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Business Social Networking - part 1: cultural and historical perspective #BSN2013

This book is based on two drafts/concepts (on social networking and marketing, and social networking and security) that I had registered with WGA in 2008, before giving a non-exclusive license to part of the material to contribute to a marketing book, and preparing to contribute to a book on networking (technology and methods; eventually my participation was scuttled), extensively revised and updated in 2013.

The second volume, initially forecast for 2015, was not published due to a potential conflict of interest (a contract started in 2015 that ended in 2018)

Therefore, it will be revised and published in late 2018, with a focus on social networking and marketing, six months after the enforcement of GDPR (i.e. forecast for early December 2018).

This short book (or extended essay) is just part of a series of collected thoughts and analysis.

Focus: the impact of social and technological change on traditional management practices.

Aim: to raise informed questions, not to provide answers

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Other business books (links to both the free and paid versions, and additional online material if available):

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Business Social Networking - part 1: cultural and historical perspective #BSN2013

  1. 1. Business Social Networking part 1 cultural and historical perspective Roberto Lofaro
  2. 2. Copyright © 2003-2013 Roberto Lofaro, All rights reserved. ISBN: 1493747495 ISBN-13: 978-1493747498
  3. 3. “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley History can deliver lessons- moreover when it is history written as events were unfolding, read few decades later: it is useful to see through the “dust cloud” that makes us believe that technology is the leading influence on human behaviour. It is certainly true that our idea of democracy (do we really have just one shared globally?) is fairly different from that of Plato (who actually wasn’t so positive about democracy). Nonetheless, the influence of technology on human behavior is, for the time being, merely a reconfiguration of what was already there in Aristotle’s or Plato’s times. Social networking online, or “social media” seemingly allows instant communication from many to many: but is it really so? In the past, “instant” meant that, anyway, there was time to restructure your message before it was transmitted- nowadays, “instant” often implies that we are not communicating, we are just acting as a relay: thinking is way too often an afterthought. It took decades to have cars become commonplace, and a shorter timespan to have computers on each desk, but social networking became “embedded” in everyday life in a decade. Therefore, it might be too late to “turn back time”: follow Dr. Strangelove and say “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love” social media. A brave new world? Maybe- or, to close with another quote from Aldous Huxley: “Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him.”
  4. 4. PROLOGUE This book is based on two drafts/concepts (on social networking and marketing, and social networking and security) that I had registered with WGA in 2008, before giving a non-exclusive license to part of the material to contribute to a marketing book, and preparing to contribute to a book on networking (technology and methods; eventually my participation was scuttled). Why publishing this book now? Because since 2008 I kept writing on these issues1, and recently released on Amazon and Slideshare a first book on cultural and organizational change2, and therefore decided that it was the appropriate time to release, as a “parallel line of thought”, updated material on my 2007/2009 research and analysis on the use of social media, both in business and elsewhere. This book too can be read online for free on Slideshare3, or can be read offline either on paper or on Kindle (see Amazon). The rationale of these free books? Act as introductory works, based on material that I had already released online and offline, but updated and expanded in 2013, as a starting point and reference guide for two book series and further online articles. 1 - search through the “tag cloud”, as the blog is focused on social, political, and business impacts of technology, not just on social media and social networking 2 3
  5. 5. Since the early 1990s, as soon as the then-new Internet and World Wide Web were released, I used (and tried to convince customers to use) web technologies to share knowledge. After testing various “community-oriented” technologies (e.g. Compuserve and pre-Yahoo Geocities) for both personal and business purposes, in 2007 I joined, an experimental multimedia-based community created by DivX. Few months later, before it was open to the general public, I was invited to join Facebook, and accepted the invitation from a Latvian friend since mid-1990s to a local community, (more or less 3 million members). Once inside, the first experiment was obviously how to integrate business and private life online, to which I added another experiment: create a “virtual village” (around 1200 contacts, i.e. a “village-size” community, now with over 1400 “netizens”). While on I used a “nom de plume” (aleph123), but never disguised my age, identity, or experience; elsewhere (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and G+), I used my real name. All those 2007-2008 experiments were supposed to become part of a book, a project eventually postponed (as at the time I was trying to settle in Brussels, and therefore I had first to see if the book could create a conflict of interests). Despite the time since then (I am writing in November 2013), and the increase on the scope of key social networking websites (e.g. Linkedin attracted mainly USA members in 2008), there is nothing really new, but the market matured enough to have “key players”. Few more books will be published in 2014 on how to use social media not only in business, but also in other advocacy activities (social, political, etc.).
  6. 6. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS & RATIONALE Since 2008, using my experience on introducing cultural, organizational, and technological change4 I published online articles on a variety of subjects, from the perspective of a change consultant with experience also in politics5. Three elements allowed to consolidate those writings first into a “book draft” form: support from thousands of members of my online “virtual village” scattered across the Net; the opportunity provided by a customer in Belgium in 2008 to work on their bookproject; and all the customers who actually were interested in my proposals to use collaborative technologies since the late 1980s. I would like to thank those that, since 2008, gave me opportunities on social networking and new media (i.e. social media), either to write about it, to work on business models, information/solution architecture, marketing, and overall business/marketing planning for few new services and startups. Belgium: C.B., E.G., P.T.; Italy: M.L., V.B.; USA: K.A., D.C., R.K.(+2009) In order to keep this book short, and with no need to be constantly updated, each word in bold blue within the book is a keyword that you can search on Wikipedia; each one of the maps has been produced using Google Trends. 4 E.g. see on Slideshare the free online book on the subject, available also in print on Amazon and Kindle: “BFM2013 Knowledge-based organizational change”, 2013,, ISBN 978-1493581078 5
  7. 7. CONTENTS Prologue ............................................................................................... iv Acknowledgements & Rationale .......................................................... vii 1. Introduction...................................................................................... xi 1.1. Social network basics (not just online!) ..................................... xiv 1.2. Examples of marketing uses of previous social networks .......... xix 1.3. Why online social networks are different .................................. xxi 1.4. Of (online) ways and means ................................................ xxxviii 1.5. Willing or not, your business will be online............................xxxix 2. The Business of Social Networking ................................................. 41 2.1. Communication channels ......................................................... 43 2.2. Securing a technology ............................................................... 44 2.3. A new framework..................................................................... 47 2.4. A practical approach................................................................. 48 2.5. Keypoints................................................................................. 49
  8. 8. 3. Social Marketplace........................................................................... 50 3.2. What are social network services for? ....................................... 58 3.3. What's the audience of a social network? .................................. 60 3.4. Early and recent business users................................................. 62 4. Why and How - Signposts ............................................................... 64 4.1. Bottom-line reasons ................................................................. 66 4.2. Integration within your marketing strategies ............................. 68 4.3. How to target their audience: guidelines ................................... 72 4.4. Getting on board: a checklist .................................................... 74 4.5. Joining them or… joining them? .............................................. 76 5. History and Future .......................................................................... 80 5.1. Yesterday (in 2008) ................................................................... 82 5.2. Coming soon ............................................................................ 83 A. Suggested readings ......................................................................... 86
  9. 9. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective 1. INTRODUCTION Over the last few years, “social networking” became a synonym for Internet-based websites like Facebook. But social networking is something more: any relationship between human beings is based on a connection between different interests, experiences, purposes. To avoid any confusion, this book will adopt a wider perspective: any technology to communicate without necessarily being in the same physical location, while leaving behind a “trace” potentially visible by others is a “social networking service” (ref. 045); obviously, this assumes that you authorize others to see the trace! For the purposes of this book: social network social networking service social networking any relation between individuals the online version of social networks the activities done by individuals in their social networks, both online and offline Not just Internet, but also e-mail, text messages, other technologies and devices that are just starting to appear on the market- and also (in 2013) the latest crop of gaming consoles.
