Sunday, September 13, 2009

Social Confusion, engineering explanation of social networks.

Recently, I attended a start-up meetup conference here in Austin Texas. It was a really useful conference, focused on learning and practical knowledge. As always Brett Hurt did a great job with the keynote. The one thing that became clear, almost as a theme for the day, is that most people don't really understand social networking. Engineers in particular will quickly get lost in the quagmire, mainly because of lack of definition and lack of metrics. After hearing all the debate, I think I can explain at least part of the social confusion on new social media... in terms engineers might be able to make sense of.

First definitions:
Social Networks: Websites where users can communicate with other users. Includes Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, Forums, Twitter, LinkedIn, and almost any modern website with feedback tools.

Social Networking: the act of using Social Networks to some purpose, either personal or as a business.

Share of Voice: a metric (no standard units) that tries to measure how many people are talking about your company or product... especially on blogs and social networks.

Web 2.0: a useless term referring to "making a website capable of letting users talk to each other"... yes forums have been doing this since BBS, hence its silliness as a moniker.

Now what is all the hub-bub about? Three things simultaneously, that I will separate:

1. Social Networks (e.g. people who own the websites, and the vulture companies that surround them), are "possibly" making money because LOTS of people are using Social Networks today.

2. It may be profitable for Companies to "use" Social Networking to accomplish some goal(s). E.g. companies and individuals at companies should consider USING Social Networking, but only for some MEASURABLE GOAL... too many companies are using Social Networking with no goal other than to 'advertise'. Hint: Google is probably better for ya'.

3. Companies need to beware and pay attention to Social Networks, because that is where much of the Share of Voice can be seen, and customers are talking about you there.

With this common language, you can see, its not really that BIG of a thing, unless you consider the fact that SO many people are using them.

So, get off your duff and listen up. Companies need to wise up and pay attention to social networks message for you and STOP trying to use them so much...its not working.

In other words, rather than focusing on only 1-aspect of social networks (how to 'use' them for increased sales/revenue directly, item #2 above), consider the other 2 aspects of social networks (1 and 3 above).. and pay attention to the conversation (example: a good community manager) and get a presence on these social networks for that purpose (1. participate). Trust me, people WANT to talk about you/your company, you just have to be there and be listening.

photo attribution:

1 comment:

  1. Questions about my comment: "companies should stop trying to USE social networks"...

    Since i've received so many emails and questions about this, I've updated the post to be more specific about what companies are doing to 'USE' social networks, and how they should instead participate.

    Hope this clears up my point.



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