People Will Talk -- About Social Networking. A Lot.

by , Feb 27, 2008, 12:30 PM
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It is a week and 41 new Facebook friends since my first appearance as Mediapost's Social Media Insider. (I received a few LinkedIn connection requests, but no MySpace friend requests. And none for Plaxo, either.) Some of my new friends, like Entertainment Weekly's Scott Donaton and Forrester's Charlene Li, are actually friends rediscovered through the social graph. Others, like a guy who updated his status 10 minutes ago to say that he is talking Flex with some developers, are people I don't know. But, I assume that he read my column and took my pitch for Facebook friends to heart -- as so many of you did.

So, if my original group of 54 friends from last week was a somewhat loose collection of people in my professional circle (mostly people who I've hung out with ever since I started writing about this Internet thang), now it's warped into something almost indistinguishable. I wanted all these friends and yet I don't actually know them. Such is the peculiarity of friendships in the virtual world.

I certainly wasn't expecting this much response to my first column. But greetings to all my new Facebook friends, and thanks to the (at least) 30 other people who emailed or commented at the bottom of the column itself. Say the phrase "social networking" in a crowded room, and I guess it really gets people talking.

If you read last week's column, you know I decided to come clean and make clear that, as intrigued as I am by social networks and social media, I also have a lot of skepticism about parts of this world. Huge valuations based on nascent business models? I've seen that movie before. What I thought I'd get back by attempting to deflate the hype was a ream of preachy emails complaining about how I didn't get it, how I didn't understand that social media would rewrite relationships in the real world, kill mass market advertising forever-- and perhaps bring world peace.

Instead, what I got back were emails that read more like confessionals, as many of my new friends admitted that they, too, were skeptical. Wrote one woman, "I definitely appreciate your candor about feeling both intrigued and skeptical about social media." Said another, "Although I'm not a 40-something soccer mom, and I am a social media strategist, I *totally* get what you mean by 'skeptical'."

Said another, "I have to admit, I am on Facebook quite a bit, and I have not engaged in any of those quizzes, games or polls. I think I was turned off by one floating around about a year ago that measured whether you were a 'better person' than someone else. How can a social network tell, and if I lost, would I really want that broadcast to the world?"

Sheesh. Great question.

I guess I'm not alone.

While I leave you pondering that, I'm off to the final morning of the Interactive Advertising Bureau conference to see a few people in the flesh.

Next week I promise to write more about the business implications of social networking. Enough yammering on about me and my new friends.

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