The “social in Social Web implies more than technology, more than the networks where people post photos and review books: It’s less about the what and more about how, why, and among whom that distinguishes the Social Web from earlier, transactional online technologies. The term “social” refers to the ways in which people connect friends, requiring a two-way acknowledgment of a relationship are different than more casually associated followers, for example.
The term social also provides insight into why they are connecting perhaps to learn something, to share an experience, or to collaborate on a project. As such, a great place to start learning about the Social Web and its connection to business is with the basic relationships that are created between participants in social networks and social applications, and to then look at the types of interactions between them that follow.
It is the relationships and interactions between participants that connect community members and define the social graph, a term of art that means simply who you are (e.g., your profile), who you are connected to (e.g., your friends or followers), and what you are doing. The social graph is to building relationships what ordinary links between websites are to building an information network: They define the social connections. Without the social graph without the profiles and friends, followers, and similar relations that form between them online social communities are reduced to task-oriented, self-serve utilities much as a basic website or shopping catalog might present itself.
A quick way to see this is to think about a site like Yelp. Yelp provides review, ratings, venue, and schedule information…all of the things needed to plan an evening or other outing. This is the kind of activity that an individual might do or an individual might do on behalf of a small, known group of friends with a specific personal goal in mind: Find a good restaurant and then see a show, etc. That’s the basic utility that Yelp provides, and by itself it isn’t particularly social with the allowance of the shared ratings and reviews that Yelp offers.
People Want to Make Friends
Friending the mutually acknowledged linking of profiles within or across defined communities is the cornerstone of collaborative social interaction. Just as in real life, the various relationships that exist between profiles (people) often imply certain aspects of both the nature of the expected interactions and the context for them. Relationships at a club or church are different in context and therefore in expectation from relationships in a workplace, for example.
When someone elects to follow another on Twitter, or inside an employee network built on a platform like SocialText, there is likewise an expectation of value received in exchange for the follower relationship, all within the context of the network in which this relationship has been established. People create relationships to exchange value, at some level, with others in and through that relationship.
Compared with a website where navigating a self-service library of content is a typical interaction path—the extension of a link between profiles and the formation of a relationship between the people they represent is a fundamental requirement for value exchange between community members. Without these links, people can post content, rate submissions, and similar but to what end? YouTube is a great example The Social Graph The social graph is the collection of links, relationships, interactions and other connections that comprise a social network. Wikipedia has more on social graphs.