Tag Archives: social networking

Does Facebook replace face time?

This week’s guest blog from Bruce Dorskind- uber-consultant. The article came from Time Magazine   time.com- January 18th issue. He  said I should post it to my blog. These were the subject lines from Bruce’s other recent emails:

* Google Lays Off 100 Recruiters
* JPMorgan chief says 2009 will be bleak
* In Rare Move, Microsoft Is Exploring Job Cuts
* More companies say they will hire fewer people and lay off workers
* Is the End Near for Display Ads

Since this subject was actually of interest and not too bleak, I complied.  And I say yes – Facebook is better than face time because there’s no make-up required. Thanks Bruce. See you on Twitter.

Jenny has not returned my calls in roughly a year. She has, however, sent me a poinsettia, poked me, and placed a gift beneath my Christmas tree. She’s done all this virtually, courtesy of Facebook.com, the online social networking site where users create profiles, gather “friends,” and join common interest groups, not to mention send digital gifts.

Though Jenny has three children, ages 4 to 14, and rarely finds time for visits, phone calls or even e-mail, the full-time mom in upstate New York regularly updates her status onFacebook (“Jenny is fixing a birthday dinner,” “Jenny took the kids sledding”) and uploads photos (her son in the school play). After 24 years, our friendship is now filtered through Facebook, relegated to the online world. Call it Facebook Recluse Syndrome, and Jenny is far from the site’s only social hermit.

Though Facebook started as an online hub for college students, its fastest-growing demographic is the over-25 crowd, which now accounts for more than half of the site’s 140 million active members. Why is Facebook catching on among harried parents and professionals? “It makes me feel like I have a grip on my world,” says Emily Neill, a 39-year-old single mother of two. Neill isn’t a techie, per se – “I’ll never have a phone that does anything but make calls,” says the fashion consultant in Watertown, Mass. – but stays logged on to Facebook all day at work, and then spends an hour or two, or lately three, at night checking in with old acquaintances, swapping photos with close friends, instant messaging those who fall somewhere in between. “It makes you feel like you’re part of something even if you’re neglecting people in the flesh,” she says.

Retreating behind the digital veil started long before the Internet existed, with the advent of answering machines. “People would call a phone when they knew the other person wasn’t available to pick up,” says Charles Steinfield, a professor at Michigan State University who co-authored a peer-reviewed study called “The Benefits of Facebook ‘Friends'” “It enabled them to convey information without forcing them to interact.”

Enter Facebook, which provides a constant flow of information via short updates from everyone a user knows: a distant cousin is glad he skipped the cheeseburger chowder; a colleague has a new book is on sale; a close friend is engaged or newly single. Jenny and I, along with three of our childhood pals from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., learned that a dear old friend had ended her seven-year relationship through a Facebook status change. We expressed dismay, albeit through Facebook’s IM feature, that we had to learn such potent information in this impersonal way.

Yet, for many users, Facebook somehow remains distinctly personal. Although social networking sites encourage connections among strangers – as on MySpace, where people converge through common interests, or online dating, where the whole point is greeting new faces – Facebook is more geared toward helping people maintain existing connections. The site serves as a self-updating address book, keeping users connected no matter their geographical shifts. “There are people from my past life that I never would have tracked through 10 job changes and 20 e-mail changes,” says Nicole Ellison, an assistant professor at Michigan State and lead author of the Facebook “Friends” study, which focused on undergraduate usage of the site. Facebook offers what she describes as “a seamless way of keeping in touch that doesn’t involve all this work.”

Perhaps this is the key. Jenny’s online sociability and offline silence probably has less to do with digital retreating than time management. Facebook offers e-mail, IM and photo sharing in what Neill calls the “one-stop shopping” of online interaction. “It’s not surprising to me that it’s replacing other forms of communication,” says Steinfield.

