Social Networking Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Online social networks unify individuals sharing a common interest, or one or more types of relationships like friendship, employee-employer relationship, fan clubs, kinship, etc. Members of a group interact, share thoughts, or work for a cause. Nowadays corporate entities are using online social networking as a tool to reach to their consumers and prospects. Consumers get a common platform where they directly interact with representatives of a company. Popular social networking platforms include:

· Blogs
· Facebook
· Flickr
· Hi5
· LinkedIn
· MySpace
· Twitter
· YouTube

The social networking accounts are usually handled by PR team members. They will be prompt in answering to the queries, reaching out to the potential customers and giving away latest information about the company. The greatest advantage of this media is its interactive nature. This virtue fetches great credibility on the products and services of a company. The PR team can help the management in either help fixing up a deal, replying to query, catering to an aggrieved customer, reaching out to the potential customers, letting the stakeholders know the status of the company or a particular project, and sharing the joy of success etc. Social networking if used as a tool of marketing can help the company generate great deal of revenue as well. Discounts, offers, packages etc can be updated over social networking sites, which will reach the consumers in minutes. It plays an important role in Reputation management as well. There are instances where in companies were made to apologize publicly after posting socially inappropriate content. Café Coffee Day had a tough time after tweeting over Mahatma Gandhi, and hurting the sentiments of Indians. They had to apologize in public in less than an hour to cool down the storm.

Social networks also reveal how organizations interact with each other. These interactions may include informal connections that link executives together, as well as associations and connections between individual employees at different organizations. Hence it is very important to be very cautious while interacting as well as giving away information.

Social networking started with Bulletin Board System (BBS). These were online meeting places where users communicated with a central system, and with other users using messages; they could also download files or games. BBSes were popular for two decades starting from 1980s. CompuServe, another avenue for social interactions was developed during late 1980s. It allowed its members to share files, send private messages and access news and events. AOL (America Online) was the first to give shape to social networking sites. It had member profiles and member-created communities. Yahoo at the opposition had Amazon ready, which dealt with selling of books online.

In 1995 a social networking site that fits our perception came in to existence, Classmates.com. This site enabled people to locate their old school or college friends. This site was followed by many others including SixDegrees.com. AsianAvenue.com, and BlackPlanet.com etc. Later, the milestones in the history of social networking were laid by Friendster (2002), LinkedIn (2003), MySpace (2003) Facebook (2004) and Twitter (2006) in 2000s.

The future of Social Networking seems bright in terms of competition, as there are many other social networking sites coming up, focusing on increasing demand in help maintaining interpersonal relationships and growing technologies. Varying interests of people, their diverse nature and at the same time the global phenomenon named globalization makes people to have profile in various social networking site. According to Gina Bianchini, CEO of Ning, “In ten years we’ll see millions of social networks for every niche, need, language, location and passion,” she said. “I disagree that people want a single profile–they want to have identities for different social networks.”

– Priya Chandrakanth
Corporate Communications Executive
Compare Infobase Limited

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