Monday, May 08, 2006

Future or fad? Online social networks in the spotlight.

You can't go anywhere or watch anything these days where someone isn't talking about online social networks like My Space and Facebook. In fact, just this morning the CBS Early Show aired a segment on the dangers of My Space (you can watch the clip here). And, obviously, the news isn't all good. Indeed, there is a mixed sense of caution and enthusiasm among the general public and marketers in particular, as they jump into the murky waters of these networks.

A recent Knowledge @ Wharton article describes marketers' uncertainty about the staying power of these sites, and caution that one ought to be prepared for the "next big thing" that will lure users from their current network to a different one. Librarian Brian Mathews expressed similar sentiments in his blog post.

Despite these warnings, even the Wharton article concedes that social networking is embedded in Internet culture, and won't disappear even though the tools may change. Certainly marketers are moving ahead with new and different ways to generate these kinds of communities. The Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association's blog reports that book and music vendor DirectGroup is working on bringing its book clubs online, and the qtags blog describes how companies are turning to mobile phones as socializing tools.

Whatever your views on these communities, it seems as though they're here to stay and we librarians will need to address how we best fit in these environments. To help make sense of all this, a joint project of Northeastern University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences offers an online learning tool, complete with blog, for librarians faculty and students to explore "new media" including these community sites. A post on the AcademicPR listserv describes the project: "Northeastern University, with the help of the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences, has launched a new online learning tool with a supplemental discussion blog. The online learning tool and blog explore "the key concepts in new media and address a host of new media issues including the collapse of distinctions between media forms and the societal effects of new technologies such as blogs, chat rooms, TiVo, and Facebook."'

Categories: neat_trends | new_news | technology_tools


Andy said...

I find social networking phenomenon fascinating. And it is not a fad. The term 'social networking' may well be a fad, but the mechanisms implimented to bring together people and content is most definitely here to stay. We are just trying to define it while it's still in its infancy. Exactly what form it takes over time is the only uncertainty.

I just posted my own article on brand presence on these sites. Hope you find it interesting:

Jill said...

Hey, Andy! You present some very thoughtful commentary/observations regarding social networking - thanks for sharing your ideas!