While I’m often labeled a Social Media skeptic, I was actually a very early adopter of Social Networks. Earlier in this decade, I became an active participant on networks such as Spoke, Visible Path (now part of Hoover’s), Interface (acquired by Lexis Networks) and Contact Networks (acquired by Thomson) – long before the term ‘Social Media’ even existed.
Never heard of those companies? You’re not alone – but what’s most important to note is that they broke much of the ground that today’s well-known Social Networks are built on.
What many people don’t know is that the early days of Social Networking had little to do with marketing, and everything to do with sales (marketers, cover your eyes in horror). The idea was that these networks would help salespeople better leverage ‘who knows who’ to help them more effectively penetrate target accounts, discover opportunities, qualify leads, and otherwise do their jobs. Since I have a long background helping companies with their sales and business development strategies, I immediately got interested in this emerging field – the pitch just made sense.
Yet if you look at the stats today, the term ‘Social Networking’ appears to be rapidly taking a back seat to ‘Social Media’ – which is in turn much more heavily associated with Marketing than Sales types. Why?
I don’t believe it’s because the value proposition of Social Networking has in any way declined – if anything it’s gotten even more powerful. Salespeople are using LinkedIn and similar platforms like Hoovers‘ (see above) and Zoominfo to find leads, while using the discussion forums and board to trade ideas. For instance, the Linking Sales Leaders group on LinkedIn gets hundreds of new members each week and features dozens of active conversations.
Still, there’s little doubt that today, marketers have clearly captured the Social conversation – it’s just that, as I said in my last post, I believe it to be still incumbent on those marketers to prove the tangible value in Social Media, if they have any expectation that executives will invest significant time or money.
So I propose a distinction – that Social Networking be used to describe 1-to-1 interactions, while Social Media is the term we use to describe 1-to-many. Despite my skepticism on the latter, the value of the former is clear, proven and demonstrable every day in the results of Sales and Business Development types who know how to use it.
Can – and should – the terms co-exist? Absolutely. But as we wait (impatiently, in my case) for marketers to prove the value of Social Media, we can also look to sales’ use of Social Networks – each and every day.
In other words, I remain very high on the value of Social Networks for personal use, even if I question their value to the enterprise. To prove my sincerity while we wait for those Social Media case studies to be published, feel free to follow me on Twitter – and if you’ve got interesting things to say, I might even follow you back.
I can vouch that Chris was actively involved with the building of the very early social networking products like Contact Networks.
And Chris, your definitions and distinction for social networking vs social media is terrific, the best I’ve seen to distinguish those terms.
Individuals (via LinkedIn, etc) and Organizations (via Contact Networks, etc) are using social networking every day (and paying for it). I agree that the value there is proven and verified.
Social media is, I would say, in the trial and experimentation stage. It is in that particular sub-stage that is way up on the hype bubble. I think we can all see one future where it becomes part of the everyday landscape of marketing (though we won’t read about it on the cover of every magazine, there will be a new new thing), or another future where it fades away (remember Second Life, that was mentioned in every major magazine and nearly every blog a few years ago? http://www.google.com/trends?q=second+life).
Which future happens to social media isn’t clear yet.
At October 6, 2009, ppearlman wrote:
didnt $CSCO make a purchase in this space in the last 12-18months. has anything come of this?
They bought the technology behind Tribe.net a few years ago (but as I recall, not the site itself). Other than that, not that I’m aware of.
I tend to think that companies like this are a better fit for information services companies (such as LexisNexis, $DNB (who owns Hoovers), $TRI, etc…) than a core technology provider like $CSCO.
$IACI also bought another one of these companies – ZeroDegrees – although that was quite a few years back.
Chris, great distinction between social networks and social media and their respective business applications. A social network is a real but invisible thing – a collection of relationships between people. Social media is evolving to something that is less about real-world relationships and more like publishing. They are distinct. No matter what happens with social media, business will continue to run on real relationships, and business people will continue to look for ways to better understand and manage those relationships. That’s where social network technologies will continue to evolve and prove real value.
@ Geoffrey Hyatt
Second Life didn’t fade away.
Actually, Second Life is actually doing very well.
The media hype about it faded away, but SL users and in-world economy kept growing (if slowly), and Linden Lab has built a successful business model upon that.
these are only a few articles from reliable sources. An appropriate research done on recent months news will let you find even more information about Second Life’s good health.