Social Network Members – Why People Join | Part 6

Social Network Members

Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business was my read on the plane ride back from hiking in Big Sur this week. I highly recommend the book (and the hikes). You’ll be hearing more about the ideas it sparked.

Why People Become Social Network Members

In a section on recruiting members for your social network, author Larry Weber summarizes why people join social networks:

1. To meet people and communicate with others, either those they know or new people

2. To entertain themselves, especially with photos, music or videos

3. To learn something new about topics of interest

4. To influence others by expressing opinions in a forum

(His source is a report titled “S-Commerce: Beyond MySpace and YouTube; a New Approach for Brands to Participate in Social Networking”)

Membership Challenges of Social Networks

The challenge for those starting social networks is how to promote some or many of those activities within their communities. I’m brainstorming here…

To ENCOURAGE MEETING PEOPLE, networks have search features to enable members to find those they know. These same search functions also may allow them to search member profiles by keyword/topic, for example, to see if anyone in the community likes caramels or has used SCORE to build their businesses. Participants can link to others, forming virtual bonds. The ability to create and interact in groups also makes it easy to congregate and share with like-minded people.

The ENTERTAINMENT MECHANISMS are obvious. Networks can facilitate the uploading of and linking to videos, music and pictures. Widgets are also entertaining. For example, I seem to enjoy listing books I am reading or have read in IREAD on Facebook. I use a widget to “poke” others to draw their attention to my profile. Friends of mine play games like Scrabulous (a version of scrabble) on Facebook, which surely qualifies as entertainment.

LEARNING SOMETHING NEW? I’m trying to think how networks makes this happen. (My ex-librarian’s mind goes to lists of topic references and links, but that seems to occur elsewhere.) As I read others’ profiles, I learn what they like, where they go, what entertains them. You might argue that local news feeds on your network (“Status updates” in Facebook or “Network Updates” in Linkedin) encourage this knowledge, meeting both the objectives of learning something and entertainment. Using LinkedIn’s search function, I learn information useful for business networking, like who works for what company, and who knows someone I want to know. I can also use its forum features to post a question and learn the answer from others in the network.

The ability to INFLUENCE OTHERS happens differently on Facebook and Linkedin. In the former, I interact with others and indirectly influence them by posting comments and opinions on their “wall.” The ability for members to create personal blogs that are integrated into the network (I’m thinking about my SCORE Chicago Ning site) also provide a means of self-expression and influence. And I use widgets, for example, to give others a “book chuck” and notify them of a book I am reading. On LinkedIn, the ability to influence is more structured, as I can participate in the Answers section of the site, where I offer my opinions on the questions posted both others. Furthermore, I get rated on my responses by the community. Ratings, polls, and reviews are clearly mechanisms of influence.

Help me out here, please, with a comment. Why do people join, and how can those of us starting social networks stoke those fires?

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