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June 9, 2008

Social Networking

Over the weekend, I finally got to a Business Week issue from two weeks ago, about the future of tech beyond blogs. The story revisits a cover story from three years ago, before there was anything called Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter.

The newest version keys in on two phenomenon: Twitter and Social Networking.

I must admit I don't understand the appeal of Twitter. It reminds my of my Facebook profile status, which I don't think hs changed more than three times since I have had my page. It just doesn't seem to have a practical purpose to me, despite this little snippet from the article:

"The new résumé is 140 characters," tweets 23-year-old Amanda Mooney, who just landed a job in PR.

If that is the case, then I am wasting more than my money at journalism school.

However, I will concede that there seems to be great benefit derived from social networking. If there was one thing that confounded my while in consulting, it was the constant "networking" needs that seemed to follow me everywhere, and the ability to keep up with those networks while totally engulfed in other things.

With an application, web-enabled, and updated by all the participants in the network, voila, all my struggles could be saved. With a short read out, I can stay up to date with what everyone is doing and who they are connecting with.

Facebook has done that for social lives, so why shouldn't business do the same.

Take this example from Best Buy, also from the article:

In 2006 two marketing managers at the company worked weekends to create an in-house social network, Blue Shirt Nation. Now it has grown to more than 20,000 participants, 85% of them sales associates. In a company with a 60% annual turnover rate, this group churns at only 8.5%, blogs Gary Koelling, one of the founders. And Blue Shirt Nation gets results. A promotional drive on the site helped persuade 40,000 employees to sign up for 401(k) retirement accounts.

I know my consulting firm was implementing a similar social network at the company as I left, something I am sure will pay off.

My only doubt: How many of these networks can someone update?

My MySpace page hasn't been updated in months, maybe over a year at this point, while my Facebook page does get attention. If I had to keep up both a social and a consulting social network page, would that really happen as we are all stressed for time as it is?

At least one company is betting yes. Ning, which got its own little profile in the same issue of the magazine, allows you and I to create a social network for anything we might think is appropriate.

It seems that most of those who have done so have done it for charitible causes, but the site boasts that it could be used to talk about wedding events, getting guests connected prior to the big day, or maybe to get together with those that share the same hobbies.

Again, I go back to how many of these sites can one person keep up to date. If I already have Facebook, why not start a group for the same purpose. Groups there can share most of the same items that would be present on a Ning site.

I do see the applicability to business. I am looking to see when the first big business contracts with Ning to build their internal site.

The entire montage is a look at how far tech has come in changing the way that not only people interact, but also businesses internally and externally. Social networking is the next big thing right now, and probably has a long lifespan ahead of it, given the reliance on networks in this free agent society of ours.

What else will come soon is anyone's guess. My thought is that it will be some offshoot of the social network push that expands it even further, probably using instant connection via some mobile device.

For now, I am just betting on my general web "index fund" and letting it take whatever turn it may.

This entry is tagged: business, facebook, Ning, social networking, technology, twitter

Posted by bmiraski at June 9, 2008 4:28 PM