December 15, 2009

Social networks roll out the changes

Some interesting changes happening at Twitter and LinkedIn at the moment, which give a hint of where both social networks are heading in the New Year.

Twitter has announced on its official blog it is to begin beta testing a new business feature called ‘Contributors’. It is not yet clear if this is one of the paid-for tools Twitter will be charging for at some point.

The new tool is designed to enable businesses to deepen their engagement with users through more authentic conversations.

It also allows those organisations to manage multiple contributors to their account, a step towards tidying up the sometimes messy, inefficient way in which companies tweet across a multitude of official and personal Twitter accounts.

The feature appends the contributor’s username to the tweet byline, making the business to consumer communication more personal; so that users know more about the real people behind organisations.

A pretty simple change, but a powerful one nonetheless. If you’re communicating with the customer services department of a retailer, it’s far more reassuring to talk to a name rather than an amorphous, impersonal company name.

And if you need to restart the conversation at some point, isn’t it great to have a real name to pick things up with again? For those who fear Twitter is in danger of being hijacked by faceless PRs and corporate entities, it’s also a way to circumnavigate that particular problem.

‘Contributors’ might also have a useful application in the marketing strategies of the major political parties, with a General Election looming, perhaps as soon as March if Gordon Brown calls a snap Election.

LinkedIn has also announced its own improvements via the official blog – introducing changes to its people search platform. ‘Faceted Search’ enables a user to slice and dice the 50m profiles based on 8 facets: current company, past company, location, relationship, location, industry, school, and profile languages.

LinkedIn can feel quite closed compared to other social networks, which in a way is the point, given it’s based around work connections. Not everyone wants to reveal their contacts to all and sundry, but the new feature should make using the network more productive, intuitive and efficient.

And from an advertiser point of view, the more targeted LinkedIn becomes, the more valuable it becomes as an advertising platform.

Taken together with the recent announcement by Google to incorporate real-time search results from social networks into its results pages, interesting times ahead appear guaranteed.