  10. 10. Yes, including outdoor advertisements that connect via bluetooth with people walking past them, like in the movie “Minority Report”, or some experiments with “text messaging by geolocalization” (i.e. I know where you are, I know that you have a mobile, I do not necessarily know who you are, but nonetheless, unless your number is on a “don’t waste my time” list, I will spam you; already done few years ago in London on passers-by). Since the 1990s, companies and organizations used Internet as a communication tool, but mainly as a way to broadcast to their audience, with limited or no interaction (and often no “unfiltered” return communication visible to other members of the audience). Social networking services add a further element: the technology is simpler, cheaper, faster- and anybody can use it to communicate both successes and failures in their relationships with companies and organizations, the so-called Web 2.0 (ref. 062). How much jargon is involved in this domain? Plenty. You can have a look online at “The huge cloud lens bubble map web 2.0”6 There are hundreds of keywords, but those that really matter will be discussed across this book, and highlighted whenever it could make sense to “jump to” Wikipedia and have a look on more details. The simple diagram showing the “cloud” of concepts around Web 2.0 (ref. 050) showed within the “bubble map” (or “tag cloud”) contains some of the concepts that may already be familiar to you. By the end of this book you will understand how most of them (excluding “technicalities”, both the ICT and the socio-whatever variety) are relevant to your business. 6
  11. 11. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective Over the last few years, the main tool of reference for the Web 2.0 crowd became Wikipedia, a user-generated online encyclopedialike it or not, it is fast becoming an alternative way to access the Web. The success of Wikipedia is a return to the origins of the Web: you look for a specific topic, obtain a more or less accurate introduction, and then relevant links, e.g. as the old, library-indexlike Yahoo. With Wikipedia, if you disagree with a definition you have a chance to contribute to the amendments- a living encyclopaedia. You can try for yourself: anytime you will see a concept in this book with words in bold blue, go on and search for those words- the resulting page or pages will be your guide to further information on the specific concept (and usually they are updated frequently, including with links to new articles). While originally Yahoo organized websites and links using people, as if in a library, while Google was the first to really identify meaningful automated connections between websites. The exponential growth of Google changed the way people search: with the old Yahoo, most searches gave a list of links with relevant material, while Google created a cottage industry of organizations and companies generating links between sites and better positioning them in Google (Search Engine Optimization). Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc.: they all revolve around groups of people, a social network, connected with each other, sharing one or more interests, and using technology to overcome physical distance or timezone differences. But you do not need to carry around various technological “addson” (smartphones, etc.) to your body to be in a social network.
  12. 12. 1.1. Social network basics (not just online!) Before Internet, the “social network” terminology was the reserve of social scientists, who were drawing wonderful maps with people shown as points (or “nodes”, in their parlance), and connected to other people by lines (ref. 044 for a more detailed and academic analysis on the dynamics of social networks). A simple definition: “A social network is a social structure made of nodes (which are generally individuals or organizations) that are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as values, visions, ideas, financial exchange, friendship, kinship, dislike, conflict or trade. The resulting structures are often very complex.” (ref. 043, of course from Wikipedia) The smallest social network? It can be said that an individual is a social network with only one node- that individual (but only for really self-referential people). And any closed group is, in its essence, a social network: some of its members would still be able to “connect” members with nonmembers, i.e. with other formal or informal groups they belong to. Also before the industrial revolution, it was next to impossible to be alone- Aristotle wrote of man as a political animal (Politics, Book I), i.e. a member of the polis, the entity that joins citizensimplying that any human being is worth existing only as a part of a larger entity (before extolling the virtues and wisdom of our democratic forefathers in Ancient Greece, please do remember: that at the time, being alive did not imply being considered either a citizen or really human). In modern times, clubs and other organized meeting places became the obvious point of reference for social networks: and, in most cases, being part meant being co-opted inside a framework of values and communication rules, that extended beyond the specific group, as members were supposed to network socially with members of groups with the same social standing.
  13. 13. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective Until recently, real-life social networks were mainly local, except for limited restricted closed networks linked by specific cultural or social attributes, e.g. Universities across Europe in the XIII century, or diplomats. Therefore, the social network of a specific individual was usually overlapping mainly with the groups (s)he belonged to in everyday activities. From the 1950s, affordable scheduled air travel allowed occasional contacts between different social networks, expanding the ranks of “bridge builders” beyond the usual professional or high-status travellers (the “jet set”- albeit of course they still do exist). At least in Europe, from the 1990s the growth of low-cost air travel and high-speed train connections further increased connections between people originally belonging to different social networks, beyond the usual geographical limitation. This further expansion allowed to create, expand, connect social networks that were not limited by the usual class- and statusconscious boundaries, as most local social networks used to be. But while few people try to keep a single social network, more advanced social networkers expand their “bridging” ability, as this allows the specific individual to be of a greater perceived value to the social network(s) (s)he belongs to. And, of course, everybody could belong to different ones- friends, school, work, hobby, etc. Why do people create social networks? The initial motivation could be simply physical contiguity- but then, each social network revolves around common shared interests (overt and covert). Also, membership in a social network delivers to each one of its members a social status.
  14. 14. Most social networks adopt rules and other methods to differentiate the relative social status of their members within the group (e.g. rank, seniority, additional status symbols, or the “badge” that is so common in online social networks, such as FourSquare). Quite often, as with any other closed group, a specific "lingo" is created, with one or more specific “shibboleth” (keywords) used to help identify who is a member of the social network- a shortcut toward communication. Finally, membership is a temporary status: free or linked to an annual fee or other exchanges, membership could be suspended, revoked, reduced- and this is part of the normal life of any social network. A simpler description of the relationship between a social network and its members could be derived from the traditional Chinese approach called “Guanxi”, that implies a relationship connecting two people, affecting their “Mianzi”, visible social status. The concept? Whoever opens a connection between two networks assumes the responsibility in terms of personal credibility and social status. While this approach was customary in some groups and social networks in the past (e.g. politics), with social networking technologies it is becoming a standard approach. A typical dynamic of social network is to expand through connections (e.g. Linkedin), using an approach based on the “six degrees of separation”. The concept is simple: on average, you need to talk with no more than six people to contact say, Sting. One of the first websites SixDegrees.Com (ref. 055). using this approach was
  15. 15. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective While real-life social networks expand more slowly, their online siblings allow anybody to move from no connections to thousands of connections in a short time. Anyway, it is said that there are limits to the real ability to keep a social network that is more than a collection of business cards or e-mail addresses. Personally: I question the value of some Linkedin profiles that collect addresses, as if they were a virtual Rolodex- I still prefer to have something to say to anybody asking about somebody on my list of contacts, and leave instead to Facebook a looser crowd. The larger the network, the more rules you need to set to keep it together- which generally results in really creating sub-networks linked to specific concepts and purposes (also Linkedin added that feature). And, as on any social issue, a theory has been built, proposed by the anthropologist Robin Dunbar, summarized by the Dunbar's number. As usual, a figure has been given to this “limit”, stating that 150 is the average number of people that you can keep a social relationship with. But, in reality, it is not uncommon to have people (both online and offline) that are able to manage a larger network- usually because their contribution to the network balances the obvious scarcity of time that they can spend in keeping the relationship with each network member with a differentiation of roles. Just think about the social network of famous actors or politicianstheir visibility and status allow them to keep relatively large networks, while of course developing multiple networks with varying degrees of cohesion (social policy).
  16. 16. A social network gives a shared framework of reference to its members: be it values, the color of the pin they put on their lapel, the physical space where they are allowed to meet- or anything else that lets members identify other members. As hinted above (talking about “rank”), most social networks have an internal social structure, like any other group: leaders, followers, early adopters, etc. Unfortunately, most of the structured studies available are derived from either cultural anthropology or statistical studies- in both cases, the effects of the interaction with other social networks is ignored or minimized. The main reason is simple: it is the "why" a study is done. Cultural anthropology studies focus often on specific closed groups, bound by long-term shared values or physical characteristics, usually associated to a specific territory, while statistical studies, to produce meaningful results, pre-select and “freeze” the elements of reference for the analysis. The main difference is that social networks based on Internet or other communication technologies are virtual, and can evolve at a higher speed, sometimes creating new social networks if the original dynamics generate tensions, following an approach called “swarming”7. 7 A useful introduction to application of this concept to interactions between social groups:
  17. 17. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective 1.2. Examples of marketing uses of previous social networks Philip Kotler has been long considered one of the most influential strategic business thinkers of the XX century- and the most influential figure on marketing strategies. Few examples on the role and use of social networking, applied to both consumers and locations, derived from his “Marketing Places” book (ref. 082, pag. 48): Role Initiator Influencer Decision maker Approver Buyer User Description A person who first recognizes a problem, need, or opportunity and takes some action, such as gathering information or mentioning it to others A person who gets involved at some stage in the decision-making process and exerts some influence on the decision A person who has the authority to make the final decision or some decision along the way A person who can approve or reverse the final decision A person who implements the final decision A person who consumes or uses the final product or service Whenever using the framework of reference from social and cognitive sciences created for the XIX and XX century world, extreme care should be applied in using the lessons derived to XXI century social networks. But real-life social networks have been often used, directly or indirectly, to influence purchasing decisions. Since the introduction of computers, this generated other profiling and targeting activities- i.e. children as “decision makers” to influence through the addition of merchandising to consumer products (free gifts, etc), or women as the “influencer” and main “decision maker” in the choice of buying the family car.
