While their use is still largely limited to less-than-mission-critical purposes, online social networking services are becoming more popular for business purposes.
Much of the current emphasis seems to focus on limited application to businesses systemically rather approaches seem to be limited to "silos" of thinking related to recruitment and branding.
Businesses may be missing a larger picture of value yet to be tapped and maybe even yet to be envisioned.
Xeni Jardin, writer for MSNBC.com, provides the following comments related to the use of social networks for business purposes.
"LinkedIn and ZeroDegrees are two of the more popular services that facilitate business-oriented connections, and some argue these and similar sites are now doing a better job at connectivity than ever before. Remember Metcalfe's Law â€" coined by the inventor of Ethernet â€" which states that the power of a network grows in proportion to the square of the number of its nodes? That's a geeky way of saying that networking technologies nobody uses are of limited value. As the popularity of SNS sites grows, so does their value, because a larger number of users mean better odds for productive connections."
Have online schmooze services finally grown up and gone to work? Or are the latest "pro" promises just another round of 'Net hype? Looking at the responses to an online poll run by MSN 73% of over 4,000 respondents voted yes to the question of "Can online social networks boost business?
A recent article in the Economist reports: "Where LinkedIn emphasizes scale and Jobster emphasizes specialization, Visible Path, a start-up based in New York, focuses on the strength of individual relationships. The firm analyses e-mail traffic, calendars and diary entries to identify the strongest relationships that exist inside and outside a company. An obvious application is to generate leads: a salesman can use the service to identify who within his network has the closest links to a prospect, and request an introduction."
"Such techniques are also gathering momentum in "knowledge management". IBM recently unveiled a social-software platform called Lotus Connections, due out in the next few weeks, that lets company employees post detailed profiles of themselves, team up on projects and share bookmarks. One manufacturer testing the software is using it to put inexperienced members of its customer-services team in touch with the right engineers. It can also be used to identify in-house experts. Software firms will probably start bundling social features of this kind into all sorts of business software."
"To work well in the business world, social networking has to clear some big hurdles. Incentives to participate in a network have to be symmetrical, for one thing. The interests of MySpace membersâ€"and of jobseekers and employersâ€"may be aligned, but it is not clear why commission-hungry salespeople would want to share their best leads with colleagues. Limiting the size of the network can reduce its value for companies, yet confidentiality is another obvious concern for companies that invite outsiders into their online communities. "Social networking sounds great in theory, but the business benefits are still unproven," says Paul Jackson of Forrester, a consultancy. But if who you know really does matter more than what you know, it has obvious potential."
What we find ironic about both of the mentioned articles and their observation above is they are missing the "systemic" use of social mediums to improve the inputs, processes and outputs of any business. If you look at the image in this post it represents a macro view of all businesses from the perspective of "Systemic Thinking".
All business represents a collection of people, processes and customers. The effectiveness and efficiency of a business is driven by how well the people and processes are "connected", managed and aimed at delivering products and services that satisfy customers. All business requires a medium of marketing, communicating and selling means that drive customer awareness of the business proposition.
When you view business systemically one can see how the medium of social networks could and can provide the means for seamless and effective "connectivity" aimed at delivering the end results to the customer efficiently. The medium of social networks provides a new method of reach and richness that can enhance any business. It goes way beyond recruitment of employees and basic CRM applications and cuts across all businesses systemically.
What say you?