Through Centrality Journal‘s weblog post on InformationWeek Curious About Social Network Business Model by Lynda Radosevich I have bumped into Thomas Claburn‘s InformationWeek news article titled Social Networking Connects For Businesses where Thomas questions the business value of social networking companies since they are not having concrete business models to rely on. And I must say that after having read both Thomas’ and Lynda’s further commentary on the article itself I tend to agree with Lynda. I do not see the need for social networking companies to have concrete business models when they are already providing some incredible business value. At least from a Knowledge Management perspective.
You may be wondering how, right? Well, in my opinion, by providing a unique characteristic that not many other fully funded business models have been able to provide all along for a number of years: ability to facilitate the creation of connections between end-users. Indeed, all of the different social networking companies that have been flourishing at the moment are actually trying to fill in a gap in the current business models: facilitate the creation of those connections in order to help end-users collaborate closer with one another and share / exchange knowledge thanks to those relationships that these offerings are constantly promoting.
Indeed, whether we like it or not, more and more of these end-users / knowledge workers are actually starting to make use of those social networking companies because they are actually finding out how they facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing, specially when working in multiple distributed teams where it would become much more difficult to establish relationships than through a face to face interaction. These social networking offerings are the primary reason why social capital is becoming increasingly much more popular than ever before and therefore how more and more businesses are seeing how their employees are now more keen to go out there, engage in the conversations, share what they know and look for that all forgotten balance between a explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge exchange.
And by the looks of it we are seeing how it is starting to pay off. Knowledge Management is becoming increasingly popular again and not just because of the different traditional knowledge repositories that everyone is used to but more thanks to applications like Wikis, weblogs, social bookmarking offerings, podcasts, web syndication, VoIP and so forth that are providing knowledge workers with the opportunity of collaborating and sharing content on the fly and without any further intervention from many of the traditional cumbersome processes we have been exposed to all along. Indeed, power to the people when sharing what they know with whom they connect, wherever they may be.
So there you go, there is your business model for social networking companies. Initially they may not be having robust business models but they surely are providing an incredible business value that somehow it is not going by unnoticed. And if not look at the good number of recent acquisitions in that particular space. Do social networking offerings need right from the start business models for the value they are providing already? I doubt it. They are already proving themselves as key enablers to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration and all of that without even having a business model. So imagine what they would be like if they would have it.