Friday, February 17, 2006

Pew: Understanding Social Nets for Marketers

There's a report from Pew called "The Strength of Internet Ties". It was published last month, but today's article in iMedia brought it to my attention. What specifically caught my attention was one of the authors of the report said:

We found that the internet plays three important roles as people seek help when they face important decisions. First, the internet helps people connect to others who can offer them advice and support. Second, the internet yields information that allows people to compare their options. Third, the internet is seen as a source where people can find experts to help them work through all the information they find. If marketers find out how to tap into one of those three realms, they could prove helpful to customers.
Well that makes is abundantly clear. People using the Internet--computers really--are not having solitary experiences. A while back, I was working on a project for an online photo site. We did a good amount of research and very clearly realized that sharing was the killer app. People like being able to organize and archive, but the real juice comes from sharing. Not only that, sharing is the pathway to revenue for the company: the service is free, but they charge for prints. The more people that see a photo, the more chances the company has of a selling a print. At some point, profits-on-prints starts to skyrocket: the cost of maintaining the print stays static, its reveneu generation heads to the sky.

So, in this case, both the consumer and the company had the same core motivation: inject the notion of sharing into everything. It's been noted that Amazon's primary directive is "every page sells". In this case, it was "every page shares".

The idea, though, is ripe for spreading. I see (via TechCrunch) that there's a new FireFox plug in that puts a permanent buddy-list into your browser. Great. There should be a permanent buddy list in everyone of your applications. The idea of social connections should be applied to every single application. OK: Maybe sometimes it won't fit (like Solitaire, maybe) but there are more places that it will.

Consider this: one document is passed along a team. Every person who touches it gets added to a registry; whenever that document is opened, word pops a pane up that has all of those people listed, clickable to chat or screen-share. Same thing for a spreadsheet. Potentially, you can publicize some section of what you're working on and find others tackling a similar problem. A dynamically generated workgroup.

The biggest trend in computing (this year) is clearly the notion of networks. Will they be held inside of distinct applications? Maybe. Or perhaps we should not worry so much about whether or not Google is going to launch an OS and consider whether or not LinkedIn will.
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