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 and the Social Graph
The Social Graph will provide an in-depth treatment. For now, understand that the social graph includes the set of profiles that describe T the Social Business Ecosystem members of a social network and the interactions, activities, and relationships that connect specific profiles on the Social Web. In perhaps the simplest view, the social graph defines the way in which one profile is connected to another, through a friendship relationship perhaps.
Because the profile itself is tied to a person however vaguely that profile may have been defined there is a sense of accountability and belonging that translates into shared responsibility between those so connected. This relationship might be highly asymmetric. Robert Scoble’s individual fans may get more from him than he gets from any one of them.
Nonetheless, there is a set of rules and expectations that define these relationships, and in doing so set up the value-based transaction and knowledge exchange that ultimately occurs between participants on the Social Web.
Taking the four basic building blocks together consumption, curation, creation, and collaboration one possible model (there are many) for driving engagement emerges. Engagement can be tapped for marketing purposes by anchoring it within the context of the basic social structures communities, social applications, and similar and then connecting these back to your brand, product, or service. In this section, social applications are the focus.
The basic process of engagement begins with content consumption and builds up to collaboration between participants in the creative process. This is the kind of activity that binds community members together. Taking off on this, there are specific social applications forums, collaborative tools, contests, and games among them that you can implement under your own brand to lead your participants through the steps of engagement that drive your business.