There is little doubt that the social benefits of the internet far outweigh the negatives. Online tools like email and social networking sites offer “low friction” opportunities to create, enhance, and rediscover social ties that make a difference in people’s lives. The internet lowers traditional communications constraints of cost, geography, and time; and it supports the type of open information sharing that brings people together. Electronic Social Networking is not a new concept at all. People have in one way or another been interacting with each other via some form of ‘social media’ since the 1950′s. The modernisation of the telephone system in the 50′s and 60′s allowed millions of people to communicate quickly and cost effectively, what we see today has simply grown out of this technology. If we cast our memories back just a few short years - we may shudder when we recall – faxes as a speedy way to communicate, internet with a ring-tone, email that strolled along slightly faster than faxes, but still less efficient than telephone. Our digital worlds are now almost entirely linked, Facebook, Twitter, Email, Telephone all available on every digital device in our lives. Have Social Networking Sites improved our lives though?[amazon]
“I met my wife online, reconnected with old school friends, stay in touch with my family overseas and have a wide circle of close online friends. For those born in the internet age, this will be the norm. For those born before it, some will adapt, others will fail to adapt.” Jeremy Malcolm
I think if you look at the history of Electronic Social Networking, your conclusion has to be that anyone who claims to not get it must have been intentionally ignoring it, it’s been here since Telegraph and Morse Code, it’s been a slow steady grower.
The current explosion of Facebook, Twitter and Linkdin would seem to be a very ‘now’ experience. Peering over the shoulder of his teenage daughter New York times Executive Editor Bill Keller says “Last week my wife and I told our 13-year-old daughter she could join Facebook. Within a few hours she had accumulated 171 friends, and I felt a little as if I had passed my child a pipe of crystal meth”. Keller is not alone in his fear of what may seem to many of us like an out of control funpark ride. Part of the problem comprehending Social Networking Sites is that we tend to do it from only our perspective. A Social Networking Sites experience for a 17 year old is a vastly different experience than that of a 45 year old as Keller discovered. For most teens a world without Facebook doesn’t exist, it’s a world they’ve never known. For those of us who have watched this technology develop it’s been a process we’ve eased on into, two vastly different experiences. Keller makes an interesting point saying “The most obvious drawback of social media is that they are aggressive distractions. Unlike the virtual fireplace or that nesting pair of red-tailed hawks we have been live-streaming on nytimes.com, Twitter is not just an ambient presence. It demands attention and response. It is the enemy of contemplation.”
Social Networking Sites have certainly expanded the absolute number of human social interactions, however if we are not precautious social media might actually enhance physical isolation. Each moment we utilize Social Networking Sites is potentially taking away real time contact, as with everything in our lives; a qualitative balance is called for. Cultural Anthropologist Grant McCracken points out that “Facebook means your contacts are always warm. You’re always in touch with them in a subtle yet meaningful way. This is communication with very little hard informational content, but lots of emotional and social content. Phatic communication doesn’t get much said, but it’s social effects are so powerful, it gets lots done” You may not have seen that co-worker from your last firm for a few years, your Facebook feed tells you what she’s been up to though. Your Tweets can inform business contacts that you’re “excited about the new job” which subtly clues them in to the fact that you have changed workplaces, without any superfluous drama.
Social networking sites make it possible to connect people who share interests and activities across political, economic, and geographic borders. Through e-mail and instant messaging, online communities are created where a gift economy and reciprocal altruism are encouraged through cooperation. Information is particularly suited to gift economy, as information is a non~rival good and can be gifted at practically no cost. Facebook and other social networking tools are increasingly the object of scholarly research. Scholars in many fields have begun to investigate the impact of social networking sites, investigating how such sites may play into issues of identity, privacy, social capital, youth culture, and education.
Several websites are beginning to tap into the power of the social networking model for philanthropy. Such models provide a means for connecting otherwise fragmented industries and small organizations without the resources to reach a broader audience with interested users. Social networks are providing a different way for individuals to communicate digitally. These communities of hypertexts allow for the sharing of information and ideas, an old concept placed in a digital environment.
