We are doing a lot of work on the social networking front here at PerkettPR – training workshops, new hires/social media staff and holding some really valuable analyst and media discussions. We’re following Forrester Research as you know, and their Groundswell activities, as well as watching closely for great examples of business use of social media. Many of these include YouTube and LinkedIn and some are extending campaigns to Facebook, MySpace and others.
A few weeks ago, Dan Costa of PC Magazine, wrote about social networking and indicated that perhaps some of the more popular of these sites do not hold credible value for the over-30 crowd. His column, “MySpace is Not Your Space,” provides a guideline (his opinion) on who should be on which site. While we don’t totally agree – we think some of his thoughts on the use of these sites are short sighted – it’s interesting to think about. (For example, he states “I am not trying to keep the 50-something, married software engineer away from the 17-year old coed cheerleader majoring in Art History—although maybe I should be.” We don’t’ think that’s what professionals are focusing on with their use of these sites – and can’t the two co-exist without crossing paths? For example, if we’re trying to reach high school students for a campaign, isn’t it better that we are involved in and understand the medium that we are using?)
We believe that social networking will continue to evolve as an industry and, while Facebook may not launch a separate site as Dan suggests, it has inspired many new sites that do provide a more laser focus on specific issues and groups. For example, our client Sermo focuses on medical doctors, other focused sites already exist for PR professionals, the town you live in and various hobbies – even venture capitalism, as today’s Boston Globe reported on next month’s launch of VentureNetwork.vc, an online social network for professionals looking for another channel to connect and talk shop. The user numbers on these sites may not reach Facebook’s level, but as we all continue to figure out the value and monetary possibilities for such communities, the value will increase regardless of the numbers – camaraderie, additional support and encouragement, new networks, collective insight and more are invaluable.
For example, Guy Kawasaki wrote a great blog post at AlwaysOn regarding how one of the less-understood social networking tools, Twitter, can add value today. Many people out there don’t get the value of Twitter (we just started exploring this ourselves) and may say, as Dan does about MySpace and Facebook, that it’s a better tool for the younger crowd with time on their hands. Guy shows that it’s so much more – already driving “tens of thousands of page views,” debunking rumors and extending networks. And, since no one person seems to really have the answers on social networking’s value to business – yet – keep exploring, keep trialing and keep sharing your insights.