Social media are excellent at connecting people. The form of connection that has developed most is, so far, based on direct knowledge: Facebook uses the concept of "friendship" to establish a bond between people.
From a "social" point of view, there's another element that's even more at the core of how we establish relationships with each other: the concept of "interest". Finding like-minded people and connecting them based on their passions is a practice that's been rarely explored so far and that is showing huge potential right now.
An interest graph is a mapping of relationships between people based on their passions.
In the past
Capitalizing on what people "like" is nothing new. Facebook tried quite hard to leverage on this concept a few months ago, when it launched Community Pages. They have never become a "hit" because they were intended as a part of an already existing system that already worked with priorities other than interests: the main element that connects people on Facebook is "friendship" or anyway "personal bonds" and not to topics.
|An example of Facebook Community Page|
A new attitude
The attitude towards interest graphs is changing: social networks and companies are starting to understand this need and providing people solutions to connect based on this.
Starting point to establish a connection between people
A long lasting element of connection: expect entire social networks to be based exclusively on interests
|Support for action (recommendations by friends)
We get purchase suggestions based on behavior and suggestions from our friends, ignoring people who are more qualified for a specific interest, just because they're not directly connected to us.
|Support for action (recommendations by experts)
Suggestions and functional solutions (such as "what could I buy to meet my need?") will be provided through interest graphs. Not just because someone is our friend, it means he can advise us better than anyone else.
|Listening and understanding
Brands listened to conversations to understand people's needs. Very often, these needs were biased and influenced by relationships between people, rather than by interests.
|Listening and understanding
The presence of places dedicated to a single interest will allow brands to understand people's needs without bias derived from social connections, thus adopting a cleaner approach to their suggestions.
A matter of priorities
The "social graph" as we've always intended it is not going away and it's still going to be a main player in our relationships. Still, it's extremely important to understand the rise of dedicated social instances (or areas in social networks) where people can connect to each other simply based on their interests.
The huge opportunity
Interest graphs are going mainstream: people are learning to think about connections that come from conversations and interests, rather than only from friendship.
Twitter is relying strongly on "interests": think about the way it uses hashtags to connect people who don't know each other into a conversation. Some brands (like Starbucks, as Brian Solis notes) are starting to think about Twitter as a huge source of insight, starting from interest graphs.
Pinterest is a fast-growing social network based on interest graphs: people connect to content pointed out by like-minded people or by people who are good at communicating their interest. Pinterest is a virtual pinboard with the goal "to connect everyone in the world through the 'things' they find interesting". (Pinterest is in beta. If you want an invite, ask me on Twitter).
|Pinterest is a social network based on interest graph|
Another interesting application is Social TV: people connect everyday through social channels to follow their favorite shows, to chat about them and to interact with them. They also want to connect with like-minded people during the show, even if they're not friends. Here's why Twitter, with its hashtag logic works so well for commenting live events.
|TV productions are starting to integrate social elements (and interest graphs) in their experience|
There are a few steps for brands that want to take advantage of interest graphs:
- Listen to people: identify their passions and topics of interest on existing social networks;
- Provide content: content is an excellent way to sparkle a conversations about an interest;
- Start integrating interest graphs in functional activities: such as social commerce, relying on what other like minded people did, rather only on what friends and peers did;
- Join the conversation, by adding value to a specific interest. Brands need to be believable in order to gain people's trust. Choose an interest that's close to the brand values;
- Pick multiple platforms: start considering possibile actions on more than one platform. Start from your "embassies" on current social networks and try to extend to places where your "target" is, including social TV platforms and shared content fruition platforms in general.