Social Networks and Time: Some Visual Thoughts


I’ve been doing some visual thinking around the way that social networks and, in particular, the people who make them up and the content they produce, affects the amount of time we allow to each person (or singular piece of information) in that network.

Facebook moving to its new layout was a significant indicator of this relationship.

As the popularity of social media and networks increases the amount of people on our individual networks also increases. Driven by the power of weak ties, we’re compelled to connect with more and more people from the different circles of our lives. Facebook – which hit 5,000,000 Australian users this year – quickly spotted the growing popularity of Twitter, and mimicked the model used to display information from the network.  Being a Twitter user I’m actually a big fan of the change.

It allows me to see more content, from more friends in the same amount of time.


Looking at the various social networks we belong to it’s easy to spot a few patterns.

Twitter: Users often follow anywhere between 300 – 2000 people. And of course there are many exceptions to the rule, but one can expect organic growth into these numbers in a reasonable amount of time.  The difference is that this does not occur as often on Facebook.

The Twitter ‘stream’ is a river of information from many sources and widgets and applications are created left, right and center to cope with the information flow.  One particular follower on Twitter is perhaps not as relevant as a Facebook friend.

Facebook: Users often find themselves between 100-500 friends.  This number of course is growing and hence, Facebook moving to a more suitable display of content and update.

With a wider range of content, supplied by fewer people, but closer ties, the time spent absorbing the information from one person is greater.

LinkedIn: To this day, having over 500 connections is considered excessive and from my observation users have anywhere from 50-300 connections.  Here we find business people taking a more analytical approach to researching their new and potential connections. The connections one to one are usually very relevant via business arrangements.

I believe the this graph will change: as the increase of social networks continues.

The most considerable of all will be Facebook moving towards a Twitter information model.

What do you think? Does this ring true with your social media and networking habits? Will the power of loose ties dominate over all social networks?

Jye Smith is currently Senior Vice President, Head of Strategy & Operations, Asia Pacific at Weber Shandwick. Ranked in B&Ts 30 Under 30, Jye a regular keynote speaker and workshop facilitator who specialises in digital and social media strategist.