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Lessons Learned on Social Networking May 9, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in social networking.
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runners

(One of My Social Networks)

We’re over a week into Social Networking month here at the LifeLongLearning Lab. Lots of activity so far, not as much blogging as hoped for.

Here’s a quick recap of some lessons learned:

1. Social Networking is Hot
Last Friday, my colleague Jenifer Lippincott and I conducted a Webinar on Social Learning. In preparation for this Webinar, I decided to Google the terms “social network,” “social learning,” and “social networking” to see how many hits were returned. Here’s what I found:

  • Social network–71 million hits
  • Social learning–54.6 million hits
  • Social networking–39.4 million hits

By way of contrast, I found that “Angelina Jolie” returns just 37.3 million hits. Her husband, “Brad Pitt,” returns a mere 20.7 million hits. So, I think it’s safe to say that social networks and social learning are BIG. (But not quite as big as Britney Spears, who returns a whopping 96.4 million hits–I don’t even want to consider what this says about our society.)

2. Considerations for Running a Social Network
During the Webinar, we had some good questions about social learning. And these are some considerations I plan to think about as I work on some social networks for clients:

  • If you are asking questions about an area outside of your usual knowledge domain, how can you be sure you’re using the right search terms? For example, you may not be finding a lot of helpful information because you’re not using the right term.
    Cindy Rockwell of CustomerVision mentioned that you could use forms so that people could select from lists to pick keywords.
  • Is there a way to search on experts? How do you find who has the expertise?
    The response to this is to provide a means for people to identify their areas of expertise in their profiles. If it’s in their profiles, then you can search on it.
  • How do you control information creep in wikis? What should you do if you have so many wikis that you’re not sure where to start looking?
    The group agreed that wikis really needed some type of facilitator to keep things organized. If a group uses multiple wikis, perhaps they could provide a main page with descriptions and links to all the wikis–something like a wiki portal.
  • Do the characteristics of the group determine the amount of participation on a social learning site? The participant hypothesized that if you had a more informal, less hierarchical group, you would get more participation. No one on the call knew the answer to that question, but the hypothesis makes sense to me. If any of you know of any research in this area, please comment to let us know.

3. Remember, Your Family Is Your Original Social Network
Last night, I realized that all my research into social networks is hurting my original social network–my family. So, instead of blogging last night, I read in bed with my daughter. It pays to remember that social networks do NOT have to be technology enabled. In fact, most are not–at least right now!

4. Expanding My Definition of Social Networking
Last night, I started to write a blog post about expanding my definition of social networks so that it would include my family and friends. Right now, when I hear that word, I tend to think “Facebook or LinkedIn.” So, I think if I did expand my definition, I would see even more possibilities.

But that line of thinking made me realize that unlike the kids who spend every possible second out on MySpace, most of my social network is not yet out in those technological social networks. That’s why I haven’t been as motivated to spend time here yet. But if someone told me that there was something I’m doing today either without technology or with a different technology that could be done more efficiently on a social network, I’d be ALL over it. So, I think that’s the place to start in helping businesses see the value–find a business process that can be done much more quickly and/or cheaply on a social network.

5. The Structure of Social Networks
I sketched out the structure of ning, and this week, I plan to sketch out Facebook’s structure, so I can compare them. Stay tuned!

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