Tag Archives: social networks

Communities of Practice

The last book I read was called “Communities of Practice,” it was quite compelling because it discussed how people learn in informal groups that are bound by a common set of ideals or goals.  It was remarkable because much of education today is driven by somewhat rigid and formal processes that take place.  An example of a Community of Practice (CoP) would be a group of runners.   Many runners run by themselves or perhaps with friends or family.  However, in stores such as The Running Room, they have set up clubs where strangers are bound together by a common sense of purpose.  What is of interest to anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists are the cultures, individual psychology and group dynamics that takes place. This CoP, lets strangers learn from each other through participation and reification (gathering of artifacts and making concrete sense of them).  The imagination and engagement that is formed by this group is all bound by a sense of alignment.  Bonding takes place as does camaraderie, members lend each other support as well.

So what does this have to do with branding?  Everyday, people are inundated with messages from advertisers that equate to noise.  I mean how many times have you been annoyed by irrelevant messages?  I would suspect quite a bit.  Now, with the formation of CoP, companies can appeal to people’s tendencies to want to belong in a community and a group.  Also, by the immersion and interaction amongst the members of community, only create a richer experience for them.  The brand is able to help people realize their goals.  Example could be The Dove Campaign for Beauty.  This became a resource center for women, where they can support each other and help educate other women about accepting their beauty.  The Nike world run is another example of a CoP.   Leading up to the run, participants are able to train together with other members by tracking their times as well as coordinating schedules.  The online forum truly acted as a support mechanism, where members are able to participate and reify their experiences through engagement, imagination and all bound by alignment.

Can you think of other examples of CoPs?

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Go out there and manage your brand!

Yesterday, I attended a networking event.  The main lesson from this event was to pursue your passions, be excellent at it, and be full of energy and tie this with your strengths and be able to use this to help others. This lesson can be applied to an individual who is interested in building their personal brand, or to a business that is interested in developing their brand.  I came across this motivational talk by Gary Vaynerchuk some time ago.  I think he has a great message of pursuing your passions and stop doing things that you do not enjoy.  If you for even a second do not believe in what you are doing, get out, now.  He said “Look at yourself in the mirror and ask what do you want to do for the rest of your life, and pursue that.”  With these passions and patience, one can find a way to monetize it.

It is extremely important to build brand equity in yourself and in your business, too.  Finding methods to leverage one’s brand equity can be accomplished through a variety of social networks such as Facebook, Jaiku, LinkedIn, MySpace, Technorati, Twitter, etc.  Whenever, there is a social utility out there, take advantage of it.  You can be accessible anyhow, anywhere, anytime and as often as you can. Interactivity with customers is extremely important.  Building personal and company brand equity can be accomplished through conversation amongst the web users and spreading this message around.

The essence of this talk is that there is no substitute for hard work.  When people are coasting, that is the opportune time to work diligently to surpass the competition.  Gary at one point responded to 700 to 1000 emails a day, as a trailblazer in leveraging social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) to interact with customers.  Listening to customers is effective, but caring about them is much better.  Reading customers concerns, suggestions, ideas is listening, but responding to emails, interacting with customers through social media is caring about them.  Legacy is greater than currency.  Whatever output occurs, ensure it upholds one’s legacy.  This solidifies either one’s personal brand or business brand, and it will enable future positive returns on investment.  The best way to succeed is to be transparent, and your legacy is all you have.

I have written about the importance of social media in business here and here.  As individuals and businesses are increasingly using these tools, it is imperative to be apart of this.  Adapt or be left behind.  I agree with Gary’s assertions that passion, hard work, patience are keys to success.  The lessons from this inspirational talk were very similar to the networking workshop I had attended yesterday.

Social Websites (e.g. Facebook, etc.) enhance relationships…but at what costs?

In the world of social networks, the marginal utility of an application increases when the user’s friends usage rates increases.  Much of the reason of the emergence of the popularity of social websites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace is due to an increasingly number of users utilizing this service. 

