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July - 2011 - issue > Management
Social-Networks-Grow-Up,-Too!
Naresh Apte & Toral Kale
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Social Networking is here. And while there are allegations of disappearing users; the truth is that time spent on facebook and other behemoth social networking sites seems to have overtaken time spent on Google. In addition, if you look around you’ll find that pretty much everyone has an internet landing page. And while the more tech-centric folks will have the “Works”— web site, a blog, a tumblr, a Facebook profile and a LinkedIn profile (and don’t forget a Twitter account), I think we’ll be hard-pressed to find someone completely void of the net home. The most anti-social individual still needs to earn money and thus will have at least a LinkedIn profile that doubles as a resume.

Social Networking 1.0

So what is everyone doing? The spectrum of social activity is quite colorful. On one side you’ll find the simplest facebook user. Everyone has one of these in their account; this is the “friend” that has a landing page only to be found and contacted; he won’t post anything, won’t reply to anything, and probably doesn’t even log-in unless he has to accept a friend request. His use is what you can akin to a P.O. box. As you cross the spectrum, you’ll find the friend that reports every activity, every meal, every outing, and maybe every thought (hopefully not). We think most of us fall in the average band of the spectrum. We follow our friends’ journeys, as they graduate, get married, have kids, have birthdays, and have vacations. We find ourselves wishing them along their milestones, sharing some of our milestones or funny moments of our lives. Social networking 1.0 allows us to manage our networks, share our milestones, follow others; it creates the social fabric, if you will. Maybe the fabric will be colored less of Toral and more of Ashton Kutcher but we’re both there just the same. Where else can Ashton Kutcher follow you with just 1 click?

Move over Kids

Something interesting is happening; more and more grownups are getting in on the social fabric. We find it comforting to reconnect with old friends and far away relatives or even our next door neighbor. Maybe as we get older, it’s comforting to take some of our past with us. However, as more and more of us start to use the social network we can see a change of tide. We tend to expect more of our social network. We have said hi, we have wished folks happy birthday; what’s next? What is going to keep us adults interested? We believe that social interactions facilitated by these networks will grow up too.

They will not be limited to the light greetings and placards. We believe putting our social network to good use is the key to keep adults hooked. We’re asking our network to help us be better; to help us live better. “How can I clean my refrigerator without harsh chemicals?” was asked recently on a social network. “Any good recommendations for a Director of Marketing?” was asked to a LinkedIn network. Of course, the answer to both of these questions could be obtained through a search engine. But what will be returned is a plethora of URLs that need to be reviewed, judged against others, and finally pared down. The responses from your network are already filtered, reviewed, weighed against others …your social network did that work for you; and when people from your network reply—their names are attached to that. There’s an inherent level of quality you can assume (unless of course you have some ill wishers in your social network!)

Social Network 2.0

Social networking too will grow up; the next frontier will facilitate the more serious social interactions. Social networking 2.0 will allow us to harness the network we built and reinforced in 1.0. Our needs are evolving as we get more adept at maintaining our social network in the midst of real life. You can imagine social networking 2.0 helping us move up Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs as we strive to obtain esteem and self-actualization. The current social networking technology is excellent at connecting people, keeping up-to-date, and even having water cooler style chit chat. But what about sharing expertise online with your network. Rather than relying solely on search engines which return pages of results, your network would appreciate and probably applaud you if you could point them in the right direction. Or what about having meaningful discourse alongside a topic or building an online reputation without the upkeep of a fresh and consistently insightful blog? We believe that innovation is happening all around us to facilitate the serious social networking feature set. Some early examples can be seen right now:

*Social networking 2.0 in the company: provides better visibility and access to colleagues and the wealth of information they can offer.

* Social networking 2.0 for the professional: provides a way to harness your professional network to gain insights, expand your network, or even get referrals.

*Social networking 2.0 for the curious and aspiring individual: provides a way to live better (not just theoretically). It is for the “me” in life. I can harness my network to get better answers, to learn new things, to help me make better decisions. For example, Fooducate makes understanding nutrition labels quick, easy and part of my grocery shopping process. I can make better purchases that are healthier for the whole family.

A grain of salt

We have all heard the risks prevalent in social networking past. As we venture forward, risks will still be present. Human interactions whether in person or via bits and bytes will always be fraught with risks. In social networking 2.0, we believe that the more visible you are the more visible your achievements, your pitfalls, your face, and words will be. Imagine you offered your recommendation for a Director of Marketing from the example earlier and imagine that candidate does not quite live up to the hype. You might have dinged your value to network and diminished your ability to harness it as well. The value is a reciprocal function. The same advice applies. Think twice before you submit and always remember that the social fabric is lightening fast so when you submit something, the tentacles will take it far and wide. We all must be careful, use caution, and always assume your words will live on somewhere and have the potential to harm.

Conclusion

Social networking 1.0 provides for the niceties in life. It allows us to connect, form virtual groups, share pictures, milestones, and day to day life. It allows us to not only bridging the years but also the miles between us. We believe that social networking 2.0 provides for the needs in life. It allows us to harness the power of the network we cultivate every day with a status update, a post or a tweet. It will allow us to share knowledge in addition to updates. It will allow us to make our lives and our network’s lives better. So rather than only getting congratulations on your recent promotion from your social network, it could very well have been the social network that helped you get it.

The authors are founders of Thot Of This

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