January 04, 2009

Are We Too Connected to Social Media?

By Ken Stewart of ChangeForge (Twitter/FriendFeed)

Is Big Brother Watching You?

Do you ever feel like you are too wired? Do you find yourself using a password manager to keep up with passwords to the dozens of social media and web sites to which you have subscribed? Dan Keldsen posted a very interesting piece that really got me thinking on linking all of these various social media types together to form multi-dimensional and very personal points-of-presence (POP’s) for every individual.

Dan writes:
They are a meta-meta-aggregator in the sense that they are aggregating (collecting) information from multiple sources, and that their underlying data sources can also be aggregating information from multiple sources (such as ZoomInfo). This extends the reach and richness of the information that they are able to pull back on behalf of users of their system, in a similar fashion to the functionality of federated search or universal search in more traditional enterprise search.

In an ideal world, or at least with the smarter salespeople and marketers, such information will help to weed out who the appropriate people are to engage in more targeted discussions, and to engage in informed conversations of the "2.0 age" rather than in continuing to hammer out cold-calls and blanket, un-personalized (or badly personalized) mass-marketing.
Though Dan's article is referring specifically to a product called SalesView by InsideView (a CRM mash-up that aggregates social media information about potential clients), I can't help but notice we seem to be drowning in a sea of social media outlets. For instance, Twitter is interesting and a social medium to which many people subscribe. However, it begs a question in the context of its underlying purpose, “What is the end-game for this type of social experiment?”
[Dan contends] social networking is not purely about person-to-person connections, or in providing a virtual watercooler (or virtual voyeur perhaps) view into your "friends" (peers, co-workers, etc.) but also for the ability of participants IN the network to use the data within that network to become smarter in the ways that they interact with the people in that network.
Bluntly put, information about people abounds through many different channels, all of which were never before captured outside of family photo albums or epitaphs. Now that all of this information exists in a connected world, it is becoming a very relevant question to ask, “What can be done with all of this information about you? Is your information usable or abusable in its new formats?”
All of this latent "social information" is buried in the heap of individual silos both inside and outside of the control of any one [corporation], even deeper ... than "normal" electronic information is.
InsideView has a few ideas, according to Dan, albeit a bit Minority Report-ish. However, let's assume we all have the best intentions of using this information to the benefit of mankind; it makes me wonder whether this medium will connect us in ways never before dreamed or allow us to conduct plastic surgery at-will to our public persona? And just who decides someone, or some organization, should be granted access to a given network of POP's?
For now, everyone is having fun, and rightly so. By all accounts, this is a golden age of connectedness not seen in centuries past. Even as we marvel at our own magnificence, I can't help but step back, take a breath and ask if we are all just a little too connected?

Ken Stewart’s blog, ChangeForge.com, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology. To learn more about Ken, visit his about page. You may also find Ken on FriendFeed, Twitter, and LinkedIn.