In 1967 Stanley Milgram
, a social psychiatrist, conducted an experiment funded by the Harvard Council of Social Relations known as "The Small World Problem". We know it today as "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon". If you're not familiar with this theory then here's a brief synapsis.
Picture a very large hat with the name of every person living on earth. Then picture pulling one name out of that hat at random. Then try to find that person. Chances are good that you don't know that person but chances are even better that you know somebody that knows somebody that knows somebody that knows somebody that knows somebody that knows this person. This is where we get the phrase "Six Degrees of Separation".
Nowadays we call it "Social Networking" but no matter what name it goes by a day doesn't pass without mention of another social networking site like friendster
. Each of these sites is trying to get you to sign up and invite others to join your network but they've become more of a nuissance than the Tool they were meant to be.
Now folks are trying to integrate social networking into search technology so your peers choice of sites they click on in search results will influence how sites rank when you type a phrase into your favorite engine.
Will this work?
Probably not, people like simple and social networks on top of algorithms is anything but simple and can't be presented to a user in a simple way. Even if it is presented to a user in a simple way they're not going to buy in because they're only going to devote about 5 seconds to learning how it works unless they're heavily motivated to spend 10 seconds. At which point in time they won't understand how it works and will forget it alltogether.
What the heck is my point?
In a conversation with a coworker today I had an epiphany. I was drilling down through a management hierarchy that was more than 12 levels deep. That's right I said 12 levels. My initial thought was, that's ridiculous! Then I started thinking about the problems that arise from that many levels of organizational structure. My first conclusion was that communication must not be good and cannot be good.
Milgram's research has been proved over and over again. Humans tend to be connected by 6 points (people|links). There's even been research conducted on the amount of influence each link(person) places on the desired contact. When the number of (people|links) gets above that number communication breakdowns occur. You're probably thinking that communication breakdowns occur way before that and I completely agree. But my point is that any self respecting business shouldn't have a huge organizational hierarchy if the CEO or person at the end of the chain is to have any influence over the employee.
The other thought that comes to mind is that this sounds exactly like Google's pagerank algorithm
. It's just one part of their overall ranking algo but it's a key part. It's so critical that every other major search engine has something similar and Yahoo even invented their own version calling it WebRank
. Did Google consider Milgram's research when they came up with Pagerank? Not sure but Sergey and Larry know. Chances are they did since they have stated in their PageRank research paper that sites link to other sites they consider important so a portion of the popularity of the site originating the link should be passed on to the site it links to. This makes sense and has it's own implications that I'm not willing to go into right now.
My point is that we can learn a lot from Mr. Milgram even though he's no longer with us. I think companies should keep their organizational hierarchy as small as possible, especially if the CEO is a visionary and wants to have a Messianic influence over his/her followers, I mean employees. I also think this can be applied to anyone's marketing strategy. When you determine who your target audience is you should make sure you begin familiarizing yourself with the people and products that have the most influence in their lives. Then begin to make contact with the people that control those products. There are several ways to do this but the point is that you become a spec on these folks map until you've earned their respect and then you're more of a blip than a spec. At which point in time your target market has become familiar with you and your products and will begin "connecting" to you whether it's via links to your site or mentions of you and your products to their friends and inner circles. The point is that you go to the top of the chain and work your way down for the best results.
Okay, it's almost 12:30 and I should be in bed. I'm sure nobody will read this anyway but at least I've captured several scattered thoughts that will make me think even more tomorrow.
Remember, "an idle mind is Satan's workshop" ~ James 'Jay' Clark - educator & mentor