  18. 18. More relevant to our subject, Kotler quotes the classical example of Multi-level marketing, introduced by Amway, whereas a company “hires” independents to influence their own social network, thanks to a commission-based scheme that incentivate buyers to become themselves influencers. As suggested already in mid-1990s by Garth Hallberg (ref. 083) in his “All Consumers Are Not Created Equal”, technology allowed to focus on building a treasure throve of information about the customers, to identify the key ones in terms of revenue, influence and so on. In most cases, online social networks (with or without a commission paid to the influencers) behave as multilevel networks, but thanks to technology they spread the information faster, while leaving a deep information trail easier and cheaper to access and manage, that can then be used to target the key influencers or customers (ofter themselves early adopters). Online social networks both ease and complicate the task, as the role of “key member”, or the lesser but still important role of “gate keeper” (Gatekeeping (communication)), i.e. filter of the information flow toward a person or group, are both dynamic. Moreover, as these roles are shared with people that maybe will never meet in real life, their “status” could be revoked for minor failures in communication (and before those working to get access through them to others will have achieved their aim). Interestingly, often the first members violating a set of rules are treated more harshly than those that will carry out the same misbehaviour later- a common approach in any social network, i.e. a weakening of the rules that is a function of how often a violation is repeated, and usually this “declining standards” are more often observed when the “keeper of the flame” is an individual.
  19. 19. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective 1.3. Why online social networks are different You already know a model for the XXI Century social network: a café where you are a regular customer, and spend time to socialize. Technology adds another element: any communication is filtered by the technology, and therefore most of the social rules and customs and status can be ignored- or forged. Also online social networks that try to replicate this model using technology, like habbo (targer: teenagers, mainly in Asia, but eventually scattered around the globe, as a series of communities), cannot escape this side-effect: identity online is not something to rely on- as there are many reasons why people adopt a new identity or alter/improve their own real identity. Usually, intensive younger users are more often realistic in their claims of who they are, or what they do. Personal status inside an online social network is highly volatile, as any attempt to control and coherce members usually backfiresand members express their dissent by moving to another “virtual” venue and generating a negative feed- back. In reality, also the roles are dynamic: therefore, if the communication is aimed at a specific part of the membership, it is advisable to monitor periodically the motivation of that target. While some people focus on building large social networks, and therefore act as “bridges” between networks, other could focus on a smaller social network, but with closely held relationships (e.g. academics in a specific subject), using and being used by the “bridge-builders” to link with other social networks. Three books could give you more ideas: two from Philip Kotler (see ref. 084 and 085), on marketing in turbulent times, and James Gleick (see ref. 086), obviously on chaos.
  20. 20. Social networks: yesterday If you are not a member of a social network, but just a casual visitor, you are not necessarily involved- both online and offline, as I reminded in Brussels years ago to a Canadian who commented on something that Italian did (as a side-effect of their eating habits), and she said “I lived there and I did not”, to which I replied: but you are not Italian. And this is a lesson that is quite often ignored in advertisement, when trying to mimic the habits or linguistic patterns of a target audience: dropping-by a network is akin to those who appear in any party that is thrown around (often uninvited), and then talk as if they belonged. Usually, it takes just few minutes (in some desperate cases, barely seven seconds, to quote a famous song from the 1990s8) to see that their “belonging” is a mere pretense. Try getting in a café where a 5-to-10 people crowd usually meet: until you become a regular, you are simply ignored- or considered a temporary nuisance, accepted only if your status or contribution to the “regulars” is considered of any interest to the group (or one of its members- your “gate keeper”). Attempts to force into a closed group when you obviously do not share the same values or characteristics generates a negative feedback. This phenomenon is well known and studied in cultural anthropology, notably in the studies on immigration and naturalization, as new members of a community try to adopt the visual signs of the existing members (their language, clothing, attitudes). 8
  21. 21. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective As they do not have yet access to the cultural background, usually they are unable to manage the proper mix of the visual signs- and the more they try to integrate by adopting only the visible behavioural patterns, the more they are considered by the other members as “not part of the environment”. From my studies, I remember a case study of a Native American who was always making a show of his “being native”. When others in his community were asked what they thought about him, they said that he was claiming way too often to belong, to actually belong. The next volume of this series will discuss in more details how to define a culture, instead of just hanging around it. Entering a social network is more part of an adaptation and integration process, but the origins of new members are known to all the others- and usually it takes few generations to be fully considered part of the environment. Usually, their offspring still adopt a mix of their values and the local values, while the second generation (or third, depends on how you count it- I consider as “first” the generation that makes a choice to relocate, not those carried along with their siblings) can become fully part of the local culture, as they have no memory of the original community. In cases where the communities are kept separated, what is called Clustering (demographics), this integration could be partial or never happen, as the new members are separated from the local community. Beside the people choosing to migrate and trying to integrate in the new social network(s), the availability of fast and cheap travel, along to the globalization of media and entertainment, created temporary migrants, from occasional tourists to long-term or repeat tourists and “temporary Gastarbeiter”.
  22. 22. These occasional visitors will miss the evolution in customs and lingo- re-enforcing the negative feed-back from the closed group: also after repeated (or extended) visits, they will still be considered as non-members of the social network. If they return to a specific location (e.g. same hotel, resort), they will often develop a local network- with other repeat visitors, but not with local social networks. Still, some members could act as bridges versus the local social networks, for occasional contacts. Anyway, you can read more material about these concepts, focused on the integration between online and offline communities and marketing, within a series of articles that has been posted online since 20089 Social networks: today When you move online, the social dynamics evolves, often because most online social networks allow anybody to join anytime, from anywhere. Anyway, if you compare with the old, pre-Internet BBS (Bullettin Board System), the social dynamics online increasingly strives to mimic the traditional one, as technology becomes increasingly intuitive. Hence, the increase in the age range on communities such as Facebook, which in turn resulted in a migration elsewhere of “clusters” of younger members: obviously, teenagers do not necessarily want to hang around where their older relatives do, and have them intervene in each and any exchange or communication. 9 Have a look at you will find few selected articles in Italian, but each article also connects to its English version posted on
  23. 23. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective A difference linked to demographics: older people that weren’t used to computers and digital communication before Facebook are more inclined to say and do online what they would never dare to do offline. Moreover- computers are not the only way to join: relatively new technologies such as mobile phones and interactive digital, cable, satellite TV integrate with Internet-based social networks, allowing also technology-neutral or technology-resistant people to join. A statistic published in October 2008 from ABI Research states that “nearly half (46%) of those who use social networks have also visited a social network through a mobile phone. Of these, nearly 70% have visited MySpace and another 67% had visited Facebook”. In 2013, it is more common than not that you will access any online social network through a mobile device (see section 1.3.4). But why are social networks possible now? Two main reasons: “Ubiquitous computing” and demographics. Our society, and not only in the developed world, is getting increasingly older, and in developed countries the crisis started in 2008 accelerated a trend toward reducing business travels, and using technology to achieve the same results, e.g. by using “telepresence”, “web conferencing” and (also outside business) distance learning. Having a computing device along with you is becoming increasingly common, and also “dumb phones” routinely added features to connect with online social networks, and anyway giving (and sharing) a sign of your status, mood, or frustration is often just a text message away.
  24. 24. Social networks: tomorrow Welcome to the XXI century, where everything around you could have not just a computing device on board, but also be able to exchange information with other devices- and, of course, with your own favourite online social networks. Facebook has been lambasted few times for its excessive re-use of information, but bit by bit they stretched the limits of user data broadcasting, and various social networks changed their own “privacy terms” so often and so deeply, that in some cases now they allowed themselves the right to reuse your own personal pictures (not just your profile picture) in advertisements: anytime, anywhere. So, get ready to see your own vacation pictures shown in a railway station endorsing an airline company when one of your friends that you classified as “close friends”, or one of those you exchanged messages more often with, will get nearby that advertisement while keeping in her/his pocket the same smartphone whose number they disclosed to, say, Facebook or G+. 1.3.1. pervasive computing In the late 1970s and early 1980s, being connected implied being part of a small (mainly male) group of technology addicts. Since the 1980s, a constant reduction in size of computers brought us computers everywhere- an average car has currently tens of tiny computer chips that are more powerful than those available in the first personal computers in the early 1980s. Your own personal computer has more computing power than one of the computers on board of the 1980s Space Shuttle.
  25. 25. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective Moreover, additional technologies, like RFID, bluetooth, the wireless network added further information sources on the habits and interests of consumers. Mobile phones, portable players, PDAs, instant messaging, e-mail: in most industrialized countries, it is becoming more and more conspicuous not who is constantly connected, but who is not. And trends toward cheaper technologies (like Bic presenting disposable mobile phones, ref. 056) will further spread access, as acquiring the technology required will require an expenditure at a level appropriate more for an impulse purchase than an investment decision. Since the advent of the pay-per-click advertisement online, new additional free online services became instantly available: their target was not anymore a monthly fee, but getting “traffic” (i.e. eyeballs watching their pages and, therefore, the advertisements that they scattered on them). Most of the social networking services focus on advertising how many members registered with them- to both attract further members and position themselves to potential buyers of ad space. The basic technologies to allow anybody to access social networking services anytime and anywhere are becoming more common, also outside the G-8 and G-20 countries (e.g. through the International Telecommunications Union initiative to connect all the world by 2015, "Connecting the unconnected" ref. 022). The “Digital Divide”, i.e. the gap between the technological “have” and “have not” is closing: Lesotho added in 2007 the ADSL services, and the price paid to connect is reducing everywhere. After the Hotspot (Wi-Fi) delivered as a paid service, local authorities all around Europe are following the European Commission initiatives to ease access to new technologies.
