The author struggles for a term that would describe the various things that fall into the realm of social media, which seem to alternately be called "sites" or "services" or something else. Perhaps "networks" is a viable term, since each seems to connect people, if only two, and if only temporarily. All in all, there is not a good term to encompass all.
A Site for Every Purpose
Rather than considering the channel or method of networking, the author lists some of the popular purposes/audiences for served by the various social channels, with an acknowledgement that this list is not comprehensive and likely never will be, as new purposes and audiences are constantly emerging.
(EN: It's also worth mentioning that the attempt of various services/sites to draw the widest possible user base by being "everything to everyone" often fizzle become "nothing to no-one" because they lack a specific purpose.)
Business networks are popular among white-collar professionals as a forum for networking with others in their industry or profession, generally for the purpose of knowledge-sharing and job-seeking.
The notion that drives business networks is in the power of connections: you may not know someone who is an expert in non-profit tax accounting, but someone you know might know such a person - or a person you know knows someone else who knows someone else who is.
Recruiting is a natural extension of this: rather than needing an answer to a question, you may need a person to provide a service or take a long-term position. Or you may wish to ask the people you know whether they know a candidate with certain skills, or seek references for a person you may already be considering.
Presently, the largest such network is LinkedIn, with 5 million registered users throughout the world. A few minor players are mentioned, but there is a pronounced gap between LinkedIn and the rest.
Friends and family
(EN: The author doesn't consider the general qualities of casual social networks, but merely dives into a strong of examples. Since "casual" means "whatever you feel like", it may be difficult to describe, but likely these sites have in common that they offer to connect users with people they know or have met in real life, at least in the beginning before they add connections to online acquaintances they never met.)
Facebook is the category-killer of casual networking, with 600 million users at the time the book was written, and a great deal of flexibility in creating groups of people around topics of mutual interest. As such, it's become the Swiss Army knife of online communities.
Some of the other sites that are in the running have substantial audiences, but many are specialized: Bebo reaches children and young teens, Friendster is popular in Asia, Hi5 is popular in Latin America, and Orkut is strong in India and Brazil.
The author provides a handful of headings for sites that are fundamentally similar, in that the aggregate conversation on a specific topic, such as a field of academic study, a hobby or leisure activity, a place, or an area of general interest.
Many of these sites are built around entertainment topics: Shelfari pulls together people who enjoy reading, MySpace pulls together people who are fans of music, Mimsnet is designed for parents.
Ning is named as a service that enables people to build community sites; it became as a communication tool for offline groups to communicate and became a toolkit for building online communities.
Person-to-person selling, which was common in the classified advertising section of many local newspapers, has been taken online. Some sites provide niche services related to their products (sell your used textbooks on Amazon), other services are entirely composed of classified ads.
Craigslist is the most popular classified advertising site, which began in the early days of the Internet (1995) in the San Francisco area, where may Internet companies and Web-savvy employees are concentrated. The phenomenon spread to other cities, and now serves over 700 regions in 60 countries.
Another giant site of the same nature is eBay, which uses an auction format rather than a fixed price for merchandise (though the latter is an option).
The author notes some of the problems that plague these sites - people who post items or place inquiries to defraud others, posting silly items as a joke, and criminals exploiting the services to find victims: robbery, rape, and murder have been perpetrated on buyers and sellers when they ultimately connected with another person in real life with the expectation of a commercial exchange.
There is also the occasional sale of a seemingly silly item for a significant price (a haunted painting, a piece of toast with a burn pattern that resembled a religious figure, etc.), which are unusual, but generally not in the nature of fraud. As well as instances where people have amusing stories about the reason they are selling things (a man selling his child's game console because of bad grades, a man selling the wedding dress of a cheating fiancee) and amusing reviews that distract from the core value, but are incidental rather than commonplace.
The Instant News Channel
In some instances, social media has become an instant news channel. Especially since people have mobile devices, they are present when something occurs to post a personal account, photo, or video of what happens, even before the story breaks in the traditional media.
The benefit of getting an instant account is counterbalanced by the quality and accuracy of information: traditional journalists tend to still care about getting the facts straight before reporting them whereas individuals do not feel any such responsibility (EN: which is actually becoming less common - many attempt to scoop the social network by providing premature coverage followed by revisions and retractions). Also, eyewitnesses often embellish or confabulate, so these first-person accounts are considered specious.
Social Networks and the Younger Generation
The author shifts gears to speak of generational differences in consumption of social media. In general, GenY are ready and enthusiastic adopters of technology, in the workplace as well as in their personal lives.
(EN: much is made of this, and it often seems like youth-bashing, but there's a reason for this: "Generation Y" was born into new media, such that they do not bring with them a mental model of older ways of doing business. To them, the "new and different" technology is neither new nor different, it's just there.)
Some of the characteristics of GenY in social media:
- They see their online profile as a way to express themselves, and provide more information than older participants
- They are constantly attempting to define and redefine their personal identity, resulting in frequent postings and updates to their status.
- They consider their actual name to be different and inferior to their online handles, which they can customize and change
- They use media (graphics, sound, video) more frequently than older generations
- The borrow/reuse/steal content from other sources frequently, but seldom offer anything original or of their own creation
This is important to business because the ways in which younger generations use social media is significantly different to the way older generations do: they have different practices and expectations, and require a different approach.
The New Way of Marketing
Marketing in the social media is significantly different to marketing in traditional media: it is not a one-way broadcast of information to a passive audience, but a two-way conversation that must be tailored to each person you reach. For that reason, it is in fact a dramatic change in the way that brands engage with customers.
(EN: The author adds a few paragraphs of fluff to top off the chapter, but it's vague and full of buzzwords: "You can use conversational marketing to drive your own local marketing efforts to capture mindshare and increase satisfaction amongst your customers." No explanation of what she really means or specific steps you can take.)