Who I Found: Understanding the Effects of Sharing Curated Friend Groups
Abstract: Online social networks like Google+, Twitter, and Facebook
allow users to build, organize, and manage their social connections for the purposes of
information sharing and consumption. Nonetheless, most social network users still
report that building and curating contact groups is a time-consuming burden. To help
users overcome the burdens of contact discovery and grouping, Google+ recently launched
a new feature known as "circle sharing". The feature makes it easy for users to share
the benefits of their own contact curation by sharing entire "circles" (contact groups)
with others. Recipients of a shared circle can adopt the circle as a whole, merge the
circle into one of their own circles, or select specific members of the circle to add.
In this paper, we investigate the impact that circle-sharing has had on the growth and
structure of the Google+ social network. Using a cluster analysis, we identify two
natural categories of shared circles, which represent two qualitatively different use
cases: circles comprised primarily of celebrities (celebrity circles), and circles
comprised of members of a community (community circles). We observe that exposure to
circle-sharing accelerates the rate at which a user adds others to his or her circles.
More specifically, we notice that circle-sharing has accelerated the "densification"
rate of community circles, and also that it has disproportionately affected users with
few connections, allowing them to find new contacts at a faster rate than would be
expected based on accepted models of network growth. Finally, we identify features that
can be used to predict which of a user’s circles (s)he is most likely to share, thus
demonstrating that it is feasible to suggest to a user which circles to share with