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Domain Specific Social Networking, Anyone?

Posted by Bob Warfield on August 31, 2007

While we’re slicing and dicing behavioural aspects of Social Networking, here is another dimension to contemplate:  Domain Specific Social Networking.  The idea comes about as a derivative of Domain Specific Languages.  As the Wikipedia puts it, a Domain Specific Language is a programming language that was created for a specific task (i.e. its “domain”).  I think a nicer name is “problem-oriented language”, but I’m not in charge.  For example, the odd little language GraphViz is used exclusively for creating a particular kind of diagram.

Let me give another related example.  We see quite a few Domain Specific Search Engines.  Spock is for searching about people.  CureHunter is for searching about medicine.  Amazon is for searching for things to buy.  In each case, we can see how the tool is able to do a better job than more generic tools because it incorporates features and knowledge specific to the domain.  In effect, it makes the problem easier because it is focused on a subset.

Back to Domain Specific Social Networking.  I’ll argue that LinkedIn is a DSSN (sorry, got tired of all that typing), while Facebook and MySpace are just Social Networks.  Why?  Because LinkedIn is pretty well tuned to standard business networking activities.  Where is John working these days?  Who do I know at the customer who might help me out selling?  We need to hire a great web designer, who can we find by referral?

What’s the point?  There are a couple, and it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish.  Once again, we have a trade off between “all things to all people” and “exactly the right product for a particular purpose”.  Focus your thinking around what you’re trying to accomplish and think about that trade off.  If you’re creating (or harnessing someone else’s) social network for marketing purposes to “get the word out”, you probably want something pretty general.  OTOH, if you have some specific purpose, perhaps you want to enable collective decision making, you might want to consider some sort of DSSN that is more optimal to your task.

Before leaving this topic, let’s also consider another trick that can help blend general Social Networks with the DSSN concept:  Widgets.  Specialized Widgets are a great way to get a quick and dirty DSSN operating just long enough to solve a particular problem.  A great example of this is Market Research.  An online survey injected into an existing Social Network can get you much-needed decision making input.  What about calls to action?  How about revamping the age old idea of a contest by supercharging it with some Web 2.0 juice?  We can inject a contest that involves giving us something we want.  Perhaps its ideas for new products or some such.  Perhaps its getting people to try your product (take the Pepsi Challenge).  Perhaps you want a guest speaker on your blog, or the most interesting customer success story.  There’s a million ways to think of using contests, surveys, voting, and all the rest to get this done. 

How about DSSN’s and Widgets designed to help boost your partner’s success or give your customer some special advantage or gift.  Maybe the Widget is the gift and it also helps you build a DSSN around the recipients.

We’ll see a lot more on the Widget front as people work out how to employ them to create temporary DSSN’s around some initiative they want to drive.

Related Articles:

Social Media Today:  A Social Network for people who want to talk about Social Networks.

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