If you were to ask anyone these days to give you a brief history of Social Networks, they would most-likely think about Facebook, then do a bit of research and come up with this:
1971 – the first e-mail is sent (and no, the text was not some inaugural speech, it was something more like QWRTYDHS – a test between 2 computers over ARPANET, a network of computers preceding the Internet)
1997 – the birth of the instant message, thanks to AOL
2002 – Friendster – the network that connected online real-world friends
2003 – MySpace – a Friendster clone, is born.
2004 – Facebook enters the market
2006 – Twitter is launched.
Well, that’s all fine, but there’s more to it…
If you take a step back, you realize that the social online evolution that has hit mankind over the past 20 or 30 years is, in fact, based on the millions of years of social needs humans (or whatever we were called back then) experienced.
Ever since man became conscious, he has created complex social structures, from families, to tribes, to nations. In order to survive (working or fighting) he made use of his ability to create bonds with other people. In order to evolve (in all thinkable ways), he had to do the same. In order to lead, of course, he had to transform into a true social animal and relate, understand, link and convince other people. And in order to be happy, he had to make friends.
Interestingly, according to research (by Daniel Kahneman, Alan B. Krueger, and others – as stated here), the daily activities most closely associated with happiness are (and have always been) social: making love, socializing after work, having dinner with friends. This, of course, is another way of saying that networking can make you happy.
Basically, networking touches so many bases, relates to so many fields of expertise – from philosophy to business – and satisfies so many basic human needs that it’s virtually no surprise it blossomed at the rate it did online.
And even though in the next ages of the Internet (Web 3.0 and Web 4.0) we will certainly be surrounded by gadgets personified in the form of a software shell, the gadgets surrounding us will not replace our need to socialize and network with other people, but instead it will simply ease the way for us to do this.
And in a time where the need to create and maintain relationships is becoming more and more important, companies move towards a phase where engaging customers (as a social media management process) through social media channels will no longer be enough.
All through the social history of mankind, be it in tribes, secret societies or online platforms, people have relied on networking to solve their problems, evolve and be happy. The shape of the things that helped us achieve our goals has certainly changed, but the core certainly remained the same socializing / networking need.
That’s why companies will now need to take their businesses to the next level. To network.