What is a social network? Really.

A new report by Strategy Analytics claims that roughly one out of every 6 people on the face of the earth will be using social media in 5 years. To what extent and for what purpose reamins to be seen but the report also adds that there are currently approximately 373 million people using social media. “It is clear that user generated media will increasingly compete with professional media when it comes to the attention and free time of users,” comments Martin Olausson, Director of Digital Media Research at Strategy Analytics. “However, if professional media companies choose to embrace social media applications it will enable a more direct and positive relationship with consumers, which will in turn drive increased engagement and loyalty.”

The rise of social media sites and applications can be attributed to the desire of web users to create and manage their own content. This desire has fueled a cottage industry of niche based sites that are geared towards like minded individuals cut from the same cloth. What was unexpected though was the evolution and sea change effect that this has had on computing as we know it in the 21st century.

If the report’s estimates are proven to be accurate, one can only assume that there will  be more social networks available, all with their own hook, niche and community. One can also expect that blogs will continue to grow at an exponential level as the ease in which someone can create “their” blog will continue to evolve into an even more intuitive interface.  What all this means is that the rules as we know it in regards to how content is produced and how it is deduced will no doubt change. Just as everyone is now an amateur videographer, now too will there will millions of social commentators who will develop loyal readership bases. This will change the way the public perceives what they read.

One of the more interesting aspects of all this of course, is how marketers and advertisers are salivating over the prospect of selling to these targeted customers. The only problem is that the last thing that these social netizens or users are interested in, is your product. They will and can smell a marketer a mile away and thus if they are “found” out, they can forget it.

Social network users don’t want to be sold to. That is, in part why they are here in the first place. They want a nirvana like environment in which they can do their own thing without having to deal with a marketer or an advertiser or a pitch.  They want to play and share their widgets and tools with others without having some ad streaming across the top of the page. They want to  post, comment, create and “maybe” make money as well but as discrete as discrete can get.

Because of the value of user generated content and the lack of desire to be approached by advertisers while those users are in their “world” something has to give. Either users accept it or..advertisers get smarter or more respectful. consider the former being the road of choice. but really what we’re talking about is a sea change in how individuals go about computing. The sea change being a) that we accept that search is an integral part of of how are day begins or rather our computing day is wrapped around search and is integrated with search and b) What do we do with the rest of our time online? Social computing is your answer.

Ok so now what do the rest of us who are not into blogging or social networks do? Ahhhh…  but wait, before we are too quick denounce this “social networking” thing that is too hard to learn, perhaps we might want to reconsider a social network. Think back to when you or all of us were in High School. How were you labeled? What defined you?  The answer was, we were all in a clique a group or on a team. If you think about it, it’s how we were identified when we were growing up. What “group” were you part of? It was what gave us our identity.  The band, the chess team, the football team, the student council, the yearbook staff. Those were all social networks. The only difference between then and now, is that we can now share and communicate with those people 24/7/365.

Still there are inherent problems. The biggest one being a barrier of entry. Computing though accessible by all, is not affordable by all. Computers though accepted by all, are not understood by all and lastly computers, though they can close the gap between countries and people who wish to communicate, they cannot solve the issues of war, famine, and natural disasters. So yes social networks are a wonderous thing but truly, the only way they work is if people are willing to communicate, exchange ideas,  respect one another, and share in common goals and beliefs. Hmmm. there’s a novel idea. Is there a place for social networks? Absolutely. It’s just up to us to redefine them, because right now they are all cut from the same virtual cloth.

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2 thoughts on “What is a social network? Really.

  1. Pingback: Building a Social Network for Your Practice | Advance My Practice

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