  26. 26. The real “Digital Divide” is therefore becoming generational: while Internet technologies are easier to use, they require a specific mindset- and that is the source of both new opportunities and increased risks. Different classification schemes have been adopted. The most commonly used is based on demographic references, the Generations (book) approach, that is mainly originating in USA, and linked to their past history. The table shows various classifications: but it has to be considered that, as any classification, should be used only as a reference to communicate, not as a way of identifying target niches. Timeframe 1961-1981 Source Strauss and Copland Howe 1982-2004 2005No reference Prensky (ref. 066) 1990- Palfrey and Gasser (ref. 067) Description 13th Generation: the 13th from the US Independence Generation X Millennial Generation Generation Y Homeland Generation Generation Z Digital Natives: used to technology, multitasker Digital Immigrant: adopters of technology, use-asneeded Born Digital: used to pervasive technology, wikipedia-based learning While a seemingly precise timeframe could be of interest in some cases, from a business perspective it is more relevant to consider the actual approach to technologies adopted by different subgroups.
  27. 27. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective 1.3.2. Intensive users This group is generally identified with the Digital Natives / Born Digital / Generation Y / Generation Y- but could include other people that, by necessity or choice, interact with them frequently and adopt their communication and technology usage patterns. When this research was first written, between 2007 and 2009, they started to enter decision-making roles, while now many of them are not only doing that, but also becoming ubiquitous influencers surrounding, in business and private life, even the most senior decision-makers. Usually, they do not go online- they are online: and not in one single channel, in multiple channels. It is not unusual for them to initiate a conversation inside an instant messaging system, like Messenger/Skype, publish (“post”) few comments during the conversation in one of the online social networks where they have more friends, send an e-mail message to somebody else- all during the same conversation. And they “talk”- first instant messaging systems (i.e. used for short, mainly text- and emoticon-based messages), then all the other social networking services allowed users to add one-line updates on what they are doing (“status updates”- in some cases limited to 140 or so characters, as shown by Twitter, in others as long as you want, and even embedding multimedia, e.g. in Facebook and G+). Originally widespread in Europe via text messaging/SMS, this approach on instant information has been spread on the Internet mainly by Twitter- so well that now it is common between online social networkers to use “to twitter” as an action verb, i.e. broadcasting to all your “subscribers” information about your feelings, actions, instant reactions.
  28. 28. Do you really want to know what I had for breakfast? Probably you do not really care- but if you don’t, simply ignore the updates, do not even try to regulate somebody else’s behaviour on their own Twitter, Facebook, or G+ account. Services like Aka-Aki in Germany (see ref. 004) years ago started to integrate different technologies (bluetooth, mobile, social networking) to create new communication dynamics, e.g. allowing people linked in the same online social network service to know when they are physically close- thank to their bluetooth-enabled mobile phones- and where promptly followed by the American behemoths (Aka-Aki closed in 2012). Usually for new social network services you can talk more of a “half-life” than a “lifespan”: they start with a bang, and either whittle away as they lose “media traction” (i.e. they are less talked about, including in new media), or become part of one of the key players: it is outside the scope of this book, but you can have a look online at the deals since mid-2000s. As shown by the huge increase in text messages and other lowpriced communication services on mobile phones, intensive users are focused on short but highly frequent communications. They often complain about privacy violations, like the recurring activities since the times of Facebook Beacon (see ref. 036, 037, 038), but eventually the “boil the frog” method used by the likes of Facebook works. You test the boundaries, add services and tweak the boundaries, and continue with this cycle on and on. In the end, it is nothing more than the electronic version of the old “carrot and stick” approach.
  29. 29. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective 1.3.3. Occasional users This group is generally identified with the Digital Immigrants / Generation X. Of course, as discussed above, that you fit the profile assigned to your demographic “tribe” is more a function of who you interact with, i.e. your own “social network”, than of a static definition, also if this distinction is often ignored by many even within the industry. Occasional users are positively influenced by Generation Y members, and in some cases mimicking their pervasive use of social networking tools. The main difference is that they use the online systems mainly as a mean to an end, and focus on a specific channel at a time. You can have occasional users who are intensive users of Facebook but almost never venture on Google or Wikipedia, while most intensive users “integrate” multiple social networking services within their own lifestyle. Occasional users have also to compare themselves with younger and seemingly more technology-savvy youngsters- and often try not just to use the new communication channels, but to learn how to use each one properly- thereby limiting the number of channels that they use. Except in few cases, intensive users have a balanced integration inside their lifestyle of the new communication tools, as they are part of the normal life, including social networking services. The main issue is not that they are intensive users: but that occasional users (who often more easily become addicted to a specific channel) consider presence on multiple channels and integration in a lifestyle as a sign of addiction.
  30. 30. It is an old story: read books from commentators from Ancient Rome, and you will read complaints about the “decay” and “habits” of youngsters. In reality, most technological innovations become ordinary mainly with generations who see them in the background since they are toddlers, while occasional users try push onto something new frameworks of reference that they are used to. Occasional users sometimes develop extreme dependency, extending their “sessions”, and adopting online behaviours that they would not tolerate in normal life. A classic example was (ref. 016) a married man, who married online another woman, and almost generated a real-life divorce. While most younger intensive users adopt online their real identity with just some variations, it is more frequent between older and occasional users to adopt multiple identities- in some reports, it is said that men are five time more likely to use a different name or sex online. It is quite interesting: multiple identities are used to “project” multiple personalities online, e.g. to “extend their own degrees of social freedom”: but few know that actually their activities are so interconnected, that eventually, also without using software packages “tracking” information, the longer they keep acting through multiple identities, the easier becomes to see who they really are. Including by associating to their “real” online identity, where they try to conform to their social role, other online identities, where instead they drop any pretence: and this was shown repeatedly in the USA by few politicians who misused online systems- and ended up jeopardizing their political career for something as stupid as sending their own pictures with less clothes than usual to unknown correspondents.
  31. 31. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective 1.3.4. The new entertainment mix Is it worth the effort? The 2007 report on the World Information Society (2nd edition, ref. 021) showed interesting demographics, as the upper-middle to high-income users represent 79.2% of broadband users and 67.5% of the overall Internet users. In 2013, the “Measuring the Information Society 2013” report (ref. 021) stated that there are expected to be 6.8 billion mobilecellular subscriptions by the end of 2013, with 2.7 billion people using the Internet worldwide, leaving beyond the digital divide 4.4 billion people. The Exabytes (1million TB, i.e. 1 billion GB) of mobile data traffic per month grew from 0.9 in 2012, to an expected 1.6 in 2013, and a forecast of 11.2 by 2017, of which 67% will be produced by smartphones: increasingly. The “mobile crowd” will be easier to reach with high-quality entertainment, information, and education, and using mobiles to access private and corporate information will be more common than accessing via a desktop, that probably will be used more for corporate applications. Market size? A 2008 statistics from Internet World Stats (June 2008, ref. 054) on the 27 EU members and candidates shows that Europeans, while representing just 7.3% of the World population, represent 20% of the usage world-wide, with a penetration of 59.9% and a growth rate of 210.4%, for a total of over 292 million users. By June 2012, the same report stated that while representing 7.2% of the World population, with a penetration rate of 73.5%, the EU represented now just 15.3% of the usage world-wide: a clear sign of a growth of access from non-EU countries.
  32. 32. Digital broadcast TV was probably top-of-the-heap technology when planned, but the current widespread use of Internet-based entertainment reduced its viability as a business initiative. Within the European Union, even local authorities enthusiastically invested on their own thematic channels on Digital broadcast TV, by adding interactive services (e.g. in Italy)- only to discover that it was more complex and less useful than a plain, cheaper, more flexible Internet website. And since the 2008 version of the material in this book, also the integration of multiple technological channels became an everyday reality. “Convergence” (i.e. multiple media and platforms) was a mere buzzword in 2008, while nowadays a telecom company that were to advertise as a novelty that they offer “triple play” (mobile, fixed, Internet) would be considered as outmoded as a USA movie theatre in Arizona advertising that they have air conditioning. By influence from both the media hype and the younger generations, older generations started looking to the Internet and other new media technology as part of their daily entertainment/information diet. While free downloading of movies and music remains an activity for the intensive users, more over-30 users are turning toward Internet for their entertainment- and away from free-to-air, cable, and digital TV, e.g. by using YouTube or streaming websites. A 2005 study on MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, ref. 017) compared the number of hours spent on TV and online by users, and obtained an average result of 7.7 hours per week spent watching TV vs. 21 hours online. These online videogames allow people to play with and against other people- increasing the socialization with people that share common interests.