It’s still surprising to me, however, this combination of Orwell and Wall-E that has humans watching each other through computer screens and socializing in quasi-isolation. Neill says Facebook has brought her closer to her already close friends, those she has little time to see because of kids and work. “I know more about them now than I did when I was in regular contact with them,” she says.

I believe her. But I can’t help wondering: If Facebook for some reason suddenly ceased to exist, would people like Jenny revert to phone calls or visits, or would they lose touch altogether?

I probably won’t find out. Instead, I gave in. Last week, I sent Jenny a note – through Facebook, naturally – requesting a get-together. She accepted. When we met up, it seemed we were closer than I’d thought. I knew about Jenny’s son’s part in the school play, about her sledding expedition and what she’d cooked for that big birthday dinner – what we’d be sharing if we still lived in the same neighborhood and talked regularly, the inane and intimate details that add up to life. That constant stream of data is some digital form of closeness. “A beautiful blossoming garden of information about your friends,” as Neill puts it, adding, “I don’t see how that can be a bad thing.”

Linking and Thinking

Last week, LinkedIn and the NY Times announced a new partnership that is supposed to add value to both sites and their visitors/members. Oh, and by the way, it is also another way for advertisers to micro-target their messages. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

According the the press release “LinkedIn members visiting the Times’ business and tech pages will see a new section of headlines tailored to the industry they work in, as determined by the information in their LinkedIn profile.”

According to the LinkedIn blog (yes, they have one too), LinkedIn members can share any NY Times article they find interesting with their network connections. So, I went to the NY Times Business pages like I was instructed to, and didn’t see anything that asked me to sign in with my LinkedIn ID.

Nothing looked like this-

Next I hopped over to LinkedIn, stopped first to see how many people viewed my profile in the past few days, and tried to see anything that looked like this. No luck in the 5 minutes of allocated time I devoted to searching.

So, I’m not convinced that anything is adding value to anything, and its just another clever way for a social network to generate revenue by allowing the NY Times to harvest parts of our profiles — industry, job function, seniority, company size, gender and geography — and sell advertising.

Be sure you opt out.

By the way, if you want me to add you as a connection, let me know.

The World is Fat

Social Intra-Networking- Don’t Just Whip it Up with Rachel Ray.

Tomato, Tomato, Fat, Flat – Let’s call the whole thing off.  From 50 million blogs in 2006 to 112 million according to Technorati last month- there are more than 175,000 new blogs created each day.  Bloggers update their blogs regularly to the tune of over 1.6 million posts per day, or over 18 updates a second.

As my regular readers may notice, I update my blog once a week and frankly, it takes me about 2 hours of time just to find something new and notable to write about. Thank goodness for my convo with Richard last week, who inspired me to write about Social Intra-Networking. After all, aren’t we sick of reading about the Baby Boomers retiring and how to resolve generational differences in the workplace?

Today, in the HR world, the buzz is all about building Online Communities- social intranets where employes can collaborate and knowledge-share.  But if you’re thinking about implementing one, learn before you leap.

Consider the recent study from Deloitte about Why Most Online Communities Fail.

After studying more than 100 businesses with online communities that attempt to connect customers with brand, the study found that  these sites failed to gain traction with customers. Thirty-five percent of the online communities studied have less than 100 members; less than 25% have more than 1,000 members – despite the fact that close to 6% of these businesses have spent over $1 million on their community projects.

Most corporate-sponsored online communities are virtual ghost towns because businesses are focusing on the value an online community can provide to themselves, not the community.

Businesses launching online communities repeat a series of blunders. First, they have a tendency to get seduced by bells and whistles and blow their online-community budget on technology. Moran suggests that businesses spend resources identifying and reaching out to potential community members instead of investing in software that makes predictions, or even social-networking technology.

Moran also recommends that businesses put someone who has experience running an online community in charge of the project. This doesn’t sound particularly earth-shattering, but consider that about 30% of the businesses Deloitte studied have only one part-time worker in charge of their communities. Most other businesses put a single marketing pro in charge of their sites.

