Perhaps it’s because I like technology, because I was born into an age of unprecedented technological advancement, because I’m curious or simply because I’m too lazy to keep in touch with folks, but I have to say I love social networks. For me, they’re a tool that allows me to keep folks up to date and to keep track of what friends and acquaintances are up to.
The whole thing was brought home to me recently when I was tinkering with ancestry.com and talking to my family about my extended family. On a whim I had a quick look in Facebook for my Mum’s cousin and found her, alive and well in Australia. A few messages on Facebook later and I discovered she’d had a few children and there were grandkids dotted around Australia and the United States. The real value of Facebook came home to me when I was able to sit down with my 3-year-old boy and show him the pictures distant family members had shared and show him where they lived. All this and I can keep them up to date without doing more than I do today - got to love Facebook for that fire and forget, status update to everyone feature.
So why use the Facebook Like button? I think about the Facebook Like button in a similar way to Amazon’s Suggest feature. Every now and again I go to Amazon.com and tell it things I would like to get, things I’ve purchased and even rate some of the things. This investment pays dividends in relevant suggestions from Amazon on books and other items genuinely of interest to me.
Facebook Like allows me to share likes with my friends and allows Facebook to suggest things I might like, so recently it suggested a bunch of my friends like Terry Pratchett’s Facebook page (I’m a fan of the UK’s most prolific author) and I happily discovered a new book is due out shortly and some of the other activities Terry is up to.
For me Tweeting, Updating, Liking, Following, Friending - it’s all about filtering the wealth of information out there to find the bits I’m interested in more quickly. I make investments by creating content and sharing it - like this blog post, and for my very small effort I am typically rewarded ten-fold. This appeals to the lazy efficient part of me. This is how many (though not all) of my friends are using social networks today.
There are issues with all this, though. Different groups of people are interested in different things - I know colleagues, ex-colleagues, friends, family, folks who live in my village, people from university, school - people interested in games, technology, mobile phones, insurance technology and “weirdoes” as Craig Weber described them. Oddly enough, I don’t know anyone who is all of these things yet these networks treat them all the same. To some degree, using Facebook for some things, LinkedIn for others, Twitter, Skype, etc. kind of works but this presentation on a version 2 of a social network really spoke to me.
Google just announced Google+ - something I’m looking forward to trying out because of a few key features:
* circles - group friends in different ways so you can share content but only send it to those who’ll be interested. I’m looking forward to creating the weirdoes circle
* sparks - a feature that claims to go and find content for your interests and pull it together - awesome - why search when the relevant web content can come to me?
* hangouts - 10-way video chat! Need I say more?
Google+ is in its infancy and the literature lacks some of the business focus, but I’m sure Google+ will find its way into Google Apps for Enterprise in due course.
What should an insurer take away from this? The hidden subtlety here, and the reason Google has been forced to respond to Facebook with Google+ lies in sparks, or Facebook Like suggestions or Amazon Suggest. Internet users are moving away from searching. Brands focusing solely on search engine optimization will lose out, as will companies focused on search. In the future, systems will suggest content, reviews, products, brands and insurers to customers based on their behavior and social circles. Whilst today’s drive to get Likes and reviews seems shallow and immature, it points to a fundamental shift in the role of the Internet in driving the acquisition of new business.
It’s hard to say where all this will fall but a few things are clear:
1. Whether we like them or not Facebook and social networks in various guises are here to stay
2. Google has re-entered the social network space, even if it’s not successful (like orkut?) the new features will change other social networks
3. Social networks and their features are changing the way we interact with the world, each other and with insurers. Like Google, the insurance industry will be forced to respond
For more of a look at our coverage of social networking, read why Craig Weber isn’t using Facebook and look out for more on the value of Facebook pages and the social internet for the insurance industry in future posts and research.
I’m off to tweet, like, post and +1 this blog post.
This blog has been reprinted with permission from Celent.
Craig Beattie is an analyst in Celent's insurance group, and can be reached at email@example.com.
Readers are encouraged to respond to Craig using the “Add Your Comments” box below.
The opinions posted in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News or SourceMedia.
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