In 2011, HCL Technologies conducted research which showed that 50% of British employers had banned the use of social networking sites during office hours
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in it’s most recent survey ‘Social Networking Sites and Our Lives‘ asked people if they felt “that most people on Social Networking Sites can be trusted.” They found that the typical internet user is more than twice as likely as others to feel that people on SNS’s can be trusted. Further, they found that Facebook users are even more likely to be trusting. The survey explored people’s overall social networks and how use of these technologies is related to trust, tolerance, social support, and community and political engagement. The surprise finding of the survey was that a Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day is 43% more likely than other internet users and more than three times as likely as non-internet users to feel that most people can be trusted. It is responses like this that have driven business squarely toward Social Networking Sites and the customer base these sites hold.
As the increase in popularity of social networking is on a constant rise, new uses for the technology are constantly being observed.
At the forefront of emerging trends in social networking sites is the concept of “real-time web” and “location based.” Real time allows users to contribute content, which is then broadcasted as it is being uploaded – the concept is analogous to live radio and television broadcasts. Twitter set the trend for “real time” services, where users can broadcast to the world what they are doing, or what is on their minds within a 140 character limit. Facebook followed suit with their “Live Feed” where users’ activities are streamed as soon as it happens. While Twitter focuses on words, Clixtr, another real time service, focuses on group photo sharing where users can update their photo streams with photos while at an event. Facebook, however, remains easily the greatest photo sharing site – Facebook application and photo aggregator Pixable estimates that Facebook will have 100 billion photos by Summer 2011.
Companies have begun to merge business technologies and solutions, such as cloud computing, with social networking concepts. Instead of connecting individuals based on social interest, companies are developing interactive communities that connect individuals based off shared business needs or experiences. Many provide specialized networking tools and applications that can be accessed via their websites, such as LinkedIn. Others companies, such as Monster.com, have been steadily developing a more “socialized” feel to their career center sites to harness some of the power of social networking sites. These more business related sites have their own nomenclature for the most part but the most common naming conventions are “Vocational Networking Sites” or “Vocational Media Networks”, with the former more closely tied to individual networking relationships based on social networking principles.
Foursquare gained popularity as it allowed for users to “check-in” to places that they are frequenting at that moment. Gowalla is another such service which functions in much the same way that Foursquare does, leveraging the GPS in phones to create a location-based user experience. Clixtr, though in the real time space, is also a location based social networking site since events created by users are automatically geotagged, and users can view events occurring nearby through the Clixtr iPhone app. Recently, Yelp announced its entrance into the location based social networking space through check-ins with their mobile app; whether or not this becomes detrimental to Foursquare or Gowalla is yet to be seen as it is still considered a new space in the Internet technology industry.
One popular use for this new technology is social networking between businesses. Companies have found that social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are great ways to build their brand image. According to Jody Nimetz, author of Marketing Jive, there are five major uses for businesses and social media: to create brand awareness, as an online reputation management tool, for recruiting, to learn about new technologies and competitors, and as a lead generation tool to intercept potential prospects. These companies are able to drive traffic to their own online sites while encouraging their consumers and clients to have discussions on how to improve or change products or services.
Jeremy Malcolm has embraced online social networking as an empowering force in his life, this internet legal eagle lives and breaths internet and points out that his well balanced life is very much indebted to this modern form of socialization ”I met my wife on a social networking site. In fact, come to think of it, I met just about every girl I ever dated that way. Five or ten years ago that would have seemed terribly sad, but now it’s no big deal. Today I spend most of my day, both at work and at home, communicating with people from around the world - including you, and this interview – whom I may never meet in person. It doesn’t make me feel disconnected from them. On the contrary, I can move to another country, and be no further away from my friends and colleagues than I was before” Jeremy Malcolm is Coordinator at Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus, Project Coordinator at Consumers International, Developer at Debian Project, Blogger - checkout Jeremy’s blog, ubercool - Tweeter and Internet Legal Expert
I’m going to – barely – touch on internet dating sites, they are a rather large part of Online Social Media, actually huge – unfortunately I have an allergy to them. 5 years ago internet dating was big, it’s now massive. It’s also diverse.
