The 4th Annual Social Networking Conference started today in beautiful San Francisco and naturally, this blog's Bay Area correspondent was there to take in some panels on my favorite topic -- social networking for the enterprise. The show was also running a concurrent track on the ever growing world of mobile social networking.
Keynote by Twitter Engineer
To start things off, we were treated to a keynote presentation by Britt Selvetille, Senior Engineer of the site we all love to complain about -- yet never leave-- Twitter. Selvetille, who has been with Twitter since February of last year geared his keynote towards site creators.His hippie dippie message -- which based on checking Tweets made during the presentation, were well received by this relatively buttoned up audience -- mirrors what Selvettille himself says on his own Twitter profile: that creators should strive to create something beautiful. He also stressed the importance of simplicity and remember the end goal: that we work in social networking because we want to make people better connected.
Mark Brooks on Social Networking for the Business
After that inspiring message, we switched gears and got down to business with Mark Brooks, editor of trade magazine Social Networking Watch. Mark was here to give us a "primer on mobile and business social networking". His talk started out with a history of social networking as we know it, from good old Friendster to its inevitable replacement, MySpace, with its user designed nightmare profiles and eventual relatively important place in the music industry. Brooks did the unthinkable and actually defined what a social network was for his audience: he calls any site in which you can see clear connections between people and where you can connect to others, a social networking site. He expressed regret at the times that mainstream media outlets mess this up and call sites such as Craigslist or Typepad, "social networking" sites. He then gave us some interesting statistics on social networking use throughout the world: South Korea, Brazil and China were top 3 users of social sites, and here in the good old USA, despite our best efforts, MySpace remains the top social network. Since this was a business conference, Brooks also gave some figures on who is actually making money in the space (who knew anyone was?), but theorized that niche sites are where the money is likely to be made. He cited Dopplr, the social networking site for travel aficionados as a likely example.
Mobile Social Networking
Speaking to the mobile element of the conference, Brooks showed us some more pretty graphs and showed that most mobile activity is in e-mail or in sending pictures or video. Use of the mobile web is limited, primarily because the experience is still so lacking in the majority of cell phones. To prove his point, Brooks showed us examples of two different browser experiences: one he liked, Verizon's VZ Navigator and one he didn't like: Sprint's mobile social messaging client, Anthem. His very favorite mobile experience, unsurprisingly is YouTube on Apple's iPhone. Brooks ended his talk much like Selvetille: with a call for simplicity. Or as he eloquently put it -- don't make me think too hard.Keep it simple and the users will come.