Brian Balfour from the Social Degree Blog talks about the various qualities of a social network. He proposes three broad characteristics that great social networks share and his readers add three others.

  1. Personality/Identity: “The best of social networks have their own personality or identity, just like a living being.”
  2. Fun: “They are a place to socially interact with other people”
  3. Genuine: “user interactions are for the best of the community”
  4. Utilitarian: “for example the knowledge sharing on Delicious in the form of shared bookmarks” (proposed by Andrew Weissman)
  5. Self promotion: “Today’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors (…) By its very name, MySpace encourages attention-seeking, as does YouTube.” (Via CNN, proposed by Lafayette Howell)
  6. Trusted: “I think people keep coming back to a site because they can trust the information that is on it is genuine” (proposed by Robert Franklin)

What it means: two thoughts. First, in my personal experience, the utilitarian aspect of social tools always win. I’m completely addicted to Linkedin and I’m starting to appreciate more and more del.icio.us (3 years after everyone else!). Might be because they help me a lot in my professional life. Second, I think the social networking phenomenon within the teen and young adult communities is really all about quantifying popularity. The number of “friends” you have on MySpace (for example) shows others how popular and “in” you are. To a certain extent, it validates your worth vs. your peers. This would be the “Self-promotion” aspect discussed above.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project just released a new report about tagging. The survey has found that “28% of Internet users have tagged or categorized content online such as photos, news stories or blog posts. On a typical day online, 7% of internet users say they tag or categorize online content. “

What is a tag?

According to Wikipedia, “a tag is a (relevant) keyword or term associated with or assigned to a piece of information (like picture, article, or video clip), thus describing the item and enabling keyword-based classification of information it is applied to.”

Who are the taggers?

According to the survey, “Taggers look like classic early adopters of technology. They are more likely to be under age 40, and have higher levels of education and income. Taggers are considerably more likely to have broadband connections at home, rather than dial-up connections. Men and women are equally likely to be taggers, while online minorities are a bit more likely than whites to be taggers.”

In addition, there is also an interesting interview with David Weinberger (co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto). Asked “What started the current interest in tagging? He answers: “First, tagging lets us organize the vastness of the Web. Second, tagging is social.” He’s also working on a new book: Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder

(found via David Weinberger’s blog)

What it means: Those numbers are definitely higher than I thought they would be. Ever since I started blogging (a short three months ago!), I’ve discovered the power of tags. Not only do tags help organize your content, they help others find your content through search engines or other sites like Technorati or Del.icio.us. Coming from the business directory (“Yellow Pages”) world, I believe the future marriage of taxonomy and tags (folksonomy) will create a much stronger online categorization system. As more and more people start tagging content, any web site owner with structured data needs to allow their users to tag the information. BTW, David’s book seems fascinating. I wonder if one of my readers has received an advanced copy and could comment on it?

Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land dropped a bomb on the SEO world last Wednesday by firmly putting a new stake in the ground:

“…over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself more and more thinking that if you want to go beyond Google as a search marketer, the other search engines that matter first are the “social media search engines.” After them come the other major general purpose search engines like Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask.”

“Search marketers should tap into search engines — and that includes the social media search engines. Neil Patel’s Forget ABCs – The Social Media Alphabet Is DNRS (…) is an excellent introduction to some of these players, for those not up on social media search engines and social media optimization. (…) They are traffic powerhouses you can’t ignore.”

What it means: Wow! Social Media (Digg, Techmeme, Del.icio.us, possibly MySpace, etc.) are now considered to be the second biggest source of traffic after Google for certain types of sites (news, blogs, etc.). Which means Social Media Optimization (discussed in the Praized blog in November) should now be a key element of your traffic strategy. Are you properly leveraging these sites?

Bob Heyman covers five social search sites in MediaPost’s Search Insider (sign-up required).

“The premise (of social search) is that the next big thing is to harness the power of communities to generate more relevant search recommendations.”

1) Yoono “describes itself as “instant people-rated Web,” meaning, that when you surf, Yoono displays a list of Web pages that others have classified as “favorites.” It works with a toolbar or plug-in. See more in TechCrunch.

2) Gravee “is a social search application that differs from others in that it is trying to change the economics of search by sharing advertising revenue with content owners, with a rev-share business model. The site shares up to 70% of all ad revenues with the natural listings that appear on the same page when an ad occurs, as well as with the referring Web site.” here is TechCrunch’s take on it.

3) Jookster “is a community-driven social search tool that works primarily through the browser toolbar. Jookster collects photos, video and bookmarks from sites like YouTube, Flickr and del.icio.us into one place that can be searched, saved and shared with friends. ” Mashable covered their relaunch a month ago.

4) StumbleUpon “employs user ratings to form collaborative opinions on Web site quality with the goal of helping you “stumble upon” great sites. When you “stumble,” you only see pages that friends and like-minded “Stumblers” have commented on. ” Many people love StumbleUpon (they have over 1M users), see the description here.

5) Otavo “describes itself as not just a search engine, but a community of users and staff members who participate in your quest to find answers quicker. As an Otavo user, you can ask any question or seek a quest of your choice.” TechCrunch covered them a while back.

What it means: Not sure what to think of “social search” yet. I think it might work for a very specialized topic or as a recommendation tool but I’m not sure you can be become a truly successful generalist search engine using a community (unless you count Yahoo Answers in this category). of these 5, I had heard of Otavo (because they’re based in Ontario, Canada) and StumbleUpon. The later is generating a lot of good buzz and is already a great source of traffic for many sites. I wonder if social search is more a feature than it is a destination… It could be a great add-on to any shopping or directory sites (which is a little bit what Aggregate Knowledge does).

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