6 Degrees of Separation

In my younger days, whenever I met an American and started chatting. Somewhere along the line, I would get asked where I was from. Quite often, when I answered, that I was from Liverpool, the next question would be: do you know The Beatles?

Now I didn’t know any of The Beatles, but The Searchers, who were also a very famous pop group at the time, actually came not only from my home town, but from the same area as me, and so too did the singer Billy J Kramer (William Howard Ashton). I remember going with a friend to Mike Pender’s house after he became famous to get his autograph and we also went to Billy J’s house to get his autograph too.

Although I did not know any of The Beatles personally, it turned out that, as Mike Pender and Billy J Kramer both did, I actually knew someone who knew them. I’m not saying that I was a friend of either person, but if I had wanted to get a personal message to The Beatles, I at least knew of a route that I might take.

Anyone who knew me, therefore, might also have a way of reaching The Beatles. They would be separated by only three ‘hops’, and any friend of a friend would be separated by only four hops and so on. So here is a question for you: do you know The Queen of England? I imagine that you probably don’t. But it might surprise you to learn that you are likely to be separated by only about six hops according to a famous experiment.

Stanley Milgram conducted his Small World Experiment in the 1960s. He concluded that, on average, people are socially separated by just six hops (5.5 actually) hence the phrase that subsequently emerged and is often used to describe the phenomenon, ‘six degrees of separation’. So I don’t know whether or not The Queen has a Facbook account, but if so, you could be just 6 hops away from the guest list for her annual summer garden party ;).

Recently, I wrote about The Tipping Point. In the context of reaching a tipping point within a viral marketing context, the above should help you understand how it is possible for the world to be reached with a well-constructed viral message. Naturally, messages that are viral in nature are not always faithfully reproduced and distributed to everyone known by every recipient, but a world epidemic could certainly be started in just six hops.

So, if you run your own website or blog, have you got a Tell a Friend link installed? If not, you could be missing out on a lot of social traffic that is completely independent of our good friend Google.

Does that make you think?

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