Social networking has changed human interaction and the way we build relationships forever. The internet itself introduced the concept of the viral loop, but social networking is what gave that viral loop value for businesses. People now have a place to go online where they can get advice from people they trust on any decision they make. In addition to that, social networking allows companies to create a true one-on-one dialogue between them and their consumer, allowing them to create the kind of involvement and transparency that is essential to the long-term success of most businesses, whether they have realized it yet or not.
As a child of this revolution, a net native if you will, I feel like I owe it to myself to make social networking a specialty professionally, beyond the hobby that it has been in the past. Any specialist needs education, so I have designed an on-the-fly regimen of social networking curriculum, one that changes as fast as the stock prices of these mysterious networks themselves. On a daily basis, rss feeds of sites like Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, Socialnomics, and Social Media Club help me keep abreast of this revolution.
In the quickly-dying area of physical print materials, books like What Would Google Do? By Jeff Jarvis and Baked In by Alex Bogusky and John Winsor have helped me wrap my head around this paradigm-shift. That being said, as far as any one companies’ social media policy, I walk on more egg shells than someone who is ignorantly afraid of social media. Because I have realized the power of this viral loop, that vouching for a product or service and what it can do. I believe it is the transparency and open dialogue should be paramount, and that the social media policy will sort itself out when a company is as open as a Google might be.
Data is our friend as the customer more than even the company in some instances. It is beating the consumer to the punch and exposing your inner workings that is essential, because it may help your competitors as well but that openness breeds a trust and respect that cannot be bought with ads, and is more true that any ad could lead you to believe. I am not suggesting companies turn their product design over to the mob and see what happens, but maybe look at the example of gmail. In beta for so long, people gave it room for mistakes, and helped correct those mistakes. It is this “gift economy”, to quote Jeff Jarvis, that is changing the secrecy to which companies credited their success for so long.
People want to be a part of, and the social web is a place where they can see that process happen in front of them. People can customize and interact with so many things these days, the social web should be the place that they can experience that individual process take place with some of their favorite companies, but the companies need to start the conversation if they want to have credibility.