predictions that people will dial back their personal social networks. I’m not sure which people have “thousands of friends”…seems like a peculiar Social Media Whale problem. But I think the sentiment is right. The experimentation of “hey, lets all be friends!” gives way to time management and strengthening relationships with fewer connections.

I’ve written about this before in Who Is Your Information Filter? There are those you follow for their acumen in finding useful information, and with whom you can bounce ideas and questions off.

But there is an issue with this as well…

Seek Out Non-Redundant Information

One risk of tightening up a social network is that diversity of information sources decreases. I love how these researchers from MIT, BU and NYU describe the value of diverse social networks:

Actors with structurally diverse social networks (networks rich in structural holes that link them to unconnected network neighborhoods) derive ‘information benefits’ from network structure because they are more likely to receive non-redundant information through network contacts.

Now if people are going to contract their social networks, what is the logical outcome for network diversity going to be? It’s going to reduce.

So here we have the tension of superior ‘information benefits’ from diverse social connections, and a desire to bring one’s social contacts down to Dunbar’s Number.

How to get the best of both? Keyword tracking.

Here’s what keyword tracking gives the back-to-basics social networker:

  1. Ability to leverage people outside one’s social network as sources of information on subjects you care about
  2. What topics have people buzzing
  3. New people to add, in a limited way, to one’s social network

Keyword tracking is a great way to get non-redundant information while staying in touch with the closest social connections you have. If you only receive information from the same old-same old, you will probably consume a lot of redundant information (aka the “echo chamber”).

I look forward to more movement on the notifications front. For instance, TechCrunch recently covered BackType’s keyword notifications functionality. Following an RSS feed of Twitter searches on topics will become a vital part of people’s information consumption. Personally, I’ve been loving the feed of tweets and Del.icio.us content related to social software in the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. Robert Scoble just set up his own ego tracking room on FriendFeed.

I wrote a post that described this phenomenon a few weeks ago, Follow Everything by a Select Few, Select Content by Everyone. The post included a poll asking people whether they will start using keyword notifications for tracking the world at large. 9 of 11 people said ‘yes’, they would. Let’s see how this plays out in 2009.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%222009+Prediction%3A+As+Social+Connections+Reduce%2C+Keyword+Tracking+Increases%22&who=everyone

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