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Social Media – networking to the future

On Friday this arrived in my email inbox – a timely reminder of how the world has changed over the last few years.

Linked In Letter


I joined LinkedIn.com in August 2004, fifteen months after the site was launched in May 2003, and two years before Facebook allowed for open-access. (Facebook itself launched in February 2004 but was restricted to university / colleges and a few others until September 2006).

I’d been interested in social networks for several years – and my membership of the UK networking site, FriendsReunited.com dates from a few years earlier.

Initially social networking seemed to be more about re-connecting with people from real life rather than communicating on a regular basis. That’s all changed now.  Online social networking – through sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn is the way many people keep up-to-date with what’s going on in their social circles.

I’ve been invited to parties via Facebook, and have also invited people to my own events. It’s the way I find out what’s going on in my friend’s lives – or those that keep up on Facebook. In fact I find it now more difficult to keep up with some people who still resist the online world – as the phone lacks the immediacy that we’ve come to expect. I’m not alone: 10% of the world’s population is now on Facebook (which claims over 600m members).

In the business world, the same sort of thing is happening. I find LinkedIn incredibly useful for contacting colleagues and potential colleagues – and finding people to contact when I’m doing research. It lets me know what people are doing and it is difficult to imagine how I’d do business without such sites now. Again – I’m not alone, with LinkedIn now claiming over 100m members.

These changes promise to do more than just change the way people communicate and do business. For many years, people have talked about computers bringing about a paperless office. In my opinion that’s bunkum – or is so far. (I personally believe that technologies such as the iPad and e-Paper may eventually mean that printed material will become the exception rather than the rule in the business world – but that is some years in the future). However another development may come more quickly: the email-less office. In February 2011 Atos Origin, the French IT consulting and services company, put out a press release setting out an ambition to become a zero-email company by 2014. The company pointed out online social networking was now more popular than email and even searching for information. (Bing is integrating with Facebook – recognising the importance of social networking sites, with some people preferring to search from within the site than to go to an external site). The prevalence of spam – even with efficient anti-spam software has also meant that email was becoming ineffective as a communication tool. Guy Kawasaki, the well known blogger and Internet guru has commented that email is too long, wishing that it could be limited to 140 characters i.e. like Twitter.com, the social networking communication tool. He echoes views that see email as a flawed communication medium.

So what is the future. I find it interesting that the current revolution in the Middle East seems to be driven by social media – with both Egyptian and Tunisian regimes falling as a result of campaigns launched on Facebook and Twitter. Personal contacts however were still important: the revolutions may have been organised virtually, via online social media, but it was the mass street protests that led to the change. I think that this states the position of all online social media. It’s a communication medium, but ultimately, that is all. In this it is not new. Over the last 120 years, mankind has seen several new communication media: telex; telephone; fax; email…. Each promised additional speed and immediacy. Now Facebook, LinkedIn and especially Twitter and instant messaging (e.g. via Skype) promise even faster ways for people to communicate. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, human contact still has to be physical to have any real meaning.

  1. June 24, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    I am very fond of LinkedIn too. It has been directly responsible for my employment opportunities since I signed up for the service in 2007. (I was not even aware it existed in 2004!)

    That is a very nice letter you received from the LinkedIn founder, by the way. I appreciate that you shared it here. It is good to see that he, Mr. Reid Hoffman, recognizes those who have been using his company’s services since “the early years”. (I won’t make any comments about LinkedIn IPO valuation and trading, that is quite a separate topic).

    One thought though about your enthusiastic endorsement of social media: Email or something similar must always have a role in electronic communication. This is due to the need for information security. I haven’t read the Guy Kawasaki posts that you referenced, so I confess that I don’t know if he addressed that. But whether through intranet (at large corporations, or from remote physical locations) or external, business to business, or actually, even personal (for privacy and personal safety), there will always be a need to communicate with some assurance of privacy and confidentiality.

    I was reading through the old IBM z/OS RACF documentation yesterday. Actually, not so old, really, as it remains in active use. I guess that is on the opposite extreme. But it made me feel so safe, sort of comforting, even.

    P.S. I just noticed your blogroll on the right. I like the Marketing Pilgrim too! He is very clever. And Confidential Resource is another excellent site. Good choices!

  2. April 4, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Reblogged this on Pinar Koygun and commented:
    Totally agree about social media’s indispensable effect on every day life and business communications; even on political level decision makers. It is astonishing to see how it evolved so fast and integrated most of the marketing mediums under one umbrella: advertising, email marketing, blogging, public relations/ press releases, video adversiting and many more; with more measurable results and ability to reach to an extended (online) audience in seconds via simple click to share or retweet. Interactivity is definitely key by maximizing benefit of these social media mediums.

    • April 4, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      Thank you for re-blogging this. It’s interesting how things have chanced in the year since I originally wrote this. When I wrote it, Google had an arrangement with Twitter – so there was Google Realtime. Google+ didn’t exist and neither did new social curation sites such as Pinterest. The speed things have changed in the last year has been incredible – and things are getting faster with search and social media merging, as in Google’s Search Plus Your World (SPY World?) and Bing’s Adaptive Search.

      In a year’s time even this will seem old-hat and out of date.

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