  33. 33. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective In July 2013, a statistics (ref. 087) stated that the average adult will spend over 5 hours a day online, vs. 4.5 hours a day watching TV, and over 2 hours a day on non-voice mobile activities (i.e. games, social networking, messaging). And being online so often, they don't just play the game- they “talk” on other subjects, exchange information and advice, etc. Also Sony (ref. 012) understood that they classical, stand-alone videogame console is dying, and further integrated Skype (Internet-based telephony services) and connectivity into the Playstation Portable already by 2008. Major “entertainment” (or “edutainment”, if you want to believe the fig leaf applied by the suppliers of gaming devices) now operates on budgets larger than those affordable for broadcast TV. While this could create interesting opportunities for advertisement, usually an advertisement that is embedded in the storyline (a functional product placement) is accepted, but explicit advertisement is frown upon. Nonetheless, in 2013 gaming consoles such as Microsoft's Xbox and Sony' Playstation are the real “convergence”, as they integrate a real computer, connect to social media, and even add some unusual twists. Example: Microsoft, beside Skype, was reported to have added low-intensity lasers to identify where people is located while playing, while an on-board chip is supposedly able also to assess the heartbeat of a player sitting in front of the console. Just imagine: if you were to add “gamification” to your advertisements (e.g. as done by Ferrero for more than a decade), e.g. through an online game: you could have customers or potential customers who visit your website and, thanks to sensors within the console and a smartly designed game/advertisement, you could test the physiological response to your message, products, etc.
  34. 34. As any smartphone adds more sensors and “intelligence”, expect what you see within the latest crop of gaming consoles to end up on your smartphone or other “24/7 connected” device within a couple of years. There are some side-effects of this integration with online systems, like the 2008 report that nearly half of the Britons suffer from “discomgoogolation” (see ref. 006), i.e. are so addicted to Google and Internet, that they feel increased levels of anxiety when not connected. An additional side-effect often reported is a contraction of attention span (which, actually, was already there with commercial TV), and increased impacts on memorization abilities: all of which affect also the ability to reason about more complex issues. In some cases, through my business activities on cultural, organizational, and technological change I can confirm that those issues, over the last 20 years, were often source of troubles, but, frankly, in most cases a quick reversal (or “re-learning”) was feasible: it was a matter of management style While that 2008 report and more recent ones describe real issues, unfortunately most technology-oriented polls suffer from an advanced case of the Hawthorne effect- the phrasing of questionnaires and method used to test the sample influence the sample. As in the original Hawthorne experiments, the attention and the focus on showing to be more advanced in technology produces inflated results. In December 2007 a study from a market research company (ref. 011) Zenith forecast that by 2010 Internet advertising is expected to overtake magazines.
  35. 35. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective A September 2008 report from Nielsen (ref. 027) stated that the newspapers websites increased the unique visitors to their pages; the data provided from Editor&Publisher for August 2008 range from 52% increase (to 19,862,000) for the New York Post, to 51% (to 7,637,000) for the Wall Street Journal, with lower figures for other newspapers (e.g. 25% Washington Post and 9% USAToday). More recently, in 2012 a report (ref. 088) stated that the US market is forecast to move from 32 bln USD in online ad spending vs. 36 bln USD print and 60.7 bln USD TV in 2011, to respectively 62 bln USD vs. 32.3 bln USD vs. 72 bln USD by 2016. In terms of distribution, Google is the leader in online advertising, with 44.1%, followed by a distant Yahoo/Microsoft with 12.3%, Facebook with 3.1%, Aol 1.5, and a crowd of “others” taking up the remaining 39%. Most advertisements online still follows the old newspaper model: placed in fixed spots on the screen as if it were a printed page. As the visibility of advertisement on the Internet is easier to meter than on other media, already studies showed at an e-commerce convention in Paris in 2008 demonstrated how to study the best placement within the online framework. The viewing patterns of an online user depends on the purpose of being online- and most online advertisement is positioned outside the actual area viewed by most users: an unofficial figure given at the convention was that well over 50% of the online advertisement was “sight unseen”- just clutter on the page. Therefore, while more frequent (e.g. all the information websites) and repeat (e.g. all the social networking services online) use websites create interesting opportunities for marketing initiatives, a new models of advertisement will need to be used, to integrate the advertisement with the content.
  36. 36. 1.4. Of (online) ways and means As noted above, technology is part of everyday life for intensive users. Moreover, each new technology, be it Twitter or a new service allowing to use the camera in your new mobile phone to, say, check product information while shopping in supermarkets, is immediately tested by someone within the social network, who will then share the experience (more often it is even mildly negative, while, on the opposite side, only if it is really positive). But any new product or service that comes with strings attached quickly backfires: the negative feed-back spreads even faster and wider than the positive suggestion (see ref. 060), as it will act mainly as an alert to the other members that somebody that they trust discourages its use. if you want to share instant feed-back give your feed-back Use Twitter-like short messages shown to your network, via a Messenger (now part of Skype) or Facebook and similar (it is the "status") instant messaging (any kind of Messenger), SMS e-mail blog, forums, websites (including gaming environments), Youtube audience people in your network mainly one-to-one people in your e-mail address anybody visiting Of course, additional technologies are available- but this generic categorization represents the ones available to anyone used to technology- and not just the technology-oriented.
  37. 37. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective 1.5. Willing or not, your business will be online A 2008 study on social media (ref. 035) published in the USA by Cone showed that most people going online assumed that a company should be present on social networking services. The reasons given? 43% 41% 37% 25% Solve consumer problems Solicit feedback Develop new ways to interact with a brand Marketing A 2013 post online (ref. 089) provided a neat infographic with key figures on why social media is important at least for customer service- listing the expectations by channel (e.g. 42% of UK Twitter users expected to get an answer within one hour). Guy Kawasaki (formerly at Apple, and whose blog was in Summer 2008 no 88 in the World), in April 2008 made an interview (ref. 030) with the authors of Groundswell, on “The Impact of Social Technologies on Sales, Support, Marketing, and Branding”. While companies like to control “spin”, the way blogging works is that users are listened to- you can invest in blogging, but, as the authors say, few corporate blogs are anywhere close to being interesting. Also if an organization does not set up or proactively go on social networks, its employees, customers, and other stakeholders are and will do. Groundswell authors suggest an approach based on monitoring first, to identify the best options and strategy, and then choosing the way to listen and partecipate.
  38. 38. But they recognize that a “wait-and-see” approach has to be tailored to your audience: if your customers are retirees, they are probably used to an older, more balanced way of spreading information, and it could be easier to tailor your communication toward them. When focusing on the open market, or with a target predominantly focused on younger, intensive technology users, you have also to consider that age, social status, class often do not matter as much as in real-life social networks. Therefore, the shared frustration on a supplier from a teen-ager carries as much weight and impact as the well thought feed-back from a senior manager. Moreover- if you do not go online, probably your competitors will, as the new battleground for trademarks and branding is online: “ in a French court ruling in 2005, Google was enjoined from allowing others to buy as a keyword the trademark brand of a French luxury goods maker, Louis Vuitton. For countries other than the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Google has a trademark complaint system, so holders can generally prevent their brands from being purchased as keywords by others.“ (see ref. 020) As noted by Guy Kawasaki in the interview, some companies (including Apple) tried to keep the genie in the bottle, by forbidding their employees from blogging- but probably they will be as successful as the the university professors quoted by “Born Digital” (ref. 067) co-author John Palfrey in October 2008, who try to ignore Wikipedia.
