People always need to know more… is Facebook always going to be enough?

People in general need to know just about enough about anything that surrounds them. Some of this is called is gossip, some known as current affairs and some as networking. It makes knowledgeable people interesting. It makes it easy for this lot of interesting people to have a thousand friends on Facebook – connecting with everybody, sharing photos, making events popular by attending them and YouTube videos a success because they post them on their walls.

Facebook Creator ZUCKERBERG (Photo by Andrew Feinberg - Everystockphoto.com)
Facebook Creator ZUCKERBERG (Photo by Andrew Feinberg - Everystockphoto.com)

A decade ago, the Internet was nicknamed the Information Superhighway. The world talked about building an Information Society. Companies talked about how many Knowledge Workers they employed. In the world we live in, you don’t ask somebody who comes in for an interview if they have Internet at home. You don’t ask if they use email, if they’re familiar with how to write a document on a computer, or if they are on Facebook. People don’t send in typewritten CVs through the mail. They apply online, or send a PDF through email.

At the same rate that people have become more connected to the Internet, computing resources have also become ever so more accessible. Using computing power to extract intelligence has become infintely more possible. We now need not think how much such power we need: we can hook to a grid that gives us much as we need, when we need it. Virtualised computing resources, available on demand, are sometimes referred to as cloud computing. The information superhighway has become a reality not because you can Google up just about anything, but because all this data is now connected. There is also so much computing resource that we can crunch it into the useful information we need, when we need it.

So, begs the question: When will this infinite computing resource be used to connect data and people intelligently? When will this be done so that it matters not where the data is stored, what email account you used to upload it, whether you tagged that person as a friend on Facebook or whether it’s on the Googlemail contacts?

Today: You meet somebody at a party. A month or so later, you need a graphic designer and you remember that the person you met at the party was a freelance designer with her experience at one of the big publishing houses in Milan. You remember just the first name: Inga. So you go to Facebook, look up the friend who organised the party. You look up his friends, and in it you find Inga. Then you add her as a friend. When she accepts the friendship request, you can send her a message asking to meet and discuss the project.

Tomorrow: You meet Inga at the party. A month later you need a graphic designer – quick – and you think she might be interested. So you start composing a new email… “Hi Inga, we met at Mike’s housewarming party…”. Email will match which Mike in all your contacts had an event called “housewarming” to which both you and an ‘Inga’ were invited. Privacy settings permitting, email will immediately connect you with Inga and offer to add her to your contacts. Inga has shared some photos of the party which are intelligently matched with your profile picture: you are prompted to validate them and if you confirm that it’s you in the photo they will also be published to your wall.

In February’s post about Usability I wrote about digital natives who need product usability to evolve and adapt to their expectations. Facebook has stopped being innovative and, at this rate, even if it now prides 500,000-plus users, it will be replaced by any future social engine that will make it possible for information to be truly ubiquitous. The next big thing will be the Facebook that is also a Google of what I call common intelligence.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Juan Pablo for the inspiration.

Socialising with your clients!

Socialising with your clients is not as we know it any more. Instead of bar rooms we use chat rooms, instead of meeting up we use social media. Do you want proof? Flip through your digital equivalent of your address book and see just how many of your contacts you have never met in the flesh.

Mark, the copywriter and usability “scholar” at the office, pointed me to i-Tech’s latest piece about the applicability of social networking to businesses. Gege Gatt is one of the founders of ICON, one of the web solutions companies in Malta, and i-Tech’s interview with the man gives plenty of good advice to anybody who is thinking to put his business online. The article in i-Tech should in fact have spelt this clearer – do not go online just by having a website.

Social Networking is now essential to any business, not just those whose business channel is the Internet – like Ryanair, but also Ford and Coca-Cola. It’s also as valid for the very small companies. And, that’s why it makes sense for Malta-based companies to take the plunge. Plenty of Web-marketeers on the islands and, if you are reading this and you haven’t started looking, then you should. I just thought of telling you to go to yellow pages and type “Internet Marketing” but sadly, there is no such section (what??!!). So try Google.

I must refer you to a relatively old online post which talks about the full cycle of engagement in social networking. And, that is one written by Valeria Maltoni. It is based on the work that Gary Hayes and Laurel Papworth did in 2008 and I find it very useful as it tells you where to start and follows the path all the way to measuring how good you’re fairing. The steps are Involve, Create, Discuss, Promote, Measure and you should read more about them here and here.

Good luck :)