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Social applications – business trend or left-coast time waster?

Posted by Meg Bear on May 1, 2009


socialimage In the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of listening* to conversations about social media.

Perspectives seem to fall along a spectrum from a time wasting California trend to going to change the way we do business.

People tend to have strong opinions about social tools as they relate to demographics and privacy

There also seems to be a fair amount of generalizing and series of tubes type comments, as people attempt to educate themselves about the latest trends.  

 Having spent the last two years thinking about the intersection of social technologies and business, I find myself wanting to challenge some of the statements I’m hearing and what better venue than a blog? 

So here goes:

I see no reason for wikis and blogs to be in the same sentence, when talking about social tools.  And yet, rarely do I hear a conversation that doesn’t put them together?  Why is that?  My guess  is that this is more about the adoption rate of the tools and less about them having anything to do with each other.  Or maybe, it is just that the names themselves are so odd, they must belong together?

When talking about social networking, people describe LinkedIn as business and Facebook as social.  I always feel compelled to clarify that LinkedIn is a very specific type of business networking application.  In fact, I think they do a great job on their main page when they describe themselves as professional networking.   Of course, I agree Facebook is just social.

Then there is the claim, that social networking wastes time.  Here is where I find myself compelled to say this is completely missing the point

In my mind, networking tools are no different than telephones.  In the hands of a teenager, a telephone can also be described as a waste of time.  In the hands of a salesperson, you might consider it a critical business tool.  It’s not the telephone that is wasting time (or adding value) it’s the people who use it, how they use it and why they use it that matters. 

Which leads me to an important point that only a few people seem to be saying, for specific kinds of business purposes having a collaboration and networking strategy is going to become a competitive advantage for some, and a missed opportunity for others. 

There are two very clear business trends that are improved with social tools.  The first is around connecting with your customers, we all know that Zappos understands this and are seeing results.   The next is around improving productivity and innovation of your workforce something I’ve talked about before.

 So how about you?  What are you hearing that you think is missing the point?  What do you think of my views?  Hit the comments and lets discuss the googles, twitters, facebooks and wikis/blogs. 

__________________

*feel free to fire your favorite snark about how novel this is for me.  I know I’m asking for it.

One Response to “Social applications – business trend or left-coast time waster?”

  1. Meg – I think you made an excellent point about to some, these various technologies are simply lumped together in conversation or writings, as if they really were not that different or designed to support vastly different functions or purposes. The wiki/blog thing always bugs me as well. They are completely different technologies and have very different types of business issues that they are meant to help solve. I do think some of this stems from the almost incessant ‘It’s not about the technology’ mantra that you see so often in analysis of social applications. That statement, and the mindset that it fosters can and does lead some to perceive that social technologies are indistinguishable. The choice of the correct technology is of course essential. I agree that technology alone does not usually solve problems, but the incorrect technology applied to a problem certainly does not work either. I really loved the post.

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