In a new working paper, Caterina Giannetti and I used data collected from LiveJournal to follow the activity of a panel of bloggers over more than a year. Our aim was to measure how much of the activity of bloggers was actually social networking, and how much really was journalism.
We measured how many of a blogger’s new readers were gained through reciprocation (they read me because I read them), vs. what was gained through other activities, such as posting blog entries, making comments, joining communities, etc. Our results confirmed that activity and reciprocation both helped in growing one’s social network. This means that for a blogger to be successful, it helps to make efforts in initiating relations with others.
The paper is one of the first to follow the activity of bloggers over time along with their audience. Our analysis also relies on an original theoretical model, an adaptation of a standard capital investment model along the lines of the work of Glaeser, Laibson and Sacerdote (2002).* We contribute with our research to a better understanding of social network formation by exploiting fine-grained data collected online.
We expect our approach to be of use when comparing different kind of social networks; those that are primarily affinity-based, where reciprocity is important, vs. those that are primarily activity-based, where reciprocity would play less of a role. Our work provides a conceptual and analytical tool to better understand variety in social media and locate its different manifestations along the range between social networking, which is affinity-based, and media activities, which are oriented towards collecting and diffusing information.
Already, we were able to evidence differences between popular and less popular blogs in that respect, though not when comparing Russian and English-speaking blogs. We do not have references points for how important reciprocation turned out to be on LiveJournal. However, we think that LiveJournal is merely a point on a continuum that spans from Twitter to Facebook in terms of how important activity (media aspect) is compared to reciprocation (social networking aspect). We would indeed expect low levels of reciprocation among Twitterers, while links on Facebook would have a high probability to be reciprocated. Confirmation of our intuition awaits further study.
- The Ed Techie: The reciprocity economy (nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk)
- Twitter account circumvents NYTimes paywall (freakonomics.com)
- LiveJournal bots drown out political discussion with spam and porn (nakedsecurity.sophos.com)
- Social networkers must reciprocate (theglobeandmail.com)
- LiveJournal (Finally) Gets Its Game On (escapistmagazine.com)
- Dimbler – Social Media Sharing on Steroids (searchenginejournal.com)
- A Eulogy for my LiveJournal (duckwriting.wordpress.com)