Friday, March 2, 2012

Building a Community around Interests

While surfing the web the other day, I came across a blog post by one of my former professors, George Howard, on his personal blog 9GiantSteps.

The post “Shifting Social Sands” tries to explain the recent phenomenon regarding the rapid boom of Pinterest and other interest-oriented websites/applications and how this boom sheds light on the way emerging companies should position themselves in the “Facebook era”.

Everyone (or at least 800 million people) has a Facebook profile. While Facebook is the market leader by a long shot, social network upstarts like Pinterest, Instagram, Chowhound, etc. are having a major impact (Pinterest share button now on!) beyond Facebook – how?

According to Howard, it is because social networks like Pinterest focus on object or interest-oriented networking instead of acquaintance-oriented networking (Facebook). The simple way to explain this is that Pinterest connects people through the things/interests they share in common, while Facebook connects people through other people.

This finding gives great insight to how emerging companies should think about building their network and customer base. As Howard says, “There is tremendous opportunity to rethink how we should be conceiving of networks moving forward. As I’ve argued forever, look to objects of interest (in some respects, the more specific the better) that people are passionate about, and give them the tools to better organize. Doing so will lead to far more durable, rewarding, and expansive connections than organizing around existing social connections.

This is what we at Sentient Services and those at other companies should strive to do on a daily basis. We work to connect people around their personal interests and things they care about.

While our platform icanmakeitbetter is a tool used for market research, in its simplest form it is a network that we hope allows our users to collaborate around ideas/objects that they genuinely “want to make better,” and then see the results of their collaboration. We connect people based on the products they use and the ideas they have. Through this they become engaged with each other and the brand through social collaboration. We allow them to become part of the brand/product through their ideas. Our users are able to post their ideas, receive feedback on their ideas from other users, and then see their ideas implemented by the company. This creates a depth of brand engagement that is hard to find elsewhere, and gives our users a sense of accomplishment once they see their ideas at work. We think the future of innovation, research and social networks lies in these shared “objects of interest” and making them better!

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