What is Social networking?A social networking service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses onfacilitating the building of social networks or social relations among people who, forexample, share interests, activities, backgrounds, or real-life connections. A social networkservice consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and avariety of additional services. Most social network services are web-based and providemeans for users to interact over the Internet, such as e-mail and instant messaging. Onlinecommunity services are sometimes considered as a social network service, though in abroader sense, social network service usually means an individual-centered servicewhereas online community services are group-centered. Social networking sites allow usersto share ideas, activities, events, and interests within their individual networks.The main types of social networking services are those that contain category places (suchas former school year or classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages), and a recommendation system linked to trust. Popular methods nowcombine many of these, with American-based services Facebook, Google+,and Twitter widely used worldwideSocial Networking ArchitectureSocial networking is based on a certain structure that allow people to both express theirindividuality and meet people with similar interests. This structure includes having profiles,friends, blog posts, widgets, and usually something unique to that particular socialnetworking website -- such as the ability to poke people on Facebook or high-five someoneon Hi5.Profile. This is where you tell the world about yourself. Profiles contain basic information,like where you live and how old you are, and personality questions, like whos your favoriteactor and whats your favorite book. Social networks dedicated to a special theme like musicor movies might ask questions related to that theme.Friends. Friends are trusted members of the site that are allowed to post comments onyour profile or send you private messages. You can also keep tabs on how your friends areusing social networking, such as when they post a new picture or update their profile.
Friends are the heart and soul of social networking. It should be noted that not all socialnetworks refer to them as friends -- LinkedIn refers to them as connections -- but allsocial networks have a way to designate members as trusted.Groups. Most social networks use groups to help you find people with similar interests orengage in discussions on certain topics. A group can be anything from "Johnson High Classof 98" to "People Who Like Books" to "Doors Fans". They are both a way to connect withlike-minded people and a way to identify your interests. Sometimes, groups are called byother names, such as the networks on Facebook.Discussions. A primary focus of groups is to create interaction between users in the formof discussions. Most social networking websites support discussion boards for the groups,and many also allow members of the group to post pictures, music, video clips, and othertidbits related to the group.Blogs. Another feature of some social networks is the ability to create your own blogentries. While not as feature-rich as blog hosts like Wordpress or Blogger, blogging througha social network is perfect for keeping people informed on what you are up to.Widgets. A popular way of letting your personality shine through is by gracing your socialnetworking profile with web widgets. Many social networks allow a variety of widgets, andyou can usually find interesting widgets located on widget galleries.Emerging trendsAs the increase in popularity of social networking is on a constant rise,  new uses for thetechnology are constantly being observed.At the forefront of emerging trends in social networking sites is the concept of "real-timeweb" and "location-based." Real-time allows users to contribute content, which is thenbroadcast as it is being uploaded - the concept is analogous to live radio and televisionbroadcasts. Twitter set the trend for "real-time" services, wherein users can broadcast tothe world what they are doing, or what is on their minds within a 140-characterlimit. Facebook followed suit with their "Live Feed" where users activities are streamed assoon as it happens. While Twitter focuses on words, Clixtr, another real-time service,focuses on group photo sharing wherein users can update their photo streams with photos
while at an event. Facebook, however, remains the largest photo sharing site - Facebookapplication and photo aggregator Pixable estimates that Facebook will have 100 billionphotos by Summer 2011. In April, 2012, the image-based social medianetwork Pinterest had become the third largest social network in the United States.Companies have begun to merge business technologies and solutions, such as cloudcomputing, with social networking concepts. Instead of connecting individuals based onsocial interest, companies are developing interactive communities that connect individualsbased on shared business needs or experiences. Many provide specialized networking toolsand applications that can be accessed via their websites, such as LinkedIn. Otherscompanies, such as Monster.com, have been steadily developing a more "socialized" feel totheir career center sites to harness some of the power of social networking sites. Thesemore business related sites have their own nomenclature for the most part but the mostcommon naming conventions are "Vocational Networking Sites" or "Vocational MediaNetworks", with the former more closely tied to individual networking relationships based onsocial networking principles.Foursquare gained popularity as it allowed for users to "check-in" to places that they arefrequenting at that moment. Gowalla is another such service that