  39. 39. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective 2. THE BUSINESS OF SOCIAL NETWORKING This chapter is the shortest one, as it is focused mainly on the “background issues” related to business uses of social networking online- both as suppliers of information and as “communication channel” between a corporate environment and audiences (including employees, suppliers, and other stakeholders with access to your ICT systems). Over the last decade, all the new technologies share a common factor: you can learn the skills required to use them in mere minutes (often, the “user manual” is available only online- not really needed). Be it a mobile phone, instant messaging tool, chatting or social networking website, people as young as elementary school children can easily participate. Moreover, the language used is streamlined, and this allows to equalize the differences in education, social standing, or communication skills. Last but not least, while previous technologies assumed that users were mainly “consumers” of information provided by communication experts, users are now producing and spreading information that is immediately shared within their own social network. 41
  40. 40. 42
  41. 41. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective 2.1. Communication channels While in the past broadcasting-only (newspapers, TV, radio, etc.) media were usually produced by “channel experts” that traditionally were coached by older colleagues, in the XXI century new media shattered that model- including within traditional media. Having a “closed community of producers” had a significant advantage, i.e. you could assume that a certain set of “production rules” would be shared. At the same time, this reduced the incentive to innovation- and, actually, media really innovated more following a “steady for a while and then jump” model than a “continuous improvement” approach. New media enable anybody anywhere to innovate: have a look on Slideshare or YouTube at creative ways to produce presentations or videos violating each and every industry “savoir faire”. But this innovation trend eventually generated a feed-back loop on any business, as anyway new employees would be used to this approach to communication. Most corporate videos or presentations posted online in 2008 were often as lively as a “Cold War times” tourist commercial from the Soviet Bloc. A consequence of new media is that each “channel” embeds its own “industry approach”, i.e. if you were a speech writer used to produce 20 minutes speeches, having to use Twitter would require a paradigm shift- basically, unlearning what you learned. So, more than in the past, the channel is often the message: look at how many corporate new media uses leave no visible sign of their passage through the mind of their audience. 43
  42. 42. It is fairly different when channels such as YouTube as used to generate “viral marketing” responses (I am old-fashioned, but I think that “Welcome to the Bark side” is a funny example). Enumerating channels would be pointless: to that end, you can have a look at the most recent edition of Philip Kotler’s “Marketing”, complemented by one of the latest book on new media marketing (your pick). Within a corporate context, you have to consider social networking both a risk and an opportunity- while opportunities will be discussed in other chapters (e.g. see the introduction), there are few risks that have to be considered and managed: from the impact on your “brand identity” of a badly managed presence on new media, to more traditional financial and continuity risks (e.g. copyright violations). 2.2. Securing a technology The normal attitude in securing a networking technology is identifying the specific weaknesses and business purposes the technology will be used for. Then, it is possible to define rules to access and use it, and monitor that they are followed. Further technology and human resources then can be used to enforce respect of these rules, monitor the actual use, and audit potential threats, so that improvement can be added to both the technology and its uses. All these choices are built around a trade-off between greater security and a reasonable cost and impact on the ease of use. It is an approach that is sometimes challenging to enforce even in the traditional business activities, where you are operating within a relatively “controlled environment”. Social networking creates unique challenges on all these elements: there is no “in” or “out”. 44
  43. 43. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective Therefore, “security” has to be considered something more than the online equivalent of a border fence- and has to extend to the interactions of your organization with each channel. Just consider a basic element: control on what you “publish”. When you post something online, it is spread around on countless machines- and chances are that any mistake or potentially hilarious side-effect will go “viral”, i.e. keep going around on and on. At the same time, forbidding your employees to go online in their own spare time, or even to talk online about the private life impacts of their business activities created more potential risks than it solves, e.g. by forcing your employees to go online with a “fake” identity (henceforth, feeling “freer” to vent their frustration more often), or even by missing the opportunity to attract new potential customers. A further security issue is that, whenever you hire somebody to be your “online presence”, you have to ensure that they will behave according to your corporate identity- and, instead, the move “digital native” they are, the more they will inject into whatever they post online on your behalf their own personality. Example: go on Facebook, and connect to, say, Foreign Policy and The Wall Street Journal. Then, get ready to receive plenty of links to articles whose level of seriousness is, ahem, lower than you would expect: you will see plenty of trivia. Reason? It might be because those two publications try to build a more modern image- but, more probably, they simply hired people focusing on those channels but who don’t really belong to the traditional audience. It is a choice- but it is puzzling, as you still have to visit their websites if you want to get updates on what you would really expect from those magazines. 45
  44. 44. Each one of your employees who posts online and is clearly shown as “employee of X” can be seen by online audiences as “related” to your company, and even become connected to people online who just try to elicit information or reactions that would disclose information about your business. The European Union in 2014 will (at last!) start the convergence toward a shared implementation of “data privacy”, i.e. moving from the old “EU directive- national implementations” to a more coherent and shared framework. This will make easier to operate across the European Union as a whole, and will open new opportunities to businesses who will want to use their own presence on new media as an additional set of channels to reach customers, potential customers, and to obtain feedback from their market. Business social networking isn’t simply a marketing & communication issue, and should instead be designed and managed using at least a front-office/back-office approach. Leave, if you want and cannot do otherwise, the “front-office” communication to the experts within your organization, but build cross-functional teams that are both involved in communicating and in managing the feed-back from your online presence. Additional issue: in the past, you could choose not only what to communicate, but also how: e.g. you knew when, how, within which show your advertisement would run on TV and radio. With new media, you do not know what else is running along with your publication or advertisement, and not even how users will read it or interact with it. In a corporate environment, this means that not only you have to consider the channels (i.e. YouTube and Facebook) that you use in your online presence, but also the methods of access (e.g. smartphones, tablets, computers). 46
  45. 45. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective At the same time, your own ICT systems have to get used to different patterns for access (e.g. most recent smartphones can be configured to look as a traditional computer while connecting to the corporate e-mail system). Discussing BYOD policies (Bring Your Own Device) is outside the scope of this book. Anyway, while talking about new media and devices, you also have to consider the potential security issues deriving from having your own employees using say, their company-supplied (or, even worse, personal) tablet to both connect to your own ICT systems and social networking services that install applications (e.g. some online games could use access to the device used to play them to actually access other data on the same device). 2.3. A new framework People born since the 1980s (Generation Y and Z) are used to have communication technology as part of their day-to-day life. Until recently, it used to be true only in developed countries, but it is now spreading worldwide, thanks to the mobile communication devices and Internet. Also people that are not used to “pervasive computing” (see Chapter 1.4) are starting to mimic the approach of younger users. The XXI century social networking technologies are so easy to use and affordable, that also children are using them, and give the users the freedom to choose the device or mean to communicate with members of their own social network. Over time, personal and business social network membership mix, also in supposedly dedicated social networks (e.g. LinkedIn). Consider also the potential for “swarming” behaviour by your staff (e.g. one starts, the others pile up- no leader, just event-based). 47
  46. 46. 2.4. A practical approach In real life, there are minimal differences between the technologies used for corporate and private use: and the more often the users use them, the easier is to “blur” the boundaries (e.g. how many managers let their kids use their business iPad to play games?). Moreover, there are overlapping international regulations and trends (privacy, intellectual property protection, etc.) that create challenges both for individuals and corporations online presence. If you are working in highly specialized and secure environments, you are used to receive training and common sense rules before being issued technology. But also in those environments, usually the rules strive to follow technological developments. As an example, all across Europe few companies have rules on instant messaging- in most cases, the rule is simple: instant messaging is disabled. Seemingly a solution, this ignores the availability of instant messaging on mobile phone, smartphones, and other tools. The general suggested approach is to Acknowledge permanent innovation Educate on information lifespan Channel presence is a choice Prioritize your online presence Adopt a Lego™ brick approach New technologies and channels will keep appearing: you have to work through “general principles”, not detailed rules Consider that anything that is distributed via social networking once written has a life of its own (ref. 040) Choose the channels where you want to be present, and keep updated the list: cross-reference from other channels Identify which channels are more critical, and monitor periodically if information about you is posted on those channels Your presence has to be modular, structured, and adaptable to new channels and audiences 48
  47. 47. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective 2.5. Keypoints Social networking is not simply another tool- it is the integration of easy to use technologies in everyday life. Thanks to the technological advances of the last 20 years, anybody has access to the communication channels. The pervasive distribution of these technologies will severely affect the viability of security policies based on the distinction between personal and corporate uses. Soon, easy-to-use technologies will allow to connect information across multiple channels (“semantic”)- and even to glean indirectly (“signal intelligence”) from comments, who is involved into them, the intensity of “repeats”/”likes”/etc., how much that information is converging toward something that you haven’t yet disclosed. A minimal unintended exposure of information will be immediately give access to resources that, under the old security policies, would have been controlled and filtered. Therefore, securing social networking requires a re-thinking of the traditional approaches A more “technical” book on a specific issue (how to implement a BYOD policy, i.e. devices that do not belong to your organization and are connected with your own ICT systems- “Bring Your Own Device”) is currently under preparation with a colleague- have a look at my Linkedin profile for announces, while articles published since 2008 discuss the potential issues related to other technologies (from telepresence to nanotechnology or “Internet 2.0”)10. 10 Search on 49