Online dating services generally require a prospective member to provide personal information, before they can search the service provider’s database for other individuals using criteria they set, such as age range, gender and location. Most sites allow members to upload photos of themselves and browse the photos of others. Sites may offer additional services, such as webcasts, online chat, telephone chat (VOIP), and message boards. Some sites provide free registration, but may offer services which require a monthly fee. Other sites depend on advertising for their revenue.
Many sites are broad-based, with members coming from a variety of backgrounds looking for different types of relationships. Other sites are more specific, based on the type of members, interests, location, or relationship desired.
From dating a Prisoner to, well having an affair, internet dating sites have entrenched themselves into our online experience. They are the pointy end of Social Networking Sites, where online life truly meets offline life.
Ashley Madison is all over the web at the moment and with a tag line like “Life’s Short, Have an Affair” it’s not newtonian to figure why! www.ashleymadison.com has over 9,700,000 users waiting for a clandestine hookup. A spokesperson for Ashley Madison said ”There are many single people on Ashley Madison that wish to meet attached people for various reasons. If you are single and wish to meet an attached person, you’re probably going to have to try a little harder. Single people don’t have as much to risk. We suggest that you remain patient and keep trying.” It’s a little hard to nail down a number - online population - on dating sites, estimates are in the hundreds of millions, perhaps the only Social Networking Sites that rival Facebook!?
The United States generated $957 million in revenue in 2008 from online dating services. The U.S. online dating market is expected to increase spending to $1 billion in 2011.
At the end of November 2004, there were 844 lifestyle and dating sites, a 38 percent increase since the start of the year, according to Hitwise Inc. However, market share was increasingly growing by several large commercial services, including AOL Personals, Yahoo! Personals, Match.com, and eHarmony. By 2007, many prominent studies show that Baby Boomer interest in online dating had soared.
In 2002, a Wired magazine article forecast that, “Twenty years from now, the idea that someone looking for love without looking for it online will be silly, akin to skipping the card catalog to instead wander the stacks because ‘the right books are found only by accident.’ Serendipity is the hallmark of inefficient markets, and the marketplace of love, like it or not, is becoming more efficient.”
Most recently, it has become common for online dating websites to provide webcam chats between members. In addition, as the online dating population becomes larger, sites with specific demographics are becoming more popular as a way to narrow the pool of potential matches.
The most successful niche sites pair people by race, sexual orientation or religion.The 20 most popular dating sites this year as ranked by Hitwise include JDate (for Jewish singles), Christian Mingle, ChristianCafe.com, Manhunt.net (for gay men), Love From India, Black Christian People Meet, Amigos (for Latino singles), Asian People Meet, and Shaadi (for Indian singles). In March 2008, the top 5 overall sites held 7% less market share than they did one year ago while the top sites from the top five major niche dating categories made considerable gains.
The role of social networking services in online dating has been explored in a book dedicated to the subject. The findings of the study reveal that the online dating services driven by subscriptions offer the least amount of social networking opportunities, as they often only utilize the personal homepage genre of online community, which only makes them effective for the bonding and encoding stage of the relationship. The dating services modeled on the free-at-the-point-of-use model scored much higher as many of them utilized the Circle of Friends social networking method and a wider number of online community genres. The highest scoring dating service was Facebook, which uses the personal homepage genre, the message board genre, the weblog and directory genre, as well as utilizing the Circle of Friends. The second highest scoring, Second Life utilizes virtual worlds, message boards, chat groups and profile pages to allow people to contact in a three-dimensional environment.
Virtual dating combines online dating with online gaming. Virtual dating involves the use of avatars for people to interact in a virtual venue that resembles a real life dating environment. For example, individuals can meet and chat in a romantic virtual cafe in Paris or on a Caribbean resort. They can explore together, play games and take relationship quizzes to get a better, deeper understanding of each other. While online dating sites allows members to search on attributes such as education and income, virtual dating allows users to explore compatibility, sense of humor and rapport. Virtual dating sites include Weopia and Omnidate.
According to Scientific American, virtual dating is “the next step in online dating”
A Time Magazine article entitled “Internet Dating 2.0″ was published on January 19, 2007 citing current and upcoming technologies and explains how people can now connect in a virtual dating environment. Time describes how websites are allowing people to meet for an avatar based, graphically enabled virtual date without leaving their homes.
