This chapter concludes Part I and the introduction to social technology applied to business: it pulls together the elements of the social business ecosystem—profiles, applications, communities and forums, and more—and thereby provides the basis for understanding how to connect current and potential customers with the inner workings of your business or organization, where collaborative processes can take hold and drive long-term benefits.
At the center of the Social Web and the shared activities that define it are the online personas of participants: More than with prior anonymous discussion boards or cloaked personas, it’s an actual identity that is of value in a business context, since it is generally the motivation of an individual to be noticed as such that drives social participation in the first place.
Though detailed personal information is (still) generally not available except to “trusted friends” or colleagues, the use of a real name or photo in one’s social profile is becoming common. Along with any optionally provided information, the result is a basis for understanding who it is that is actually participating.
The profile is therefore the starting point of social interaction, because without it the interaction that would otherwise occur is purely transactional, between the participant and the online application or other unknown party. The existence of a profile or equivalent is, in this sense, what differentiates social platforms and applications from (online) interactive applications. In an interactive application—consider a typical website—the interaction is between the application and the user: navigate to a help file, download PDF place an item in a shopping cart.
In each of these, the primary activity occurs between a user and an application designed to facilitate a specific task. Identity—beyond basic security or commerce validation requirements—in this context is of relatively little importance. Because the individual participant is steering the entire process, and because this is typically a task-oriented transaction, the identity of the participant matters little beyond the requirements of the task at hand.
In a social context, by comparison, the interaction occurs between the participants as much or more than it does (overtly) between a specific participant and the application or platform. It’s not just that someone is doing something as with a transaction site: On the social web, that person wants to be noticed (talked about) or joined with while doing it. Basic tasks aside—uploading a photo, for example—the majority of the interactions involve profile-based connections or exchanges:
Curating a photo
Extending and confirming a friend request, modifying a wiki document, or sharing a review. Each of these requires a certain degree of assurance that the identity of the other person(s) involved is reasonably well understood, and at least partly so that the person committing the action will be noticed by someone for having done that particular thing