|Europe I 2009
|Presence evolves social networking
|Founder and CEO
|In Real Life (IRL)
Frank Schuil is the Founder and CEO of In Real Life (IRL) in Amsterdam. Mr Schuil’s background is in media and entertainment management. Mr Schuil is also the co-founder of the Verbeterdebuurt Foundation, a Dutch not-for-profit foundation that brings the concept of Fix My Street to the Netherlands. Mr Schuil is also a frequent speaker on the topics of social communities, user-generated content for mobile social networking and presence-based social networking at European Web 2.0 and emerging tech conferences such as the European Venture Summit in Dusseldorf, Mobile Web Conference Europe in London and Mobile User Generated Content Conference in Amsterdam. Frank Schuil has a Bachelors degree in Business Administration, International Media & Entertainment Management from NHTV International Higher Education, Breda.
The social networking phenomenon is rapidly gaining adherents. New facilities such as location and presence – determining the exact location of the participants (location) and indicating when they are line (presence) – bring a new dimension and a new sense of reality and community to the social network. With the migration of social networking from the computer to mobile devices, presence-based social networking lets you know which of your contacts and interests is close by, wherever you may be.
Social networking’s future lies in presence, not location. Location-based services are about mapping information – events, reviews, places; it is static. In contrast, presence builds on location by giving you a sense of where your friends are and allowing you to add elements of location to all of your social networking and social media. Presence provides the feeling of being attached to your friends and the world around you instead of looking at a static profile page – it is about getting the most out of your relationships wherever you are. As social networking migrates from the computer to mobile devices, presence-based social networking gives life to your digital relationships in the real world and expands your connections online. With the advent of heavy consumer Internet use in the 1990s, people began to connect to one another on a global scale and formed digital relationships based on common interests. These connections became more tangible with applications such as instant messaging (IM), interactive gaming, photo sharing, videoconferencing and virtual worlds. That dynamic evolved into social networking as we know it today, including elements of IM, digital content and common interests to create applications such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace that lets people connect and share experiences. The natural evolution of this social behaviour is to reflect these relationships and connections back into real life as well as grow them in the virtual world. Nevertheless, the reality today is that location is currently only applied in a non-interactive manner on the Internet with services like Brightkite, WAYN or TripIt. ‘Location’ is a broad category that defines the services of many different companies that are linking information – reviews, restaurants, clubs – and not the relationships or conversations involved. It is only a static addition to a normal profile. However, the Internet offers the opportunity to build on location and mirror people’s digital lives by visualizing where friends are and feeling their presence. Visualization of digital life by presence puts friends on a map so users can find, meet and communicate with them, as well as make new connections and form new relationships. Visualizing your digital relationships enhances your real-life relationships and experiences – it humanizes your digital connections. Presence-based social networking facilitates human connectivity and organically grows your relationships through location and conversation. As you see your community and relationships grow, you will automatically be connected to people that surround you in real life. When this happens, relationships are made for you, instead of you searching for them. It is all about following the logical paths by connecting the dots between you and the people you want to know. Presence-based social networking must evolve – starting with the social networking market that currently exists on the Internet – so that it becomes part of the user’s social experience. Once users base their real life and virtual connections around location on the Internet, they will demand mobility – the last step in the evolution that brings social networking back to real life. This needs dynamic and robust applications that can be translated to mobile devices to accommodate this social experience. The mobile social networking market currently holds 50 million registered members; by 2010 this number will grow to 174 million, according to ABI Research. However, the Internet already has 506 million social networking users worldwide according to ComScore Media Metrix. People have already found ways to monetize social networks and social activity on the Internet while mobile is still a question. If companies can take the social media elements that are thriving online and evolve them based on the sophistication of the user base, we will see widespread adoption and monetization and a new social layer emerge. This will be an extension of what is already happening now, but it can also be applied to a B2B model for further monetization. As social networking continues to evolve organically and create richer connections between people and the world around them, we see the effect of this connectivity migrate to the enterprise. There are B2B models that take all the social media elements that are currently successful online and create platforms for the enterprise. In the B2B model of presence-based social networking, a company with multiple geographic locations can connect a remote and diversified workforce through visualization. The model can be used in a company’s corporate intranet to enable employees to connect and share information such as data, sales leads and best practices with each other. Through an enterprise platform, presence-based social networking has the potential to change the way companies connect with their employees and the way employees connect with an increasingly global workforce. Imagine what you could do if you constantly knew exactly where all your friends or co-workers were. People are visual beings and presence allows you to get the most out of human connectivity and organically grow your relationships through location and conversation – both online and offline. The old-fashioned digital world is detached from the reality that we know, while a visual map linked to physical space is not. Presence-based social networking will evolve social behaviour and lead to the following social changes: • new connections will increase the visibility of, and enrich, digital relationships, leading to connections in real life; • deeper relationships – Real-life relations will be more tangible regardless of location. Presence-based social networking gives a visual connection and makes relationships feel physically close; • global citizens – Awareness of relationships by proximity will broaden our connections with the world and those around us; • back to reality – Digital relationships have a wall of anonymity, which creates distance. Presence is a way to break down that wall, to re-attach to reality and maintain relationships and bring visibility where it didn’t exist before; • user-generated content – Through presence-based social networking, user-generated content like IM, video, photos and audio that previously did not have geographical context will drive conversation and become part of the real world infrastructure; • privacy by preference – Because locations are approximated, users get an added layer of privacy and control over what other users can and cannot see; and • localized advertising 2.0 – Localized advertising is more personal because it can be addressed to you based on your interest, location and profile. Companies developing presence applications continue the evolution of relationships from real-life, to digital, to the next level on the Internet. For mass user adoption, as we have seen with the current social networking environment, users need to see the value that it brings to their lives. As we move towards higher levels of market adoption, we will see early adopters reaching out to the next evolution of social networking. This will extend beyond just mapping information to bring true connectivity through visibility of our social relationships – both online and offline.