To put it simply, social networking is all about having conversations. We love having conversations – after all we are social animals. On the whole, we like to share, feel part of a community and be connected to others. We have opinions and expertise. There are some of us who like a gossip. There are some who like to tell stories. There are some who just like to listen and absorb.
Once upon a time (now that sounds like a good line to start a story), we would gather round a fire and learn from our elders. Children copied others and learned by making their own mistakes. They constantly asked questions (we still do).
There were town criers and professional storytellers who travelled the land spreading news by word of mouth. Then came the penny post; the telegraph; the telephone. For a long time, that was it….. then came ….. the internet and with it e-mail. Conversations were now quicker than ever and spread wider than before.
In 1985, the first online community was born. The WELL ‘Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link’ http://www.well.com/ emerged as a place for conversations and discussions. It was here that Howard Rheingold first coined the phrase “virtual community” . The following year, The Grateful Dead’s lyricist, John Perry Barlow joined this online community, which already had a large ‘Deadhead’ following. He served on the board of directors for many years and once described The WELL as a ‘parkplace for e-mail addresses’.
Early online communities were discussion boards or, now more commonly known as forums which are still popular.
Social networking has evolved at breakneck speed with the likes of:
Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, Digg, Slideshare, YouTube, WordPress, Last.FM and LinkedIn (in true BBC fashion: other networks are available – far too many to mention).
Did you know: there are currently 23,449,100 UK users on Facebook. As of 1st January 2010, our entire population was a mere 62,041,708 – that’s more than a third of the UK. In the USA, with a population of 309,352,000 in May of this year, Facebook boasts 111,212,840 users. Over a third of the population again.
And that’s only Facebook. There are many who are members of other social networking sites, either for pleasure, learning or business and who are not on Facebook. Imagine that.
Making connections is nothing new but we can no longer ignore social media – before long, people will expect to make connections through social media tools in all walks of life.
Here are some ways you can benefit from becoming members of a social network:
- From an individual point of view, you can build connections with experts and hold conversations with people you would never normally dare hope to meet
- Share best practice, ask questions and get solutions and opinions from a wider perspective
- Keep up to date as news happens both in general and in your own business area
- From a business point of view, you can keep abreast of what your customers are saying, and even what their customers are saying
- Follow insights from prominent business leaders
- Engage with your audience on a more open and transparent level and be a real person in a virtual environment
- Watch video nuggets of seminars you were unable to attend
- Listen to audio interviews with industry experts
- View presentations and share your own message in the same way
How do you currently benefit from social media?