  48. 48. 3. SOCIAL MARKETPLACE Social network services are mainly based on a free-service model: the basic services are available to everyone, and the company generates revenue through advertisements and, more recently, micropayments, that are used to pay for additional services. While Internet-based social networks are associated with names like Facebook and Twitter, their origin dates from the first days of nonacademic access to the Internet, in 1990s, when Tim Berners-Lee invented the Web (World Wide Web), to allow sharing connections between research material. The new approach to communication allowed anybody to share information online, without the need to be technologically-savvy. Geocities started offering in the early 1990s a model that was quite popular, by allowing people to create a personal page in a “virtual neighbourhood”, and allowing users to add their own material; it was bought in 1998 by Yahoo. Yahoo started losing membership, as the company applied policies that were conflicting with the previous self-managed community model- a common fate: a “case book” lesson on how to waste an investment (maybe News Corp. can deliver one on how they managed to do the same with Myspace). 50
  49. 49. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective Currently more social network services are created every few months trying to replicate the successes of Facebook or Myspace, but almost all share some common characteristics: Membership Web 2.0 services Pricing Advertisement Cross-media open to anybody, except for “niche” communities, where an invitation is required (but, having million of users, the invitation is not really an issue anymore) users can post their own notes and “blog”, pictures, movies, and comment on content added online by other users free, while increasingly larger social network services are adding micropayments for games, photo album space, and other additional services with the notable exception of Facebook (that allows the creators of additional applications to keep the advertisement revenue), and Squidoo (that allows to keep or share the advertisement revenue), usually the advertisement positioning and revenue is managed by the social network service most social network services are trying to integrate the web with at least mobiles You can find online hundreds of articles on the most recent statistics, but, again, an infographic is clearer, e.g. “100 Amazing Social Media Statistics, Facts, and Figures” (ref. 090)- from the number of tweets or queries per minute, to the daily average use of each social network and demographic differentiation. Why not books? Because books pretending to give the latest figures on social media, instead of just showing trends, are obsolete even before they are printed. And if you are really serious about using social media in your business activities, you should get used to one simple tool: Googlesearch and you will find, but do not rely just on “static data” (including from this book) to make decisions. 51
  50. 50. 3.1. Reaching the audience After News Corporation bought, and Microsoft invested in Facebook, the industry shifted toward increasingly looking more “mature”. Before, social network services had only one number that they could show: the millions of users registered. Name (alphabetical) Bebo Users 2008 Users 2012 Regional coverage 40,000,000 117,000,000 Classmates.Com Douban Facebook Flixster Flickr Friendster 50,000,000 Created in 2005 124,000,000 63,000,000 does not disclose 80,000,000 50,000,000 46,850,000 1,000,000,000 63,000,000 32,000,000 90,000,000 Formspring Google+ Habbo Hi5 Linkedin MyLife (Reunion) MySpace Netlog Odnoklassniki Orkut Qzone Renren Sina Weibo Sonico Twitter Vkontakte Viadeo YouTube WeeWorld Created end 2009 Created mid-2011 100,000,000 80,000,000 Created in 2002 Created in 2003 48,0000,000 290,000,000 500,000,000 268,000,000 80,000,000 30,000,000 200,000,000 51,000,000 US, UK, Ireland, NZ and the Pacific Islands US China World-wide World-wide World-wide World-wide, mainly in Asia World-wide World-wide World-wide World-wide World-wide World-wide World-wide 246,351,193 36,000,000 --67,000,000 ----Created mid-2009 --30,000,000 2,200,000 Created in 2006 --does not disclose --- 30,000,000 95,000,000 45,000,000 100,000,000 480,000,000 160,000,000 300,000,000 50,000,000 100,000,000 500,000,000 123,612,100 35,000,000 does not disclose 30,000,000 World-wide World-wide Russia/ex-USSR World-wide Mainland China China Mainland China Spanish/Portuguese World-wide World-wide Russia/ex-USSR World-wide World-wide World-wide 52
  51. 51. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective While no shared certified statistics exist, these are sample figures from the List of social networking websites (ref. 059) available on Wikipedia- being a public source that can be updated by anyone, unreliable figures are usually weeded out by the community. Except for few social network services that have an impact wider than their membership (e.g. Flickr, Twitter, YouTube), only those with a reported membership of over 30 million members in 2008 or in the latest update have been included in this selection. Being a registered user does not imply being an active user. Moreover, intensive users are often members of half a dozen or more communities, usually each one for a specific purpose or social network (e.g. school, shared interests, photoblogging). Anyway, the numbers reported for social network membership are staggering, if you consider the International Telecommunication Union statistics (ref. 021) on the income levels of the average Internet user, stating that over half have an upper-middle or higher income. After few years, social network services started to create “niche” communities- a tradition within social networks (offline). One of the most successful “niche networks” was Linkedin, focused on business networking (originally mainly IT and Marketing), but some new additions included a social network for fathers (see ref. 005), along with communities for specific national, professional, or academic groups. And, as noted in a previous section, technological and demographic trends increased the audience and frequent users of these new systems. The key issue: generate reasons, notably on professional networks, to have your registered members visit again your website, connect with other members, attract new ones, and spend more time on it. 53
  52. 52. 3.1.1. Growth and retention rate Reuters interviewed in September 2008 (ref. 041) Bill Tancer, the author of “Click: What Millions of People are Doing Online and Why It Matters”, who said that “the hottest Internet searches now are for social networking sites”. What was the change since then? If you look at maps of the “search terms” on Google, you would think that searching on, say, Facebook, faded, if compared with 2008. Actually: social networking is currently generating more traffic without the need to attract further users, and searches often happen within the system, not through Google. Users themselves are actually creating the growth, by attracting further users in their own personal social network, sometimes (for intensive users) by inviting each other in their favourite community. A self-sustained audience growth is certainly interesting, and wordof-mouth has been the most efficient way to grow a social networkboth online and in a traditional way. But a word-of-mouth audience is not captive: a mis-management of services, e.g. by violating the privacy of users to sell their data, or adding new hidden fees, generates a much faster backlash. When users have no financial commitment to the service, switching suppliers means clicking few buttons. As an example, Stage6, a video sharing social network set up by the company DivX, allowed to share high-quality videos online, and added typical Web 2.0 features, such as a personal homepage, blog, messaging, personal photo and video galleries, bookmarks, friends' list. 54
  53. 53. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective When it was closed in February 2008, users were invited to join another service. Instead, the community spawned tens if not hundreds of new communities, thereby removing any potential value in the community database: social networking services manage the most volatile of commodities, i.e. goodwill from community members. 3.1.2. Advertisement Google enjoys a dominant position on the Internet advertising market: it is almost a standard, and by using everywhere the same standardized approach, allows an easier task in media and campaign planning. Few sites have their own advertisement agreements, and also major players mix their own advertisement with Google advertisement, as this allow them to reach potential ad buyers that would never contact them directly. Incidentally: part of the success of Google is that it provides quite sophisticated tools to pinpoint the effective use of advertisement money, via its Google Analytics. Old data: Google delivered (ref. 068) a 13% surge in fourth-quarter profits for 2007, to $1.2bn, with the number of "paid clicks" on advertisements up by 30% year on year. For the whole of 2007, its profits were up 40% to $4.2bn. Despite the market negative response (analysts were used to have Google go beyond any forecast), it was quite a progression, if you consider that (ref. 069) the revenue was $805.9 million for the quarter ended 30th September 2004, up 105% over the previous year. Google itself announced in January 2013 that in 2012 it had earned 50 bln USD. 55
  54. 54. But advertisement expenditure is still focused on a media mix that underestimates the Internet, that since the introduction of broadband and ADSL services is representing an increasing part of the entertainment diet. Also Internet advertisement has been suffering from the financial crisis of Summer 2008, as reported by Nielsen Online in September 2008 (ref. 072), but entertainment, automotive, and consumer goods compensated the contraction in image-based advertising. The financial services firms spent 27% less on display advertising in the first half of 2008 (ref. 075). As noted in an IAB/Price Waterhouse study published in October 2008, “Due to the unique efficiency and effectiveness of targeted and measurable campaigns, Internet advertising has shown strong growth in the first six months of 2008, compared to the same time period last year. This growth has come in spite of an environment that has put significant pressure on the advertising industry in general.” (ref. 074). Nielsen Online in August 2008 (ref. 071) reported that while Internet access via mobile in US and Europe is still mainly focused on information, a new trend is coming from BRIC countries (Brazil Russia India China), where the growth in mobile and mobile Internet services is driven by entertainment. The reason for the difference? BRIC countries added services recently- and the new mobile phone network came with high-speed data capabilities, allowing them to leapfrog the cable laying phaseand to faster bridge the digital divide. More recently (ref. 091, Q2 2012), Asia was reported as having 44.8% of the Internet users, but only North America (78.6%), Oceania (67,6%), and Europe (63%) had more of the 50% of their population connected, while Africa (15.6%) and Asia (27.5%) still have a huge growth potential, and Latin America and Caribbean (42.9%) are getting close to that threshold. 56
  55. 55. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective 3.1.3. Targeting social networkers Steve Rubel from Advertising Age (ref. 070) noted in September 2008 that there is still a missing link in social networks: monetization. In 2007 and 2008, Facebook was under fire for its Facebook Beacon, launched in November 2007, and some technical glitches with the privacy management created concern within the community. The concept was to extend word-of-mouth to the XXI century, and using the throve of information available on Facebook users' activities to inform their friends, and target advertisement to users' friends, e.g. suggesting other users to buy the same items that had just been bought on a e-commerce website (e.g. books, DVDs) from one of their friends. In December 2007, Mark Zuckerberg posted on Facebook a note stating: “We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it. While I am disappointed with our mistakes, we appreciate all the feedback we have received from our users. I'd like to discuss what we have learned and how we have improved Beacon.” The technology had some legal and technical issues to be solved, but it was promising enough… to de facto resurface under different forms, as it allowed to target advertisement through the social network of each user- also while visiting other websites. Furthermore, YouTube is widely used as a viral marketing platform, allowing companies also to carry out low-cost market test on ads before deciding which ones could be used with the traditional media outlets, and to validate new product concept or ideas. But, as noted in the introduction, the expected contraction of marketing budgets (ref. 010, 011) allows to consider the attractiveness of the lower cost of Internet vs other channels. 57
