Given the rapid pace of change and evolution in social networking, it is no wonder that people have a difficult time in understanding the differences between the many social networks. This article will establish a baseline by defining the different social networks and their key attributes. I will update this article regularly with new information, so remember to bookmark it or follow this article.
Since, there are so many social networks; we will focus our discussion on the most commonly used ones: Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn. I will briefly touch on Foursquare as well.
Social networking is not new. Before the internet was established in its current form, people interacted with each other in Bulletin Board System (BBS). In addition to uploading and downloading software and data, people could read news and bulletins, exchange messages with other users, either through electronic mail or in public message boards. Many BBS systems also offered on-line games (some were multi-player games). People interacted with each other in chat rooms within BBS.
The current form of social networks offers similar functionality as a starting point, but with much more improved user experience and on a more global basis – truly international in scope with hundreds of millions of people networking all at once. See my other blog posting for a summary of Social Media history.
At the base of current social networking evolution is blogging. In the simplest form, a blog is a “web” based “log”. It presents information in reverse chronology. Like in a resume, the most current information is displayed on top of the page with the oldest appearing at the end. Log entries are typically called “posts.” Each page is interactive in the sense that it allows readers to leave their comments for each post. The more comments, the more engaged the community is. Readers may also rate people’s comments thus newcomers are able to differentiate amongst the more established and knowledgeable posters/responders.
It is hard to count up all of the blogs that are on the internet. Here are some old statistics that will help to quantify the impact of blogs:
Worldwide Blogs Count ( source Technorati )
- Jan. 2004 – less than 2 million
- Jan. 2005 – 6 million
- Jan. 2006 – 24 million
- July 2006 – 50 million
- Jan. 2007 – 60+ million
- Jan. 2009 – 133+million
More details on some of the current stats and associated demographics on blogs can be found here.
There are blogs on almost all subjects. People use blogs to communicate areas of interest to them – from product reviews/evaluations, how-to do anything, hobby blogs, community happenings/news, community organizations, sports teams, etc. Bloggers (people who write blogs) who have large following of readers have become very influential and are able to nudge people in specific directions. Many companies’ reputations have either suffered or improved based on the opinions of these bloggers. These bloggers are no different than newspaper editors or T.V. news editorials with their ability to influence people’s opinions. However, there are thousands more bloggers as compared to traditional influencers. Many topical blogs deal with the day’s news in a general way, linking to Web articles and commenting on them. The best and most active of these publications have become alternate news sources.
For ease of filing and finding information, posts are typically categorized into logical groupings. This is similar to having different files for various topics. These categories are listed in a sidebar, so that visitors can restrict their reading to a category of interest. It’s not unusual for one entry to be tagged in multiple categories. For example, a blog for a photographer could cover topics such as locations, portfolio, techniques, composition, etc. Posts are further tagged with keywords that make it easy for people to search for information. Since a blog is a type of a website, it needs to be optimized so that it ranks higher in search engine results. These tags help to improve the search results.
Readers begin to follow certain bloggers and subscribe to the blogs. One common method of subscribing is by getting a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed. RSS is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format. With RSS subscriptions, readers are notified automatically of new content that is posted on the blog. It acts a trigger for people to go back and continue the engagement process.
From a corporate point of view, blogs provide an excellent opportunity for executives and employees to share information with other stakeholders. From a marketing point of view, blogs allow the companies to provide background material to the official press release. Blogs provide a platform to elaborate with detailed stories and allow the readers the chance to enter the corporations’ mind to know what’s really going on. This helps to humanize the company. IBM was one the first large enterprises to embrace employee blogging and now boasts thousands of blogs related to every facet of its business. Here are some other examples of good corporate blogs .
Blogging is an excellent way for people to establish credibility and trust amongst readers. Of course, having a blog is not enough; you still need to attract readers. The more readers who visit your blog and who engage with you, the more likely you will establish yourself as an expert. There are many ways to attract a large following. This is a large topic in its own right and will deserve an article in a future date.
Blogs can consist of text, photographs, audio only (also known as “podcasts“) and video blogs (also known as “vlogs“).
Like web site search engines and directories, blogs have their own index sites, which make it easier for readers to find blogs of interest to them. In addition to Google, blog specific sites are technocrati, MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog, Blogged and NetworkedBlogs. Stumbleupon, dig and delicious are social sites around blogging.
Although, Google’s Blogger and WordPress are two of the most popular blogging platforms, other sites such as MSN (aka Windows Live), Yahoo and a host of others also provide newcomers with an easy way to get started for free. Blog sites have key software running in the background which is different from a typical website. WordPress and Google’s Blogger are two very popular platforms where these companies also host the software and the site for users at free to minimal costs.
Read Part 2 – TWITTER here.