The NetworkedThinker


Let’s face it, social media has been embraced by millions, and it ranges from blogging to microblogging, from personal communities to corporate ones, from text-based ones in the form of Socialtext to video-based ones in the form of YouTube. Facebook, Twitter and blogging have become the holy trinity of social networking, for anyone looking to better market themselves, their products or services, their company, or their purpose (such as non-profits). Ning has risen to take control of the privatized social community space, while TFCN is for those who buzz around the head of the federal government. YouTube owns the user generated online video crown, Facebook has topped 500 million subscribers and is now larger than most countries, LinkedIn remains the stalwart for business, and Amplify hopes to bridge the gap between blogging and microblogging while extending the conversation length to the community. There’s also Del.ici.ous, Tumblr, Posterous, Stumbleupon, and Friendster all eking out their existence, with MySpace trying to hang on, while Google experiments with where else to get in.

Foursquare has risen to add location awareness to community with a travel industry “checkin” flare. Pinyadda hopes you pin content you ready daily and share with others, including the content originators. Empire Avenue goes one step further to actually create an online exchange where you can trade shares in community members based on their social activity. Scvngr creates community out of scavenger hunts for all sizes of companies from small to large, from major brands to travel and city tourism boards. These last four have added a higher level of fun and entertainment into social community building in what I like to call “Socialtainment.”

All of these tools have arrived over the past five years. Before this, marketers and brands focused on outbound marketing efforts to reach their audiences. Mass adoption of social media platforms has dramatically changed the landscape for those who plan, launch, and then measure and track products and services from smart phones to bars of soap. And for the rest of us “customers” who consume those smart phones and bars of soap!

The path for social enlightenment has been laid out. Facebook has the lowest barriers to entry to get started. Step up a level and you start setting up RSS feeds in Google tools or the email platform of your choice. Then throw in something Del.ici.ous or possibly poke Pinyadda to bookmark and share those things you’ve consumed, that you want to share with others and expand on. The next step is Posturous or Tumblr, free platforms to expand your reach and transfer your knowledge into other people’s psyche. And finally, there is Squarespace, Blogger, and the WordPresses (.com and .org)  if you want to get into hardcore blogging. And Twitter to force yourself into 140 character musings. Did I mention that you can tie most, if not all of these platforms together, so that your latest opinions and discoveries can have multiple points of entry into the social community that you weave for yourself?

The best social networkers are true storytellers. They engage for the love of it and are purposeful and often entertaining. We’ve shifted from the days of miracle juicers and “getting rich in real estate with no money down” TV infomercials to social media mavens hawking their own collection of wares— how to build a business on Facebook; how to work a room; how to harness the new tools of PR and marketing; how to do inbound marketing to drive lead generation, etc.

Trans-media storytelling opens up the possibility to tell your story across ebooks, TV, online video, mobile devices (phones and tablets), via a myriad of community platforms. The rise of the freemium model also means that millions are giving away content for free, while layering additional services,  content, virtual goods, or perhaps a deeper peek into their own crystal ball in order for them to drive revenue.

If you’re seeking to build your brand, be a social force in your company, the question you should ask yourself is— “what am I at the intersection of?” It’s one thing to be the master of a domain, but the world is changing rapidly as are the tools to navigate it. Topics, subjects, domains, and fields of study are colliding. In my previous profession, I happened to be the “go to guy” for mobility as it was broadly defined. For the last two years I have camped out at the intersection of branding, cultural change, design, and content, the latter of which is now being seamlessly integrated across three screens- TV, Web, and mobile.

Michael Margolis has a great ebook on storytelling and I encourage you to read it. I recently posted about the ecosystem map that David B. Lerner has created for several early-stage tech investment communities. But each of us has our own ecosystem to build and map to build out. I have cobbled together my own tools so I my share at any end point, and the message carries through to the other platforms, depending upon on my terms and my conditions of where I want it to be delivered. I plant ideas; I share things and insight from bright people I come in contact with. My network has become an inward crowdsourcing tool, because it just doesn’t produce something for me, but for others to extend the conversations and build upon them.

Will many of today’s popular social media platforms be around in five to ten years? Probably not! Most technology products we used that long ago are not, or have morphed into different designs that provide far better utility.

We’ve moved from a technology economy to the network economy. And it is the relationships within those networks that we’ve built, whether it’s the physical layer— the broadband pipe into our homes— or the social layer— the relationships at the hubs (trusted friends), or more importantly within the spokes themselves, which Valdis Krebs talks about— the people your my life, both on a personal and professional level, that are becoming increasingly important. This is true whether you are a person, a customer, a product, a service, a brand, or a bar of soap!

Because once we’ve built out our network ecosystem, we then need to explore all the social paths. And that means moving from a network economy to a relationship economy. To learn more about the concept of a relationship economy, start with these links:

The Facebook page, of course, has the lowest barrier of entry “socially,” so you can simply choose “Like” to learn more within your FB bubble.

– Randy Giusto