Researchers at MIT and Harvard have found that “people who had had a chance to interact with each other (by computer only) on a virtual tour of a museum subsequently had more successful face-to-face meetings than people who had viewed only profiles.”
These three dimensional experience has reported more registrations from women than men. One explanation for this phenomenon is that virtual dating allows women to have complete control over who they select and how they interact. Virtual dating also eliminates large amounts of emails in women’s inboxes and allows women to enjoy a friendly dating option.
Down To he Business of Social Networking Sites, Social Media
“You have the world’s largest focus group, it’s a nice problem to have. People are talking about your brand, so let’s figure out how to listen to them properly. When companies say they don’t have time for all this, I tell them that’s like saying you don’t have time to listen to your customers. Would you ever say that? The answer is no. That’s when they begin to reallocate resources to handle the information.” Erik Qualman
Down to the business of Social Networking Sites, Social Media. Human Resource, Marketing and Public Relations Departments in a galaxy of corporations have embraced Social Networking Sites, many now almost completely reliant to online resources, 80% of the top 500 hundred corporations in the U.S.A utilise Social Networking Sites for recruitment, of those 80%, 93% use Linkedin. In his book Socialnomics, Erik Qualman asks the question “Is Social Media a Fad?” Qualman reels of some eye opening statistics. ‘If Facebook where a country, it would be the 3rd largest, behind China and India, 50% of all internet traffic in the U.K. is Facebook, generation Y and Z consider email passe.’ Qualman claims that we don’t have a choice on whether we do social media in business, the question is how well we do it. Qualman’s mantra is “World of Mouth” a clever play on “Word of Mouth, the twist being that the whispers spread at a pace we’ve not seen before.
“Social Media isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate” says Qualman who believes that in the business there are 4 steps that must be adhered for the succesfull use of Social Networking Sites “Those 4 steps are: listen, interact, react, and sell. A lot of companies make the mistake of just going to that fourth one, and trying to sell right away. That is analogous to if I walked into a potluck dinner with 40 people there that I’ve never met. If I immediately walk up and say, “Good to be here. I’m Erik Qualman. Here is my business card. Let me tell you why I’m great,” for the next 10 minutes. That is socially unacceptable, yet when we go online we sometimes forget these concepts that we know are socially unacceptable, and we start to sell right away. It doesn’t work. You have no chance for success if you don’t do the first 3 steps.” says Qualman
Many who have had a chore binding to Social Networking Sites mistakenly describe it as ephemeral, as if it will soon be surpassed by the next big thing. Marketing via Social Networks Sites presents a new set of skill requirements to professionals. The use of overbearing – spamming – mass emails is more likely to do harm than produce results. Social Networking sites require subtly, interaction is the key feature of these sites, the potential for backlash is enormous. Social Networking Sites are back-and-forth communication forums, not broadcast media. Annoy or abuse people and they will tell the world, online and offline!
When I first heard the phrase - offline world - I thought it was a joke. An internet marketing friend who clearly spent to much of her life online., for whom apparently being ‘offline’ - the ‘real world’ to you and I - felt like a novelty! Many people now form and build relationships purely ‘online’ – and I know of several people who have hundreds, even thousands of Facebook ‘friends’
Our online experiences - just as in real life – are based hugely on perception. Social Networking Sites are a tool, a resource that if used well are capable of enhancing our social experiences. If we are grumpy old men offline, you can grant we will be grumpy old men online. I’ve caught up with favorite old flames on Facebook, banned bad bunny boilers on Bebo and Tweet regularly with my estranged offspring. The point I think is that you need to want to be there - again, much like the real world . It would be far to simple to say that the youth rule this domain, after all, they’ve grown up with these online experiences. Surprisingly the largest growing demographic on SNS are 55 to 65 year old woman. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of point intelectualising online Social Networking, it is what you make of it, small talk, product launch pad or family catch-up, it surely has improved our offline lives. M★C Good Luck Out There!
For A Brief History of The Social Media, Check Our CHRONIC Post: www.sociallyengineered.com.au/chronic/