What Can Business Learn from Social Media?

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Blogs, wikis, folksonomies, social networks, citizen journalists, photo sharing, file sharing, MP3 sharing, collaborative technology and napsterization – there seems to be a trend here. Online technology is centering on the exchange of data and information.
On “PostSecret”:http://postsecret.blogspot.com, people share their deepest, darkest secrets. On “Flickr”:http://www.flickr.com, people share their photos. On “LinkedIn”:http://www.linkedin.com, people share their business contacts. Pretty soon, there won’t be anything that remains unshared.
Traditional business isn’t about sharing. It’s about signing non-disclosure documents and protecting information. Any information that is to be made publicly available is carefully combed over by PR reps and then double-checked by corporate lawyers. Patents provide another barrier to protect information: the public has access, but can’t use it. Information can be sold, too. Newspapers now charge for online subscriptions. Business models for many information providers rely on paid subscriptions. It would be ludicrous to give it away.
Or would it?


The biggest issue business faces today is that information is readily available online and it is usually free. Music is free. Software is free. Advice is free. The news is free. It used to be that free equaled “you get what you pay for”, but that isn’t always the case today. Social networks are using rating systems and link exchanges to weed out the bad information. Websites like “Craigslist”:http://www.craigslist.com, built by a guy who just wanted to provide a free listing for the people (and out of a labour of love), spread fast across the network.
Thus, if people are getting (and giving) everything for free, who is making money? How could you make money? The music industry is having a difficult time with this issue right now. They are trying to stop progress legally. This isn’t winning them any sympathizers.
Can anyone stop the “Cluetrain”:http://www.cluetrain.com ? Definitely not. Is there money to be made in social media? I’m not sure. However, every business _can_ benefit from participating in social media, but how they use it will be unique. There _are_ resources available to help guide your business through the change. Some of these resources may already work for you. If not, I’ve listed a few more below.
Articles:
“Wikis, Weblogs and RSS: What Does the New Internet Mean for Business?”:http://www.informit.com/articles/article.asp?p=400030&rl=1
“We are the Web: Wired Magazine”:http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.08/tech.html?pg=2&topic=tech&topic_set=
“What Business Can Learn from Open Source”:http://www.paulgraham.com/opensource.html
Websites:
“Napsterization”:http://napsterization.org/index.htm
“Micropersuasion: Steve Rubel”:http://www.micropersuasion.com/
“Buzzmachine: Jeff Jarvis”:http://www.buzzmachine.com
“Wikipedia”:http://www.wikipedia.org (a good place to look up technology terms…and it was created by a collaborative public effort)
Upcoming Conferences:
“BlogOn 2005: Social Media Summit”:http://www.blogonevent.com/blogon2005/

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One thought on “What Can Business Learn from Social Media?

  1. Ken Schafer

    I would just like to echo Tara’s recommendation to read Paul Graham’s “What Business Can Learn From Open Source”. This is a really fantastic, eye-opening article.
    I’m new to Paul’s work but since hearing him on an IT Conversations podcast I’ve become a big fan.

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