Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What are Social Applications?

While Social Networking is all the rage, there is a second phase coming – the Social Application.

Of course the social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace offer a variety of social applications – like connecting with friends or colleagues, blogs, picture sharing, walls, event sharing, polls, etc. There are three main features to this new social wave of the web:
1. User generated content – allowing for self expression
2. Social connections – friends, groups and ways to organize and communicate between them
3. Social applications – combining user generated content and social connections with traditional content and applications

The large social networking sites provide the generic social applications. By opening up their API’s, they have allowed others to create social applications. Many of these new applications have targeted fun and interesting ways of getting user generated content with applications like “Super Walls” or connecting to friends (and enemies) with “Vampire Bites”.

However, Social Applications are starting to become more interesting. You might think of this new wave as a web site mash-up with social networking. Where a traditional application or business meets up with social networking. For example, an ecommerce application might have some user generated comments on their site, but with social networking I can narrow that view down to people I know and trust – or I could be kept up to date on my friends buying habits interactively.

Many web sites today are designed for the manufacturer to provide product information to users. Take a look at how www.Jeep.com has extended this traditional branding view into a much more engaging, “sticky” web site by using social applications. Jeep customers are able to post their favorite Jeep pictures, there is a list of local Jeep events across the country all generated by users who invite their friends. Jeep has even developed game applications that help to reinforce their brand.

Web sites will have to be clever in how they make the social applications relevant to their users and truly engaging. Take a look at a relatively new web site that allows people (women mostly) to assemble a collection of clothing and accessories in interesting ways - www.polyvore.com. A very rapidly growing community has built up around this already – something a Macy’s could be doing for their customers to engage them much more closely! Which is more engaging? Would Macy's benefit from having an engaging social application like this on their web site? Ringside Networks is betting the answer is yes, and hopefully we will make that easier for your web site by the end of March...

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