The power of social networking

Keith March 21st, 2008

So we have found our new car.  This certainly demonstrates the power of networks.  It also is an example of the use of a “hook” in a story.  Would the exercise have worked in the same way if I had just written: “Wanted – used car”?  A couple of my correspondents mentioned that it was the use of the precise amount of $8,516.58 in the title that attracted attention.  This also perhaps reflects the “stickiness” factor discussed by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point.  (In fact, my use of a number like this was inspired by $16,940, an old Sci-Fi short story by Larry Niven.)

There are still many people that are critical of Internet social networking tools, such as Facebook.  In August last year, Brian Lehrer of NPR in New York put out a podcast called “Facebook is a waste of time”.  He starts off sounding critical of Facebook, and particularly its impact within organisations.  It is interesting that while some organisations have blocked Facebook access to employees, others are using it extensively.  Last I heard, over 14,000 Deloitte staff are members.

In this podcast, he interviews Nick O’Neill of allfacebook.com.  Nick highlights the benefits of Facebook to organisations for recruiting and adding to brand image, among many other things. 

The use of social networking outside the organisation (using a range of tools) is increasing, and today’s more mobile workforce (particularly Gen Y) is finding external networks more helpful than internal service providers – easier to access (where access is allowed), more friendly and often more cooperative and helpful than resource-strapped internal support areas.  The tools are perhaps just reflecting a different type of interaction between people.

Criticism of social networking tools in general rather reminds me of Thomas Watson’s forecast of a world market for five computers, or Bill Gates’s statement that 640k of RAM “should be enough for anyone”.  Both of these statements were made in a different world to the one that we are living in now.  The context has changed dramatically.

The problem with being an expert is that it is easy to be unaware of things outside your normal context.  One of my friends on the car hunt passed on my specification to a contact in the trade who had proved good at finding cars in the past.  I did not hear back, but when I caught up with my friend again since then, she informed me that her contact was of the opinion that there was no way I could get a car to my specification for such a low price…

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