Technology now allows social networks to make a quantum leap forward in breaking the old trade-off between quality and quantity -- you can now increase both, without compromising either one.- Geoffrey Hyatt
Over the past two years a number of online social networks have sprung up. While there is plenty of information about the value of real world networking (business clubs, social clubs, exclusive schools etc) the subject of online social networking for business and academia is relatively new.
- everyonesconnected.com USA
- Friendster.com USA
- Itsnotwhatyouknow.com / Knowmentum USA
- LinkedIn.com USA
- MeetUp.com USA
- Orkut USA
- RYZE USA
- Soflow.com USA
- Tribe.net USA
- Zerodegrees USA
- Ecademy.com UK
- Cap-up.de Germany
- openBC.de Germany
- Academici.com (research and higher education)
have attracted millions of members spending varying amounts of time and effort in social networking online. The question arising out of billions of hours spend online are:
- Is there value in online networking?
- Who is achieving value?
- How is it achieved?
Existing research, the most influential Mark Granovetters research on strong versus weak ties provides a sociological explanation of social networking. For research in Business studies at the University of Liverpool I am calling for anecdotal examples on which I would like to investigate any possible economic benefits and how/why it was achieved through online social networking.
Can online social networking provide economic benefits for business, professional or academic development? Are there any benefits of social capital (the resources available in and through personal and business networks) to people and to organizations? Are there online networkers who can seriously claim such benefits? How are these benefits achieved?
The aim is not to measure the benefit in monetary terms or against the opportunity cost of time spend online. This investigation purely wants to find out if networking which has clearly shown social as well as economic (jobs, contracts, sales, information) benefits in real life can do so in its virtual form online (and through so called social software).
Which areas do users come from?
Why are they using social networking?
Is there an economic benefit? How does it show?
Historically, you knew the people that you knew; you had visibility into your network only one degree. You usually had only a faint idea of whom your contacts knew.
However, the power of your network multiplies enormously if you can tap the network of your first-degree contacts, i.e., the people that you know directly. The challenge is visibility. Its difficult enough to track our own relationships. How do we track the relationships of other people?
Andrew Weinreich, founder of Friendster, CEO of I Stand For, Inc., and former CEO of Six Degrees, has said, You are no more than two degrees from anyone you [realistically would] want to meet. The problem is finding the right two people. The reason for an infrastructure or ecosystem that defines every relationship between people is to ensure that you are always pursuing the shortest and most meaningful path to the target person. The only reason that you may believe that you are further away is lack of Information.
Still, if the person you are trying to meet is in the system, these systems are very valuable for opening the door to introductions. LinkedIn users accept 83% of referrals.