  56. 56. Since 2008, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and others reacted to the financial crisis by improving their ability to “target” audiences, including by offering ordinary users the ability to “promote” (for money) their own posts, and attracting small business through “geolocalization” services (i.e. ads served in the same area where you were reported to connect from). All this is moving beyond the traditional (and self-explanatory) payper-view or pay-per-click models. To summarize advertising models: a 2010 Slideshare presentation (ref. 092) is an interesting introduction to key concepts and approaches, while an article on Wikipedia is more focused on online advertising, and includes a long list of links to further articles exploring different business and technical issues. 3.2. What are social network services for? Most social networks online were build around a specific activity and technology, and while there are too many to list, we selected the most famous and visible (at least in terms of media hype). if your target is communities via events, fan groups, grassroot activities delivering a viral marketing or market-test concepts inform on specific products or services, and "spin control" information about your corporate customers deliver instant updates to a pre-selected group of customers sell items or attract media attention (e.g. Iceland 2008) We suggest Facebook YouTube, Slideshare Main use personal pages, videos and photos, commentary, groups, events video sharing and comment Wikipedia, Facebook user-generated encyclopedia Twitter instant-messaging, available by free subscription Ebay, Amazon auctioning off your surplus possessions 58
  57. 57. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective The list on the previous page is just a selection- before doing anything on any of this networks, it is advisable that you visit the system you focus on, observe what is online, and, more important, observe the feed-back on activities carried out by other advertisers. As shown within the section about the “trends” in social networking, Google is much more than a search engine or a support to your advertisement or online activities: you can also use its constantly growing set of tools to actually monitor (or identify) your target audience. Moreover, as the growth rate will contract, leading social network services will keep trying to “attract” audience from other services, e.g. with Facebook adding music and increasingly depending on mobile traffic. Social networking online leaves no time for spin control: if your campaign or commercial activities are considered offensive or excessive, the retribution from members will be swift- and long lasting (e.g. by going “viral”, and being spread to their friends). As most information posted online never disappears, generating a negative feed-back today could result in somebody giving it a new life six months from now, after (s)he will find it by searching, and will send it to a new personal network of contacts. SecondLife was the darling of media, through a well, managed campaign, and attracted sizeable budgets, from companies that created “virtual offices” in the system- in reality, just thanks to an unmetered audience. Nonetheless: it required a relatively large commitment (and investment) to anybody willing to use it, either to create its own “virtual objects”, or to buy from others what they would then use. After SecondLife, seeking new revenue streams, changed its policies to award itself the right to do as it pleases, some “producers” left or forbid the use on SecondLife of their creations. 59
  58. 58. 3.3. What's the audience of a social network? The value of Internet membership and user statistics has been much disputed, as noted also by the Internet Systems Consortium (see ref. 048): “In summary, it is not possible to determine the exact size of the Internet, where hosts are located, or how many users there are.” It was true in 2008, and it even more so in 2013, also because many users in developed countries have not one, but multiple Internet connections that they use whenever they see fit. Most social networks show membership numbering in millions or tens of millions, with few over 100,000,000 registered users. To make a comparison: it is less reliable than counting the number of portable radios sold to decide how many radio listeners are there. 3.3.1. Measures suggested by the major social networks The main measure proposed? The number of registered users. Or number of videos and items posted. Or other measures that do not give any feed-back on the frequency and intensity of use of the social network service by its members. As will be discussed in the next section, different demographic groups use social networks in fairly different ways, sometimes with overlapping membership in multiple social network services. An interesting approach has been proposed by the Pingdom (ref. 073) blog in August 2008, using Google to search for the frequency of request of a specific term in a specific territory. As an example, the Google “search maps” for 2013 on Facebook and Linkedin are shown in the next page. 60
  59. 59. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective Facebook Linkedin the intensity of the shaded areas shows the density of requests See chapter 5 for an historical evolution- from 2008 to 2013, via 2010: the approach was useful when the social network services were less “mature” (i.e. more Internet users were outside than inside their communities), but e.g. for Facebook is questionable that it still makes sense, as most of the searches are done within the system, or, as is customarily said, the “Facebook ecosystem”. While traditional media mainly focus on a territorial or national markets (except for satellite TV), Internet-based and, increasingly, mobile-based services ignore completely the market and national boundaries, using basic English as a lingua franca to communicate with people that may or may not be in the same territory. Identity, location, gender, age, profession, etc- these are information that should be always considered in social networking activities as an indication, not as a reality. The safest approach suggested is to combine the International Telecommunication Union (see ref. 021) data on telecommunication and Internet availability, with the data from Internet World Stats (see ref. 054), to get a general idea of the demographic spread of use of technologies. 61
  60. 60. 3.4. Early and recent business users How many businesses routinely use online social networks? The answer to this question in 2008 was: more than you can think. In 2013, the answer is not “who is using them”, but “who is doing something that affects the bottom line”. When Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation bought Myspace.Com, everybody criticized the price paid. When he bought The Wall Street Journal, he converted the annual subscription of the online edition into a partially free model. Why? The power of advertising: while companies still will subscribe to WSJ, the possibility of selling packaged advertisement, i.e. WSJ plus other newspapers requires keeping added value and increasing the community, as the revenue from online subscriptions is marginal vs. the value added for newspapers. But other companies are using social networks services to increase the loyalty of their customers, and to obtain other benefits that will be discussed in the next section. The common thread to being perceived as a serious player is giving some services for free, not simply using the network as an update for the traditional press release (albeit still in 2013 there are plenty of websites who look as 1950s PR). The minimal services expected? A personal profile, the possibility to comment and receive comments, and a way to differentiate yourself from the others, e.g. by giving “points”, “badges”, etc. to the most frequent users or prolific writers. 62
  61. 61. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective Unfortunately, early users (e.g. Visa and American Express) simply ventured in the right direction (e.g. setting up focused communities to target specific market segments, such as small businesses), but then did what they would have done with traditional channels at the end of a campaign: dump it and move on, but online, once you activate a link or post something, you never know which life it will follow (see ref. 040). A smarter solution was adopted by Volvo North America: after setting up a domain to reach truckers and involve them in sharing their stories, using proprietary material and a service called Ning, they saw the value of doing it the other way around. Or: you do not ask anymore to integrate your customers within your own proprietary “gated community”- you join them where they are. Therefore, if you were to select that link that was included with what I wrote in 2008, you would reach now… a Facebook page. Should you create your own proprietary website and community on your own platform? Only if, as in the case of Dell’s “Ideastorm” (a kind of “crowdsourcing R&D”), you have really specific needs. Generally, it is better to combine with various degrees of engagement, e.g. to support independent “fan groups” on Facebook, have a company page on the same site, and then have your own community integrated with Facebook and Linkedin11. 11 More on this approach will be discussed within the next book of this series, but you can follow the thread by searching for articles on; key articles are also available in Italian (with links to the English version) on 63
  62. 62. 4. WHY AND HOW - SIGNPOSTS This chapter shares few “signposts through knowledge” on the reasons and means to interact, as a business or organization, with the “social marketplace” discussed in the previous chapter. The next book in this series will discuss more in detail both issues, but you can also read online the articles that have been posted since 200812. Before Facebook and other services, companies and organizations built a web portal, to integrate different internal and external websites. The main approach was to use a website as a broadcast- in what was called Web 1.0, communication was one-way. With Web 2.0 and independent social network services, users expect to be able to participate, comment, criticize, and occasionally contribute. 12, with a “search-through-the-tag-cloud” feature; some of the key articles are also available in Italian on 64
  63. 63. Business Social Networking part 1: cultural and historical perspective The dialogue becomes bidirectional- and the response time is expected to be really low. Using a social network, online or offline has at least a basic benefit: an increased level of customer loyalty. But until recently, it was a technological enterprise, and management was assigned not to corporate communication, but to the IT department. Let's see an example of a different approach that involves the European Commission. The EU Commission each year finances hundred of millions of Euros in research and projects. Technological and market changes imply that sometimes there is a potential overlapping between researches financed by the EU Commission: unfortunately, most project teams are disbanded after each project (or its funding) ends, and therefore the knowledge is dispersed. The European Commission has a distinctive advantage: whoever worked on a project is usually interested in being recognized as somebody knowledgeable on the issue (s)he worked on- and maybe involved in further projects Therefore, following an internal initiative, a project called “” was created, using an open source framework called Drupal- requiring really limited human and financial resources. The website is open to registration, and the purpose is to allow the publishing of case studies- that can then be commented by other members, and to allow members to network with other members (and avoid re-inventing the wheel). 65