There’s no shortage of social networks out there…all hoping to cash in on the success of MySpace and the alleged billion dollar valuation of Facebook. Today’s Wall Street Journal and this article in the New York Times gives one extra dimension to the social networking phenomena: when a company like IBM recognizes social networking and prepares to ship software for companies to build and deliver their own social networks, it legitimizes the entire category.
Most organizations I’ve been in have amazingly insular cultures. People stay on their floor in a building, hobnob with small circles of colleagues, and executives rarely bother to have coffee or lunch with underlings. As a sales leader, I always encouraged my team to reach out and discover who in our company might know leaders at any of their prospects since it often allowed us access to information and people we otherwise wouldn’t have had.
Though the Holy Grail of marketers would be to find a way to unleash the collective intelligence of customers who’d tell them exactly what to make and what they’d then buy, starting with internally connecting the intelligence of the people inside the organization makes perfect sense.
With Ning, PeopleAggregator, GoingOn, ElggSpaces (sort of a Blogger for social network building), next generation bulletin board/forum software offerings like Alstrasoft’s efriends software (scroll down to visit social sites built with their software), to instructions on how to build your own MySpace, companies and people are scrambling to figure out what the next, great hub model will be now that more and more of us are connected online and participating like crazy…and are attempting to monetize the phenomena by empowering others to build their own networks.
I predict social network sites will explode this year and dwarf forums (as of today Big Boards tracks 1,933 forums) and getting attention for a new public network will be as tough as attracting people to a blog, web site or any other online offering.