The third problem with online communities is how businesses go about measuring the success of their communities. Businesses say that their primary objectives are generating word-of-mouth marketing and increasing customer loyalty. Yet the metric that businesses use most often to measure success is the number of visits to the site. Moran points out that there isn’t much of a connection between what businesses want and what they’re measuring.

So how does this apply to your pet project?

  1. Survey your employees- Find out what there needs are, what there vision is and frankly, whether or not they perceive this a good idea.
  2. Don’t do it as a part-time hobby- Hire an expert — or experts. People (I know a few) who make communications their profession. Who can implement strategies to make the site as sticky as you’d want it be.
  3. Connect with your Brand. Use every opportunity to build the culture, values and business strategy into your site. Keep people connected but make sure that they’re all marching to the same drumbeat.

After all, we’re all fat enough. Internal or otherwise, no one needs another site to swap Toll House Cookie recipes.

Social Networks. Important or In Passing?

Not a day goes by when I don’t hear about someone confused about how to network through social networking sites or seeing a conference on the same topic. In the big business picture, how important will social networking be to achieving real business goals? According to pre-2008 marketing studies, blogs and white papers, very. Yet, reading a recent article from the Economist put my mind to rest that this is only the beginning of an even bigger trend- using a technology we’re all familiar with, and possibly addicted to.

“We will look back to 2008 and think it archaic and quaint that we had to go to a destination like Facebook or LinkedIn to be social,” says Charlene Li at Forrester Research, a consultancy. Future social networks, she thinks, “will be like air. They will be anywhere and everywhere we need and want them to be.” No more logging on to Facebook just to see the “news feed” of updates from your friends; instead it will come straight to your e-mail inbox, RSS reader or instant messenger. No need to upload photos to Facebook to show them to friends, since those with privacy permissions in your electronic address book can automatically get them.

The problem with today’s social networks is that they are often closed to the outside web. As a result, avid internet users often maintain separate accounts on several social networks, instant-messaging services, photo-sharing and blogging sites, and usually cannot even send simple messages from one to the other. They must invite the same friends to each service separately. It is a drag.

Historically, online media tend to start this way. The early services, such as CompuServe, Prodigy or AOL, began as “walled gardens” before they opened up to become websites. The early e-mail services could send messages only within their own walls (rather as Facebook’s messaging does today). Instant-messaging, too, started closed, but is gradually opening up. In social networking, this evolution is just beginning. Parts of the industry are collaborating in a “data portability workgroup” to let people move their friend lists and other information around the web. Others are pushing OpenID, a plan to create a single, federated sign-on system that people can use across many sites.

The opening of social networks may now accelerate thanks to that older next big thing, web-mail. As a technology, mail has come to seem rather old-fashioned. But Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and other firms are now discovering that they may already have the ideal infrastructure for social networking in the form of the address books, in-boxes and calendars of their users. “E-mail in the wider sense is the most important social network,” says David Ascher, who manages Thunderbird, a cutting-edge open-source e-mail application, for the Mozilla Foundation, which also oversees the popular Firefox web browser.

That is because the extended in-box contains invaluable and dynamically updated information about human connections. On Facebook, a social graph notoriously deteriorates after the initial thrill of finding old friends from school wears off. By contrast, an e-mail account has access to the entire address book and can infer information from the frequency and intensity of contact as it occurs. Joe gets e-mails from Jack and Jane, but opens only Jane’s; Joe has Jane in his calendar tomorrow, and is instant-messaging with her right now; Joe tagged Jack “work only” in his address book. Perhaps Joe’s party photos should be visible to Jane, but not Jack.

This kind of social intelligence can be applied across many services on the open web. Better yet, if there is no pressure to make a business out of it, it can remain intimate and discreet. Facebook has an economic incentive to publish ever more data about its users, says Mr. Ascher, whereas Thunderbird, which is an open-source project, can let users minimize what they share. Social networking may end up being everywhere, and yet nowhere.

Great news, now I can relax and go back to my Scrabulous games.