Perceiving the value of Online Social Networks

So this week’s INB346’s theme is social networks. Seems like it should be the epitome of all the platforms enterprises are attempting to leverage in their respective races to social media success but hey, better late than never (Or maybe we’ve done this before and are doing it again for good measure?). If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you know what the definition of a social network is. So let me tell you about my personal experience with them.

Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are probably the biggest and I’ve had varying levels of experience with all three myself for different purposes. MySpace is probably the one I used least. Back in its heyday every kid had one. Being the IT orientated person I am, my page was all ‘pimped out’, with all kinds of unique html running through it to give it unique backgrounds and such. But I didn’t like it. Nope. MySpace was far too cluttered. I was sick of opening people’s profiles to see more than nine thousand good web design principles broken. Scrolling animated gifs, flashing text, auto-loading youtube videos and music. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a colleague of mine and he said ‘MySpace seems more for kids, Facebook is more grown-up’ and I didn’t disagree.

I eventually made the migration to Facebook, everybody did apparently – to the biggest slice of the social media pie – and I haven’t looked back. Many names are synonymous with ‘social media’, but none more so than Zuckerberg’s college experiment.

Facebook was good for a long time. It still is, but the thing I liked about it most at first was how clean it was. No silly HTML, no automatically loading music. But then I experienced a similar feeling I felt with MySpace when I was receiving twenty-thousand updates a day asking me to play ‘Mafia Wars’ (A facebook game I played briefly) on Facebook because a friend had been conned by a game into clicking my name and sending me a message in the first place.

At the very least, I figured out I could block messages from specific applications. Hey presto! No more recruitment requests to my friend’s mafias. No more unwanted sheep from my friend’s Farmville accounts.

This being said, I do enjoy the side of Facebook we’re all more familiar with – keeping up with friends. It’s been good to reconnect with friends from high school, and keep them all updated with my day to day things. It keeps me in touch with people that I normally wouldn’t talk to for months at a time. It’s also been a useful tool for managing groups of gamers that I organise events for.

I guess the downside for me is the feeling that some of my friendships are diminished somewhat. But that can be a matter of perspective as well. Does keeping up with friends only through Facebook mean I place less value on those friendships? It’s like asking if Facebook is a lazy means of keeping up with friends. It depends on the value you personally and others you are connected with derive from social media.

Twitter I’ve been using of course, and you can read about my foray into that here:

I still don’t see myself using it a great deal anytime soon though. It’s more public and accessible and handy for micro updates, I’ll grant it that. But I guess the issue is that neither I, nor any of my friends really use it. So personally speaking, it’s not useful to me, since I already have Facebook to funnel all of my updates through, but I understand that it can be a handy tool. Updates on current happenings, events, the lives of the rich and famous, businesses. These are the organisations and people who benefit the most.

On that note, it’s important to realise that when weighing the benefits of social media, it’s important to first consider the perspective that you’re viewing these Web 2.0 platforms from. You’ve read what I think personally about three different platforms, but they aren’t necessarily true or even accurate for the perspective of big business.

For example, calling social media an emerging marketing platform for today’s enterprise may also be inaccurate. The fact is, is that enterprises of all shapes and sizes are jumping on the bandwagon and have been on it for a long time. It’s now very much a staple part of the operation of an enterprise.

A notable instance is Joie De Vivre, a large Hotel company operating in California. This company has been leveraging a number of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook in its efforts to promote its business and drive for increased sales figures.  According to techcrunch, the company will ‘tweet’ exclusive deals on Tuesdays for discounted rates on rooms and update its status on Friday’s to offer similar deals for its Facebook followers.

Social media can be leveraged for more than just marketing purposes as well. Best Buy’s Twitter account ‘Twelpforce’ is employed to manage hundreds of employees that are using Twitter to provide customer support to its potential customers. This is one amongst a sea of examples as to how companies are attempting to cut costs or find better ways to do business through social media.

The pitfalls however are the usual suspects with any enterprise 2.0 venture. As I covered in this blog post, productivity, information leakages and damaging a company’s image sit amongst the potentially disastrous consequences of not employing a social media strategy. Furniture Store ‘Habitat’ experienced that last one I mentioned, a damaged reputation, when they began a thoughtless Twitter campaign consisting of spam via the use of inappropriate, yet popular hash tags in order to maximise its exposure. This backfired, as it tastelessly advertised with hash tags such as ‘#iPhone’, ‘#apple’, even Australian masterchef contestant ‘#Poh’. Readers not only picked up on it, but began complaining about it and the company as well. Whilst the company took immediate action to remove the tweets and began anew with a strategy non-spammy in nature, the damage was done and the viral nature of news about the deed was spreading far quicker than they could contain it. They eventually made a public apology when they realised that social media wasn’t as easy to control as they thought.

Something I reiterate often is that inaction is worse than action with social media. Learning from your mistakes is important, just Habitat did. Not adopting it will put you behind in terms of competitive advantage. Heck, even my social life would be behind if I didn’t use social media myself.

It’s almost like not owning a mobile phone.


4 Responses to Perceiving the value of Online Social Networks

  1. Pingback: Watching me, watching you [2 of 3] « In loathe with myself

  2. This is a great post, and I love the way you bring some “philosophical” questions into consideration.
    If you only socialize with friends on facebook, doesn that mean you value you them less. Some people will say no. I disagree.
    Fifty years ago, or even longer, if you spoke to someone by only snail mail (thats actual mailed letters if some people don’t know!), did that mean you valued that person less? No, often it meant to valued them enough to actually spend the money and time to write to them.
    Technology allows us to write to our dea friends, and get responses all the more quickly.

    • Hey Hisham!

      Thanks for reading my blog and I can totally dig what you’re saying about facebook equating to lesser value with friendships.

      Another way to look at it might be to consider how seamlessly people tend to integrate facebook into their lives. Just as they used to talk on the phone at home all the time after school twenty years ago, and how they txt each other all the time now.

      Even facebook is something you can access with mobile technologies. Got a spare moment? Open facebook and see what your friends are up to.

      I think in the end nobody but yourself can decide it.
      Definitely some food for thought.

  3. Snowden Tapper says:

    This being said, I do enjoy the side of Facebook we’re all more familiar with – keeping up with friends.

    Yes, I totally agree with that. I ended up coming late to the Facebook party. I never once had a MySpace, nor did I want a Facebook account. But I was missing out on to many events/information from friends, so I eventually caved in.

    The good thing about this however, is that I already knew all the annoying perks with Facebook and all the privacy settings. So as soon as I signed up, I made sure all my privacy settings were correct and all the e-mail notifications were turned off.

    Twitter I’ve been using of course … I still don’t see myself using it a great deal anytime soon though. It’s more public and accessible and handy for micro updates, I’ll grant it that. But I guess the issue is that neither I, nor any of my friends really use it.

    I myself have found this same issue. No one I know (out of my friends) use Twitter. It may be good for following celebrities or product brands, but apart from that I have no real use for it either.

    Thanks for the quality blog post,

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