But this time, things really have been different. Social networking is more than a platform or a new mode of computing it represents a new way of connecting, of doing business, of leading nations, of working, of making friends and renewing friendships.
Consider where the social revolution has taken us in just a few short years:
Economic revitalization and opportunity: Social networking and E2.0 provides a vast new array of tools for seeking out new markets, as well as managing through the tough times. Companies have means to better leverage the knowledge coursing through their corporate veins to turn around distressed lines of business. Employees have tools to ride through tough times, by staying well-connected with their professional networks and potential employers even after they have been laid off. They no longer have to be powerless victims of recessions. (I called it the LIFT phenomenon LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.) Employers have a resource to identify key talent to build their organizations.
Personal outsourcing: For the first time, employees all up and down the line have access to information they need to do their jobs better, advance companies, and advance their careers. John Schmidt so accurately described it as personal outsourcing. Unlike the traditional model for outsourcing firms contracting out functions or processes to an outside firm individuals are starting to outsource their problem-solving and their own professional development, he says. They're leveraging things like wikis, blogs, other collaboration events to collaborate in real-time with other individuals. IT professionals go to Google, Wikipedia, and other online sources of support, Schmidt says. They write out their question in their blog and look for their community to respond and help them. they extended their network of peers to outside the four walls of their company. They're taking their problems and their professional challenges to the world.
Improving the quality and joy and therefore productivity of work: The 9-to-5 rut had been withering on the vine for a number of years, and social networking is putting the final stakes in the industrialized, command-and-control model of management. Productivity is not something that occurs in a cubicle between 9 and 5, it's something that comes in bursts. Social networks and E2.0 give everyone the flexibility and connectivity to respond to those bursts. In the process, the lines between work and personal life have not only just blurred they've disappeared completely. Some Gloomy Guses say that's not a good thing, and that employers will exploit it. I say it's a real good thing. People should be proud of their work, and have the passion raging within them to want to pursue it, think about it, and embed it into their lives. Good riddance, 9 to 5.
Return on investment: A hotly debated topic. But the ROI is there. McKinsey & Company, for one, did countless studies the past few years that proved it. Lauren Fisher, co-founder at Simply Zesty, published a list of companies seeing ROI from various types of social networking. And McKinsey's survey of nearly 1,700 executives, conducted a couple of years back, painted a highly positive picture of the business returns being seen from social networking deployments. Close to seven out of ten respondents (69%) report that their companies have gained measurable business benefits [italics mine], including more innovative products and services, more effective marketing, better access to knowledge, lower cost of doing business, and higher revenues.
(Photo: Connecting corridor at National Gallery of Art, by Joe McKendrick.)