In my earlier post, I had discussed the societal, economical and psychological benefits/drawbacks of social websites.  In this post, I will continue to discuss the role of online privacy.  In my earlier post today, I had discussed the balance between online privacy and targeted advertising.  Trying to seek a balance between the two is rather difficult.  There is a paradox that exists as the users become increasingly engaged online, their privacy increasingly erodes.      

One of the noted features of Facebook is a news feed, that automatically updates the activities of the user’s family, friends and acquaintances.  It is similar to an RSS feed, instead of seeking daily updates on a multitude of web pages, these feeds are instead fed to a single web page.   On Twitter, the user can update his/her status (what they are doing, where are they going, who are they seeing, etc.) with a maximum of 140 characters (similar to a text message) unlimited number of times per day.  Both Twitter and Facebook feed applications are similar, one feed is not meaningful by itself, and can be rather mundane.  Put together a collection of feeds that happen in one day, it becomes a story, and it paints a complete picture of the family member, friend, acquaintance or even a stranger that the person is following .  With Twitter one can update one’s feed and follow others’ feeds and know what the other user is feeling/thinking/doing, etc. on a constant basis especially when using a Blackberry device.  According to this article, social scientists refer to these incessant updates as “ambient awareness.”  Can people constantly read and absorb a multitude of messages on a daily basis?  Well, these feeds are meant to be scanned, akin to reading newspaper headlines, and is analagous to acting as ambient messaging. 

These feeds can become a conversation piece with friends the following day.  It ressembles reading someones mind.  For example, if one was meeting a group of friends at a coffee shop, and saw something interesting while in transit, he/she can “twitter” this neat occurrence to his/her friends real-time.  Once at the coffee shop, his/her friends would know what happened to the user on the way to the coffee shop.   

Being connected and engaged with these online social tools is not all rosy, the article discusses how this constant self-disclosure created difficulty with one user withdrawing from this online world because she wanted to know if people were discussing events behind her back.  Some employers and college admission boards are now utilizing these online social tools to screen potential job candidates.   

In the end, users need to balance the enhancing social capital vs online privacy paradox.  The constant self-disclosure could be used as a method for catharsis, which inadvertently, makes the user know themselves better.

Online Privacy vs Targeted Advertising

Today’s focus will be touch on online behavior.  This first article is about finding the delicate balance between maintaining online privacy versus targeted advertising.  Online users on one hand want to connect with their family, friends and colleagues, but on the other hand, want some privacy.  Advertisers try to track the user’s online behavior by tracking their website visits, purchases, freeware, and email.  If all these inputs are being monitored it almost becomes Big Brother-like behavior.  By targeting the user more effectively,  ads become increasingly relevant to the consumer and also increases the ROI for the advertiser.  Much of Google’s revenue is from selling contextually relevant ads, as they strive to find increasingly more effective methods to target consumers. 

Recently, Facebook launched an advertising program called Beacon, which tracks user purchases with Facebook-affiliated vendor sites and shares this with the user friends.   Could the purchase of a certain product be a conversation piece for the user with his/her friends?  Or is it an intrusion of privacy to the user?  It has caused much controversy.  Again, in the pursuit of contextually relevant advertising, many people feel that it has crossed the line with respecting online privacy. 

The effect on privacy will be felt by current generation of users (high school, college and young professional users).  In the past, most activities and experiences with family, friends and colleagues were not broadcast around the world.  How will the greater transparency of social behaviors have on the current generation?  Only time will tell.  Are people opening themselves up too much?

What are some future ideas for web 2.0 applications?

As more websites are increasingly becoming more social and adopting web 2.0 technologies, what will happen next?  Currently, most of the websites that offer these technologies exist in silos.  For example, users may have friends on separate social and business networks.  I have friends on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, Delicious, and StumpleUpon.  I need to login to each of those websites to connect with different friends.  What if I was able to engage with my friends anywhere on the web?

