At the center of the Social Web and the shared activities that define it are the online personas of participants: More than with prior anonymous discussion boards or cloaked personas, it’s an actual identity that is of value in a business context, since it is generally the motivation of an individual to be noticed as such that drives social participation in the first place.
Though detailed personal information is (still) generally not available except to “trusted friends” or colleagues, the use of a real name or photo in one’s social profile is becoming common. Along with any optionally provided information, the result is a basis for understanding who it is that is actually participating.
The profile is therefore the starting point of social interaction, because without it the interaction that would otherwise occur is purely transactional, between the participant and the online application or another unknown party. The existence of a profile or equivalent is, in this sense, what differentiates social platforms and applications from (online) interactive applications. In an interactive application consider a typical website the interaction is between the application and the user.
navigate to a help file, download a PDF, or place an item in a shopping cart. In each of these, the primary activity occurs between a user and an application designed to facilitate a specific task. Identity beyond basic security or commerce validation requirements in this context is of relatively little importance. Because the individual participant is steering the entire process, and because this is typically a task-oriented transaction, the identity of the participant matters little beyond the requirements of the task at hand.
The Profile and the Social Graph
The New Role of the Customer. Looking ahead, The Social Graph will provide an in-depth treatment. For now, understand that the social graph includes the set of profiles that describe. The Social Business members of a social network and the interactions, activities, and relationships that connect specific profiles on the Social Web. In perhaps the simplest view, the social graph defines the way in which one profile is connected to another, through a friendship relationship perhaps.
Because the profile itself is tied to a person however vaguely that profile may have been defined there is a sense of accountability and belonging that translates into shared responsibility between those so connected. This relationship might be highly asymmetric:
Robert Scoble’s individual fans may get more from him than he gets from any one of them. Nonetheless, there is a set of rules and expectations that define these relationships, and in doing so set up the value-based transaction and knowledge exchange that ultimately occurs between participants on the Social Web.
Taking the four basic building blocks together consumption, curation, creation, and collaboration one possible model (there are many) for driving engagement emerge. Engagement can be tapped for marketing purposes by anchoring it within the context of the basic social structures communities, social applications, and similar and then connecting these back to your brand, product, or service. In this section, social applications are the focus.