The author describes "social networking" as the process of making connections with your stakeholders. Seems to me it's a very vague concept.
In a broader sense, social networks refer to a type of site - MySpace, Face Book, LinkedIn, etc. - where individuals post their personal profiles and view the personal profiles of others.
Case Study: Aquafina
The author refers to PepsiCo's Aquafina brand of bottled water, for which the company created a MySpace page. It populated the page with music videos and interactive games, and built a community of over 11,000 "friends." The author credits this move with "building a foundation of customer engagement" with a desirable demographic.
EN: I'm extremely wary of this case study: most corporate MySpace pages are loaded with promotional content, and a "friend" is just someone who's bookmarked the page. Also, since the company used other media to promote the brand, it would be difficult to assert that the MySpace experiment had a significant impact in and of itself. No metrics are provided, only vague claims about how "cool" and "engaging" the author thinks the move was. I'm dubious.
EN: It's also woth nothing that MySpace has largely died and has been replaced by Facebook, a social site into which companies have intruded and have begun making exactly the same oafish mistakes.
The Importance of Social Networks
- 200 million people, globally, visit social networking sites each month.
- The average user is a female, age 19-24, unmarried, and a student
- 60% have been using social networks for less than two years
With this in mind, one wonders why SN is considered important if you're serving any other demographic.
Components of Social Networking
The author defines social networking as being composed of five components:
- A personal profile - Personal information shared with the community to establish a persona
- Social bookmarking/voting - The association of a persona with specific sites that a person visits and/or opinions about various things
- Social conversations - Threaded discussions in which people participate. These are not as detailed as a typical discussion forum, and read more like chat, but do not take place in real time.
- Social communities - In addition to one-to-one connections between individuals, most social networks create "groups" which people of similar interest can join
- Social events - Social events can take place in the virtual world (real-time chat events) as well as offline (meatspace gatherings of online acquaintances)
Achieving Reputation Success with Social Networks
The author has some tips for using social networking to bolster your online reputation:
- Be transparent in your motives - If you are covert about your identity or intentions, reaction will be negative
- Communicate the qualities of your brand - Rather than junking up your profile with promotional information, make it more experiential and communicate the "personality" of your brand.
- Network Proactively - If you build it, they won't come. At first, you're going to have to go looking for others to network with, until you have a sufficient number of connections to be visible through a network of connections
- Be circumspect about your content - Especially for individuals, some of your personal quirks may seem questionable or offensive to others. Consider the impression you are making on all users.
- Be engaging - Social network communications are social. The kind of things that would get you shunned at any cocktail party (talking only about yourself, being too mercenary, etc) will also get you shunned online.
It is also noted that you should be careful about the people you invite to join your personal network. A nice quote from an old Japanese proverb: "When the character of a man is not clear, look to his friends" - implying that you are judged by those you associate with.
EN: In the end, the author really hasn't convinced me of the value of social networks for building a commercial or professional reputation. Maybe there are better sources, or maybe the fad has passed, but it has always seemed to me that it is an unwelcome intrusion on a space meant for people to network with one another, and companies have genearlly behaved like an insurance salesman at a cocktail party.