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The Growing Power of Social Networking Sites on the Internet

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Alex Carrick

Positions:
Alex Carrick is Chief Economist for Reed Construction Data. He specializes in economic forecasting and statistical services.

Economists

Social networking sites on the Internet may seem like a strange subject for a blog usually dedicated to construction economics, but please bear with me. There is relevance. One of the next big things in information technology or high-tech will be social networking sites. Yes, I know these have been around for a while and I may seem out of touch by only mentioning them now. However, they came to the greater consciousness of us all more emphatically during the aftermath of the election in Iran. We were getting our updates from citizens who were text messaging what was happening on the streets of Tehran to CNN. That was the most dramatic example of their usefulness. Here’s some background.

Social networking sites on the Internet may seem like a strange subject for a blog usually dedicated to construction economics, but please bear with me. There is relevance. One of the next big things in information technology or high-tech will be social networking sites.

Yes, I know these have been around for a while and I may seem out of touch by only mentioning them now. However, they came to the greater consciousness of us all more emphatically during the aftermath of the election in Iran. We were getting our updates from citizens who were text messaging what was happening on the streets of Tehran to CNN. That was the most dramatic example of their usefulness. Here’s some background.

There seem to be three primary social networking sites at this time.

1) LinkedIn – besides being a gathering place, it has a large resume and job hunting aspect to it.

2) Facebook – this is mainly social, but the corporate sector is increasingly establishing a presence.

3) Twitter – this has almost anyone writing about almost anything.

MySpace and YouTube also have significant followings, but they may be geared a little more towards the purely social and they mostly offer material designed to entertain.

Powerful Tool

The 140-or-less character restriction for Twitter entries has earned them the reputation of being frivolous. This is not the case at all. Twitter, with its accompanying message and search commands, plus its “followers” and “followings” is a powerful tool. Furthermore, the short messages often include a URL link to another longer story or blog entry.

Twitter traffic is largely comprised of chatter by individuals, news reports from the media and product updates from corporations. It also includes self-promotion and spam.

To go along with Twitter, there are other tools such as Tweetdeck, which organizes browsing in a more convenient format and “bit.ly” which provides a means to shorten URL addresses. There are also the story-rating agencies such as Digg and Newsvine.

The case has been made by others that Twitter may one day become the chief source for instant news information. Searches on Twitter may even supplant Google when it comes to getting the most up-to-the-minute insight on developing situations. That was certainly the case during the Iran post-election crisis. This is just speculation at this time and Google is likely to have its own views on the matter. It will all be sorted out in time.

Alternative Universe

From one perspective, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can be viewed as the modern equivalent of the water cooler. They are also present-day versions of ham radio. In this regard, it is noteworthy that contact is with people all over the world. Such sites can also simply be seen as presenting an alternative universe. This last point warrants elaboration.

You can be working, shopping or eating a meal and the reality around you is likely to be relatively tranquil versus the chaotic “noise” that is proceeding in cyberspace. Having said this, however, it is true that the two worlds – the solid everyday corporeal one and the other one in the clouds – are increasingly bumping into each other and overlapping.

One primary reason for this is smart phones. Forward-thinking corporations are getting on the bandwagon. Ads are being specifically designed for mobile listening devices. If your company does not play a role on Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook, you should consider it. The corporate presence in social networking is growing by leaps and bounds.

Alex Carrick

Find Canadian construction-related economic articles in Canadian Construction Market News and in the Economic Outlook section of Daily Commercial News. Mr. Carrick also has a lifestyle blog that can be reached by clicking here.

by Alex Carrick

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