 

Yesterday, I had discussed about the usage of web 2.0 tools on the internet.  Today, I will discuss the future of social networks and the usage web 2.0 tools.

 

 Joe Kraus Interview

Wharton school of business interviews Joe Kraus, director of product management at Google.  This fascinating interview discusses how Google has developed a solution to enabling the web to become more social.  There are two pieces to the solution:

 

 

 The first piece is called OpenSocial, which is an open-source API for social applications across multiple websites.  Many of the social websites (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) that I described in my above example, have their own API platforms, and similar to Google OpenSocial all are open source development.  Google is striving to make OpenSocial the common API that can be utilized by most sites.

 

 

The second piece is called FriendConnect, which allows website administrators to utilize the gadgets made from the OpenSocial developer community.  The user can collaborate, share and engage with friends on whatever website they choose, as long as the website utilizes the FriendConnect tool.  The web user goes to any website that has the FriendConnect tool, logs in, and can select from his/her friends from a list that draws from the user’s network from social sites (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).  The web user can invite these friends to participate in discussions, ratings, and other interactions on this website.  This is already somewhat similar with online communities, which on many websites, people do not know each other but share mutual interests.  Being able to combine existing social networks with online communites is key.  The web will become more social by users being able to connect with their friends at anywhere and at anytime.  The benefits from this application include: increasing web site traffic, being able to engage with the customers, customers are able to engage with their friends, and their friends are able to learn about the website.

 

 

So why is Google so interested in developing these two applications?

Google’s interest in these applications is to make the web better for both developers and users.  This will engage more people on the web, which in turn, makes the search engine more widely used.

   

 

Please see the below video for more information regarding the FriendConnect application:

 

 
 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

Are social networking websites such as Facebook beneficial for society?

Click above link for an interesting discussion on the sociological, psychological and economic effects of social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace.

Humans are social beings.  They need to feel connected and to socialize with one another.  I have recently (last week) joined Facebook, Delicious, Digg and Twitter.  It is quite a powerful tool in that interaction and collaboration can be realized with current and past friends.  Facebook enables the user to keep track of the daily happenings of his/her friends whom maybe geographically dispersed. 

From a sociological perspective,  social networking sites improve social capital which is particularly useful in striking up a conversation or perhaps exchanging ideas from a network of people.  A Michigan State University study has found it beneficial for individuals with low self-esteem and low life satisfaction.  A counterpoint is that bullying and gossip-spreading is made much easier with this tool.  With access to so many people this can act as a magnifier for this negative behavior. 

From a psychological perspective, there are detracters who believe that the ever-increasing popularity of such sites may have a negative effect on face-to-face communications.  Social networking sites enable the user to meet others based on common interests.  Is this psychologically beneficial?  That depends on one’s viewpoint.  Having a network of people with varied interests would be more difficult to achieve than a network with similar interests.

From an economic perspective, it makes it easy economically (websites are free – therefore barriers of entry are very low) by effort (one-click away) to communicate with friends and acquaitances.  From an advertising perspective, it enables the availablility of very targeted campaigns similar to the tactics employed by google with keywords. 

What are your thoughts on the ever-growing number of social networking sites?

Is open innovation becoming the norm?

The above link is about how open source innovation is changing the paradigms of how businesses think, and react.

A while back, there was a very insightful article written by Piers Fawkes from Psfk regarding how shielding some market research processes could stiffle innovation.  
 
I think this article expands on that piece written by Piers.  A major benefit derived through open innovation is that the quality of the products that were co-developed by the development community (many of whom were not employees of the companies that were bidding projects via open source) are equal or even exceeded those developed entirely in-house.  
 
Interestingly enough, monetary rewards was not the major motivation for the development community.  It was being able to contribute to a meaningful, yet relevant project and bringing this to reality.  
 
As this becomes an increasingly common practice, will there be a bigger debate between preservation of intellectual property rights versus open innovation?
What do you all think of this conundrum? Please discuss.