functions in much thesame way that Foursquare does, leveraging the GPS in phones to create a location-baseduser experience. Clixtr, though in the real-time space, is also a location-based socialnetworking site, since events created by users are automatically geotagged, and users canview events occurring nearby through the Clixtr iPhone app. Recently, Yelp announced itsentrance into the location-based social networking space through check-ins with theirmobile app; whether or not this becomes detrimental to Foursquare or Gowalla is yet to beseen, as it is still considered a new space in the Internet technology industry.One popular use for this new technology is social networking between businesses.Companies have found that social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are greatways to build their brand image.Social impactWeb-based social networking services make it possible to connect people who shareinterests and activities across political, economic, and geographic borders. Through e-mailand instant messaging, online communities are created where a gift economy and reciprocal
altruism are encouraged through cooperation. Information is particularly suited to gifteconomy, as information is a nonrival good and can be gifted at practically no cost.Facebook and other social networking tools is increasingly the object of scholarly research.Scholars in many fields have begun to investigate the impact of social-networking sites,investigating how such sites may play into issues of identity, privacy, social capital, youthculture, and education. Several websites are beginning to tap into the power of the socialnetworking model for philanthropy. Such models provide a means for connecting otherwisefragmented industries and small organizations without the resources to reach a broaderaudience with interested users. Social networks are providing a different way for individualsto communicate digitally. These communities of hypertexts allow for the sharing ofinformation and ideas, an old concept placed in a digital environment.In 2011, HCL Technologies conducted research that showed that 50% of British employershad banned the use of social networking sites/services during office hours.Uses for Business organizationThe benefits to marketing via social networks are numerous and largely gained at a verylow cost. Through social networks, you can:• Increase product and brand awareness• Increase web traffic• Improve SEO• Increase customer loyalty• Increase success of new product launchesIncrease Product & Brand AwarenessMarketing on social networking sites will increase awareness by increasing the onlinepresence of your products and brand. A recent iProspect Search Marketer Social NetworkingSurvey revealed that 48% of search marketers proactively place content on popular socialnetworking sites to drive traffic and create brand awareness2. When your company forms agroup ororganizes a promotion on a social networking site, the membersare reminded of your brandand website with every interaction.Since the customers are deciding what groups they wantto join and what information they want to receive, this information is usually positivelyreceived.
Increase Web TrafficCommunications, recommendations, and other postings on social networking sites oftencontain web links. If your company is mentioned and a link is included, these postings drivetraffic to your site, increasing brand and product awareness. Due to the makeup of socialnetworking sites, these links are naturally targeted to potential customers that areinterested in your company, products, or services.Improve SEOAs mentioned previously, when your company or product is discussed online, the content ismost often accompanied by web links. The more links to your content, the higher yourranking in search engine results, resulting in more people reading your content.Consequently, social media marketing campaignsshould be an integral part of any Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. Searchengines weigh the value of each link in context, and as they relate to your website. As aresult, links from social networking sites have more value, because they appear completelynatural to the search engines — users are sharing content perceived as valuable and thenlinking back to that content. Not only are these links more valuable than paid links, but alsothey are significantly less expensive. Additionally, sites such as reddit, Delicious, Digg andothers enable the sharing, tagging and bookmarking of news, articles, postings, and otherinformation. When a piece of information is marked by any of these services, it will bevisited by others and will show up searches. The more your content is marked, the higher itis ranked by search engines.Increase Customer LoyaltyIf done correctly, promoting your company or products by building a social network cangreatly enhance customer loyalty. If your participation is consistent and honest, adds valueby supplying useful content, and appears personal, it will greatly enhance your company’sreputation while building trust andcredibility. Offer help first, and promote your products only when asked and whenappropriate; otherwise your attempts could be considered spam.Increase Success of New Product Launches
Social networks provide a unique opportunity to survey the relevant community on theirproducts wants and needs. The community can guide and participate in the productdevelopment process. Giving them a voice in the process can increase loyalty and guaranteesuccess when a new product is launched.How to Build Your Presence on Social Networking Sites1. Advertise using banner or tower ads2. Blog3. Form and moderate groups4. Share newsworthy articles and videos5. Create a member profile that directs traffic back to yourcompany’s website6. Post relevant company events and jobs