The Real Value of Social Networks


(T) A few years ago, a friend of mine told me that he was using LinkedIn instead of scanning people business cards. Keeping business cards of people that we met in business meetings has always been a challenge. And, I know very few people who have ever taken the time to scan business cards that were given to them. LinkedIn for your professional network and Facebook for your social network both solve that problem: keeping the contact information of your network updated. That was probably the initial value of the first generation of social networks which is to keep, update and organize your contacts, and to facilitate your communication, through e-mails, chats and now video calls, with our network.

But the real value of social networks, and what is driving their growths is undoubtedly in sharing. No one has probably better describes it than Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired Magazine:

“Everything that can be shared will be shared. We are just at the beginning of this movement. Sharing can enhance the value of whatever we share. We are now sharing things, we never thought we would, like information about our friends, locations, investments, health, memories, expectations, and activities. Privacy is a concern, but most people don’t mind sharing this information in the right context.”

Think about it – “sharing can enhance the value of whatever we share” – how many types of social networks we have already and could have, and how many usages from those networks we have already and could have based on the benefits of sharing – we are just at the beginning of that trend:

 Creating a Facebook page to start a revolution: “We are all Khaled Said
 Buying clothes, according to your lifestyle or your community, through ModCloth instead of going to Macy’s
 Using Facebook and Twitter to find an organ transplant that is most likely to match the donor and save a life – The Dragonfly Effect from Professor Aaker Discovering, experiencing and sharing paintings that you love, and new ones that you will love with Artfinder
 Getting local restaurant recommendations from your friends through Foursquare when traveling to a new city or a new country
 Buying technology stocks with other technology investors through StockTwits
 Finding new products and stores that you might want to buy with Svpply Sharing your hobbies so that you know what’s going on through Facebook groups or Google + Circles
 Creating a personal brand or marketing a small business with Twitter
 Finding victims of natural disasters, earthquakes or tsunami – with Google’s Person Finder – or finding victims of wars and genocides – such as the Remember Me Project from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum
 Sharing your private memories and good times with close friends and family using Path
 Using Facebook as the worldwide white pages phone book to reconnect with people from  your past
 Using LinkedIn to post a resume and find a new job

The Web is clearly moving from web pages and e-mails to being rebuilt around people. As very well explained by Paul Adams, User Experience Manager at Facebook, we all live in networks of small connected groups, and we are influenced by the people around us, mostly the strong ties in our networks.

While the Facebook, LinkedIn and new Google + of the world are going to compete by providing new applications for their users leveraging their existing massive data or by being the social platform for third-party applications such as Facebook for Zynga social gaming, a large number of social start-ups such as Etsy, Tumblr, Path, Quora, Namesake, StockTwits, Artfinder, Svpply, Foursquare, ModCloth…are emerging.

And between one dominant social platform such as Facebook, and the new social start-ups, users will have to decide if they want to have only one social graph (which is probably what both Facebook and Google want) or a “portable” social graph, such as a phone number, that they can carry and use over many social apps and services.

Note: the picture above is the wall from Repower America.

Copyright © 2005-2011 by Serge-Paul Carrasco. All rights reserved.
Contact Us: asvinsider at gmail dot com.

Categories: Social Networks