Can Social Media Replace Face-to-Face Networking? Part One

Part One

As a classically trained scientist, I find it amusing when people say that there are no “killer apps” left to be discovered or created. What could possibly be invented that is exponentially better than what we have now? The human mind is always defining better ways to do things that we need and so there will always be new killer apps that come along. Are they for everyone? No, not at all. Can they benefit certain people in specific situations? Sure, depending upon needs, wants and costs.

When Sony came out with the Walkman for audio cassette tapes in 1979, it revolutionized how we listen to music. The concept of portable personal music later evolved into CDs, DVDs and MP3 players. Each new version was a stunning commercial success that reclassified its predecessors as buggy whips in the market as old replaced new. Now we see related concepts such as the Kindle revolutionizing book reading. Where will it end? It won’t!

In the world of Referral Marketing AKA Word of Mouth Referrals, we have a recent advancement known as Social Media. It started with online programs such as MySpace and Facebook and now includes hundreds of variations of ways to create online communities that share business and personal information with friends and strangers. Social media started getting serious in the 1990’s when people gained entry into the Internet as they acquired broadband service. It actually started in the 1980’s using BBSs on dialup modems but the hardware technology was too limiting and the depth of users was too small. At the time, face-to-face old fashioned networking was the skill you had to master. Referral organizations such as BNI (Business Network International) started in California in 1985 to refine those techniques and promote a successful method of building business.

Into the 2000’s, the penetration of broadband Internet continued to grow and a critical mass of users developed. Social networking became more and more popular as high school and college students made MySpace famous for being an almost exclusive social club for meeting each other online. For a while it was the opposite of the bars and pubs they couldn’t legally get into – you had to be a student to join MySpace and your parents weren’t allowed in. How cool was that? If Mommy and Daddy couldn’t see what was going on, then you could say what you really felt and post pictures online without the consequences being a factor. Party time 24 hours a day.

Eventually, just as if you heard the raucous party next door at all hours of the night,  adults wanted to see what was going on. They recognized that having an Internet community could be an interesting entity to create and use. Business people saw it as a way to attract new customers. Friends and family could use it to keep in touch better than Instant Messaging such as AIM, ICQ and MSN Messenger. Developers ran wild with new techniques and purposes for their versions of how people could connect with people.

The table was set. The people were ready. Businesses were willing to invest significant funds for development. The high school and college kids who were so happy with MySpace were grown up and in the workforce and in position to write new software. Their imagination was about to blossom and fill the niche with hundreds of ways to connect with each other. Opportunity was about to meet innovation and talent. The spectre of profits didn’t hurt, especially considering the size of the potential worldwide market. We call the concept “SaaS” (Software as a Service) today and it changed the way we use computers. OMG! It’s a killer app, dude!

In Part Two we will investigate how Baby Boomers differ from later generations that they trained and educated.

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