The Social Networking Revolution.
In the last few years, the internet as we know it has been undergoing a sea change from what it used to be. In particular, the rise of social networking web sites is disruptively changing the previously established dynamics of the internet. Social networking (also known as Web 2.0) refers to web sites that are focused on communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Social networking sites provide a collection of various ways for users to interact, such as chat, messaging, email, video, voice chat, file sharing, blogging, discussion groups, and so on. The main types of social networking services are those which contain directories of some categories (such as former classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages), and recommender systems linked to trust. The BIG idea behind social networking is the convergence of communication, community, and entertainment â€“ thereby creating an engaging online user experience – communititainment.
The ripple effect of the emerging social networking paradigm has been nothing less than spectacular. MySpace, the largest social networking site in the world was acquired for over US $580 million a couple of years back by FoxMedia. At the same time, YouTube was acquired for over US$ 1 Billion last year by Google. And now, in September 2007, the Wall Street Journal has reported that Microsoft is negotiating to acquire a part of FaceBook, the second largest social networking web site in the world for over US$ 300 to 500 Million. These acquisitions are largely driven by the fact that the Internet is mainstream and users are taking charge of content consumption and branding. This has businesses and individuals scrambling to take advantage of social networking due to its â€œcommunitainmentâ€ flavour, which is becoming the de facto standard for how people interact online.
One of the most impressive emerging trends of for social networking web sites is that they are fast eclipsing leading web portals such as Yahoo! and MSN as preferred online destinations for consumers and businesses alike. As of this writing, according to Alexa, a global web site traffic ranking service, YouTube is ranked 4th behind established internet juggernauts such as Yahoo! (1), MSN (2) and Google (3). Close to YouTube are MySpace (6), Orkut (7), FaceBook (8), Wikepedia (9) and Hi5 (11). These web sites embody the social networking ethos which is about making the user the focal point of the interactive experience. The user becomes integral to the web site and therefore the site would be useless without the userâ€™s interaction. This is especially important since the internet in many global markets is replacing traditional media as the preferred media of choice.
In the US, and other developed markets, social networking is driving the internet agenda. For instance, you can go online on MySpace and find that US Presidential hopefuls Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton have pages there as do leading global brands. On FacebBook, His Excellency the President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki has a page with over 500 friends on his list, as does Eric Wainana and other leading Kenyan personalities. In all of these cases, they are using the power of social networking to connect with the world. All in all, social networking is growing and is here to stay. If you are a business or individual who wants to take full advantage of social networking, here are some of the reasons why itâ€™s a great idea:
- Collaboration: the first theme is about people working together, collaborating, to create software, content, communities, art, music, literature, and a multitude of other things. Social networking tools and applications support this type of interaction at their core.
- Conversation: There is a conversation happening and itâ€™s not just happening in your web site. It is happening on blogs. It is a public conversation about politics, business, social issues, and anything else you can imagine, including your organisation. Tools are developing rapidly in this area and we have a long way to go, but these are exciting times! There is a conversation going on right now that you could contribute to or learn from. What are you waiting for? Join in!
- Community: There have been online communities now for at least fifteen years or more. But the tools for building online communities are now becoming more widespread and communities are forming around every imaginable (and unimaginable) subject, product, and industry. If you are looking for your â€œtribeâ€, they are probably out there somewhere. This could even mean building your own social networking site for your organisation as a tool to enhance performance.