What does “adding” a social layer to everything buy you?

I watched the 60 minutes interview with Facebook founder  Mark Z over the weekend. Impressive, especially since I have seen him at a conference speaking (or mumbling) a few years ago and he’s dramatically changed since. Its certainly worth a view, especially if you are an entrepreneur looking to find “the next big things”.

He and others talk a lot about the “social layer”. So, I had a few questions and a few thoughts. Most of the answers may not be perfect from a purists’ point of view, but nonetheless, here’s my first take. I might change some of these later.
What is the social layer?
Any layer is an organization of a functional set of components that will work with each other in a way that each set will only interact with sets above or below it. This abstraction helps make the overall solution modular and optimizes each set. E.g There’s a database layer, a business layer and a user interface layer etc. So the “social layer” is adding your friends, likes, preferences, etc. on top of your online profile, allowing other sites to take advantage of these likes, preferences to help tailor their offerings for you.
Why is the social layer important?
Previously (as in 5 years ago) most everyone just had an email address to identify themselves on the web. Email addresses, by themselves are fairly useless to help determine “who you really are”. With social networking sites, you have a rich set of data that profiles, categorizes and uniquely identifies the person and more importantly their “persona” or “archetype”. No longer do you have to identify everyone with just their email, but customize to their needs specifically.
What is the value of the social layer?
To an individual it means more specificity and customized web experience. You dont have to wade through 200 daily articles written on NYTimes to get to the 5 that you would like to read the most.
So what does adding the social layer to everything buy you?
1. Social hiring. For entrepreneurs and hiring managers, it means no longer looking at resumes in a silo to understand if the person will be a fit. It means getting a lot more information upfront to make a wise hiring decision. It might also mean making it easy to get to your friends and family network to look and hire “referrals”. It has been proven that people who are referred to a role by existing employees at a company tend to be better hires than rank outsiders.
2. Social sales. For sales professionals it means making it easier to build relationships with prospects faster. Which saves you time, reduces your sales cycle and that should make you more money.
3. Social marketing. For marketers, it means taking into account the likes, dislikes, preferences, attitudes, demographics and intent of individuals to customize and segment their customers better. Rather than the 20% off for everyone, you can tailor your offers and products better.
4. Social buying. It could mean checking with your friends and family regarding their experiences with products / services so you can make a better informed decision.
5. Social development: It means asking known experts who have the same problem or bug that you do and not having to wade through 2 pages of Google search results before you find the right answer. It should help you answer questions faster. Given that your social profile will say you are an expert at “X”, others should find it easier to find you and you should find it easier to find others who are interested in “X”.
and so on.
What do you think?
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