An Evolution in Social Media – The Sharing Economy

Posted by: in Social Media Insights & Trends on September 7, 2012

Through social media we have created complex networks that are based on trust – virtual personalized communities in a sense. Recently, the connectedness of networks and abundance of “wealth” is allowing for sharing of actual things instead of virtual content.

The days of borrowing sugar from ones neighbor are over ( you might not even know your neighbor ), but the days of borrowing cars from a random connection through your trusted network are just beginning. The dichotomy between the two views of community and sharing are quite astounding. New services like Airbnb, RelayRides, Skillshare, and TaskRabbit allow you to share things that you have extra of with your extended social graphs. If you have never heard of any of these startups, this may include lending/renting your car, your time, a skill, or your apartment to a person in your social network.

This is a big step in the evolution of Social Media. As we develop networks and relationships based on trust (actively or passively), we are rediscovering the benefits of being in a community rather then just having “friends” or “followers.” Through shared online experiences ( FB posts, video shares, etc. ) we have rediscovered this sense of citizenship and commerce in our groups. Moving from transactions, to engagement/community building, and now back to transactions. When one sees that a friend of a friend needs something, they are more willing to help them out – whether it be tips on a recipe, or maybe lending you them your vacuum. I would never lend a stranger my car, but I would think about it if the best man at my wedding vouches for him or they received a superior rating. In this sense, the social capital that each of us builds up through our networks and interactions online define a metric of trustworthiness that people use to decide on whether or not to conduct business with you – just like in the real world. Most of these networks are built out of rational need, and then they continue to grow in depth due to the emotional engagements. Ex. I really need a place to stay, which turns into I feel a connection with the person who let me stay at his place while he was away. This blend of the rational and emotional leads to stronger connections, loyalty, and increased value for both parties involved in the transaction.

For businesses, this should serve as a case study on how to engage with your community and what new business models around sharing excess value are being practiced by others.

A few questions to consider:
1. How are shared experiences online sharing experiences offline with your community?
2. What sense of trust can you establish within your network?

Patrick Donnelly, @pdonnelly01

By: Patrick Donnelly

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