May 22, 2008

Facebook: Who has the time?

FacebookWhen we mention Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social networking platforms in meetings with clients we often hear “Who has the time?”. Indeed, who has the time to maintain a profile, post updates, keep tabs on colleagues when the benefits are so nebulous. There have to be better reasons than altruism for individuals or businesses to participate in online social networks.

Here’s an example of why someone might participate in a social network: A former client wrote an unsolicited recommendation for me on LinkedIn today. When I accepted his recommendation to be displayed on my profile I was immediately presented with a prompt to provide a reciprocal recommendation. I wrote a few sentences about the person right there on the spot.

Social networks thrive on reciprocity. Think your Facebook page is boring? Post stuff on your friend’s walls. Wish your brother was posting more photos of your new nephew? Post your own photos for him to see. Want to beef up your profile in LinkedIn? Recommend your colleagues.

In a virtual world, where the rewards are not directly financial, there have to be other reasons why people participate. Straight out altruism is one reason, but not one you can take to the bank. Peter Kollock has outlined three non-altruistic reasons people might participate:

* Anticipated reciprocity
* Increased recognition
* Sense of efficacy

All three of Kollock’s reasons are interesting to both individuals and to businesses.

What do you think?

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