Online, offline social networks cross paths in wake of GFC

Social technology is fostering real-world innovation, according to one social media consultant

The democracy of access and ownership among social networks is increasingly having an impact on social innovation in the physical world, an industry consultant has claimed.

Social networks are playing a supporting to real world communities, Grant Young, founder of social innovation consultancy, Zumio, told attendees of the Web Directions South 2010 conference in Sydney this week.

“It engages a strong community, and contributes in some way to increased wellbeing.”

“78 per cent of participants [who share online] said they would share with strangers [in the real-world],” he said, citing research from online magazine, Shareable. “This suggests that social media has broken down the barriers against trust.”

According to Young, the global financial crisis was a contributing factor to the increasing use of social networking and innovation, which he described as ‘decentralised capitalism’. As a result, people have seeking socially aware solutions due to a mistrust of big business.

“The market has lost its trust in organisations across the board,” he said. “People are looking for real transparency and real voices without spin... they’re wanting this to be delivered in a personal way that feels real and meaningful.

“Reciprocity is important within social networks, and we’re wanting to see this more in real life. In the vein of the economy of meaning, a lot of these things may be familiar... but we now see these appearing in the global economy.”

Young used Kiva.org, Rideshare, Beanhunter and Free credits as examples of socially aware companies having an impact in the offline world.

“The future is here already, it’s just not equally distributed,” he said. “What social technology is allowing us to do is to do real-world sharing on a scale never seen before.”

As well as increased trust of others, Young said there is a move from ownership towards access.

“Many social innovations emerge from the grassroots level...people are taking a more active role in the services that they are looking for," he said. "They are often creating their own services and this is coming from a grassroots effort.”

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