Humans are a social people. We like friends, we like people who like us, and more and more we like to belong. Politically, socially, we like to root for teams because it gives us a sense a belonging. There are tools for generating social connection. Bars. A bottle of wine. But these are tools to facilitate sharing.
Great marketing campaigns feed off the desire to belong to a clique. A brand that facilitate a social connection is a brand that will be successful. A campaign that insists, “Try it and you’ll know” plays off the desire to belong.
Networks are a macro way to facilitate sharing. In it’s geekiest usage, a connection of things form a network. A telephone network. A cell phone network. A computer network. Even an airline has a network with hubs that run surprisingly similar to the internet.
If we can agree on the definitions of these two things, then perhaps you’ll agree that e-mail was the first computer-based social network tool. Before e-mail, we were limited in our ability to share funny, intriguing, insightful things. Sure, we could share them at lunch, at parties, over a bottle of wine, or at the so-called water cooler. But we were limited in geographical scope. E-mail, as a tool, ended that limitation because of the network of computers.
As a social network (with ‘friends’ in address books), e-mail is completely ubiquitous. How many people can you name that aren’t part of this social network?
Even better, think of the people you never thought would be a part of this network. My mom comes to mind. In 1997, I would have bet she wouldn’t do e-mail. She not only currently has a blackberry, she’s posted comments on blogs.
Think about the people who are coming online now. Older people who are hearing from their peers about the ability to see grandkids, to find old friends, to share. The entry point of social networks is the e-mail address. That leads to the inevitable forwarding of jokes and 10-year old Urban Legends about cookie recipes and Bill Gates offer of money. (This could explain why they are still out there, to these people, the Bill Gates windfall is new).
As people like him come late to the sharing party, they will quickly discover the limitations of e-mail and move onto more robust tools for sharing.
To me, that’s the reason Social Mediums are popping up with such an alarming regularity. From Facebook, to Digg, YouTube to blogs. Sharing is the new thing. This blog will monitor it.